We all know that the Internet today is a lot more than just chat rooms and email. People are sharing news, photos, videos and more in real-time. However, as revolutionary as social media is, there is more information bombarding us than ever—and from many different directions.

What is Buzz?

Recently Google introduced “Buzz,” a social sharing tool that’s built right into Gmail. Buzz allows you to share updates, links, photos and videos with either the world or privately to a select group of friends. In its first 48 hours, Google reported that tens of millions of people had already tried the service.

One of the reasons it’s received so much attention is not because it’s just another Facebook or Twitter, but because it can be accessed right inside of Gmail, an email service already used several times a day, every day by over 150 million people. Talk about bringing something to an already existing user base!

Buzz also allows you to integrate other sites like Twitter, Flickr and Google Reader so others can see what you are doing on the web in one place. If you have ever heard of FriendFeed, which was acquired by Facebook in 2009, Buzz is built on a similar idea. It acts as sort of a social media “aggregator.”

How Does it Work?

To access Buzz, you will see a link for it underneath “inbox” when you are logged into Gmail. The first time you access it, you will see suggestions of users you may want to follow based on your most frequent email and chat contacts. Whenever you receive a response to something you have posted, that response will be sent right to your inbox.

Buzz also uses a sort of ranking system, where it collapses short, uninteresting status messages and inactive posts. Google says this is a work in progress and that the goal is to show you only the information most relevant to you.

Buzz also has a mobile version, and one of the most fascinating aspects of that is the “nearby” feature. Through GPS, you can see Buzz updates from people around you locally.

Google Buzz Privacy Concerns

Almost immediately after its launch, there was an outcry from some regarding privacy. In quick response to this, Google decided to change one of the features that had received the most criticism: the auto-following of people based on their most frequent chat and email contacts. Now, new contacts are merely suggested.

Another change made in response to privacy concerns is that you will no longer be set up to share your Google Reader items and Picasa photo albums automatically. Plus, you can choose to hide Buzz or disable it completely from your Settings or the very bottom of your Gmail account.

Apparently, there are still Gmail users that are not satisfied with these changes, as there have been news items regarding lawsuits being filed over the original automatic opt-in feature. For anyone wary of Buzz, I’d suggest simply disabling it if you are not interested in using it.

Buzz for Business?

As mentioned, Buzz is somewhat unique in that it filters the content from the people you are following, which means that only the best or most popular content rises to the top. Buzz also shows users recommended Buzz from people that they don’t follow based on how popular it is. If your content is popular, the idea is that it will go “viral” by spreading faster and wider.

Buzz is also important in the sense that you are able to send your marketing message from many different social sites to one place, as well as make it easy for others to view it from a convenient place they already view several times a day—their email inbox.

Instead of seeing it as just another time-sucking social network, Buzz should be embraced by business owners who understand its powerful potential as a channel for getting their marketing in front of millions of more people.

Photo credits: topgold and andinarvaez

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