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Corporate & Reputation

Six @ Six: 6 Ways Businesses Can Leverage Google Buzz

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The top six social media tips to know before you leave the office.

Last month, Google burst onto the social media scene. Google Buzz – a service populated by posts that are longer than tweets, shorter than blog posts, incorporate photos or video, and include geo-location information – is already years ahead of many start-up social networks in a number of ways. It is feature rich, bringing together many of the capabilities that previously existed on disparate platforms, and it integrates with the 100 million existing Gmail accounts. This is a figure Facebook did not surpass for years and Twitter has yet to even approach.

With the Google name behind it and this immediate audience of users, Buzz has all the makings of an online tool that will provide even greater opportunity for businesses to reach new customers, cultivate existing brand ambassadors, and connect with other stakeholders online. Even in its current nascent state, Google Buzz provides services that go well beyond existing functionality on other social networks.

This week’s Six @ Six highlights six ways that businesses can start making use of Google Buzz.

1. Foster Relationships:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the key to success in the social media realm is to listen, engage, and foster relationships. In a social medium, one-way communications will fall on deaf ears. Google Buzz, as an integrated part of existing Gmail accounts, provides unprecedented opportunity for fostering two-way conversations and engaging with others, particularly those already in your network of contacts. The service is designed to show ongoing conversations about a particular topic, which stands in stark contrast to Twitter’s focus on displaying individual Tweets. Without a 140-character limit, Buzz also provides more freedom to write out complete thoughts and include attachments that can enhance conversations. Try following the example of ReadWriteWeb, which uses Buzz to ask questions or request feedback about topics of interest to its followers. This approach demonstrates a commitment to listening and a genuine interest in what your customers or followers have to say. Not only can this help gauge interest in future business opportunities, but it can also help build an extensive network of brand ambassadors that you can draw on in times of need.

2. Promote Your Web Content:

If your business regularly publishes blog posts, is quoted in the press, or frequently offers special deals, Google Buzz provides another valuable outlet for disseminating links and messages to your followers. Just as with other social media platforms, however, be careful not to come across as excessively promotional, as users are more interested in conversations than being inundated with recommended links. Consider asking your followers what they think about a post or quote you send out via Google Buzz, or encourage them to share feedback when they take advantage of a special deal. If you have a blog and don’t already have a widget such as AddThis or Bookmarkify that encourages visitors to share content via social media, it’s time to add one – and make sure that Google Buzz is an option. This encourages readers to serve as third-party “validators” by sharing your content with their followers. When effectively utilized, Buzz provides yet another avenue for virally disseminating your Web content and reaching new audiences.

3. Monitor Conversations:

The backbone of any effective marketing, public relations, or social media effort is monitoring. After all, in order to respond to concerns or get involved in a conversation, you need to know what those concerns are and how the conversation is unfolding. While you can easily ask your followers for feedback on topics of interest to your company, new tools such as Buzzr allow you to track what’s popular and what others are discussing throughout the network. If your company is a trending topic on Buzz, whether positive or negative, it’s time to engage the conversation with your own messaging. Or if a particular area where your company specializes is trending, join the conversation and share your expertise. As Buzz grows in scope and use, new features will undoubtedly be developed that enable you to track all conversations related to your brand – ensuring that no crisis sneaks up on you and that you are aware of every opportunity to respond and engage.

4. Location-Based Functionality:

Local and retail businesses take note: Google Buzz makes it easy for mobile users to “check in” each time they visit your location, broadcasting their whereabouts to all of their followers. Much like the up and coming social network FourSquare, Buzz provides an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to provide special offers to frequent customers and incentives for visiting a particular location. Many small businesses have already embraced FourSquare, encouraging shoppers and visitors to check in via the network and present their phones to cashiers and servers in exchange for a free gift. Users who frequent the location are often offered ongoing discounts or free offers. By encouraging customers to broadcast their support of your particular store, you increase your exposure to their followers and beyond – leading to increased brand awareness and expanded business.

5. Project Collaboration:

Google’s array of products, including its latest tool, makes it easy for teams to collaborate on a wide range of projects. While Google Docs has long made it easy to share documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more by providing a venue for others to contribute and make edits, Google Buzz takes this to the next level. Buzz makes it easy to create groups of contacts on the fly, specifying just those whose input you seek on a particular project. You can then post a private message – including links to Google Docs – to be shared only with the particular Group you choose. In this regard, Buzz is essentially a less cumbersome form of the back-and-forth email conversations that define business today. You can request feedback and share comments with your team, all of which will appear in a dedicated conversation stream, rather than sprinkled within various emails on unrelated topics.
 
6. Integrate Your Buzz Feed:

As a brand-new social media platform, Google Buzz provides an unparalleled opportunity for businesses to help blaze a trail and influence future expansion. One of the first important steps companies should take is to build off of Buzz’s API to integrate a company feed onto your website, blog, or other Web presence. With Google placing significant focus on expandability and developer-friendly functionality, be sure to stay tuned for future opportunities to build customized apps and widgets for Google Buzz, much like Facebook or iPhone apps. By taking advantage of the opportunity to lead the way in developing new widgets that can help simplify your key constituencies’ everyday tasks, your brand will be forever associated with innovation and simplification, thus strengthening relationships with these key audiences.

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