Google Takes a “Buzz” Saw to Twitter

We’ve all been expecting it, but today was the day Google decided to roll out their answer to Twitter: Google Buzz.

I haven’t had much of a play with it yet, but the fact that it’s integrated with Gmail will probably make it very popular, very quickly.

From the official Google Blog post:

“Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It’s built right into Gmail, so you don’t have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch – it just works. If you think about it, there’s always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most.

We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don’t have to use different tools to share with different audiences). Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you’re sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time.”

I plan to write a detailed article about Google Buzz, but here’s a quick run down of the main features:

  • Runs within Gmail
  • Embeds images
  • Embeds inline video
  • Emails status updates
  • Automatically works on mobiles without 3rd party applications
  • Connects to Picasa, Flickr & Twitter
  • No 140 character limit

It’s interesting that it integrates with Twitter. That suggests a deal has been done behind closed doors to ensure both products don’t compete head to head, but Twitter may still lose some audience now that Gmail offers both chat and a link sharing tool.

In some ways, it’s more like Stumble Upon in that it’s a more powerful tool for sharing links, videos and images than Twitter is. But because it operates within Gmail, I’m concerned that much of the conversation will be lost between email threads. We’ll have to wait and see.

I for one won’t be abandoning Twitter in a hurry.

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Twitter Adds Local Trends Tracking Tool

Twitter quietly rolled out a new feature today that enables users to choose a regional preference for viewing trending topics.

Called Twitter Local Trends, the new functionality gives users the option to set their regional location and view trending topics happening in their part of the world. For example, one of the screenshots pictured shows that the topic “Trafalgar Square” is trending for users that have United Kingdom set as their region (because it relates to a well known London icon), but not for users that have set their region to Worldwide.

At this stage, only seven countries and 15 cities in the US are available for selection (see screenshot below) but more will be added soon.

According to a post on Mashable, the feature has only rolled out to around 1 percent of Twitter users, but there’s nothing official on the Twitter Blog about it yet. I noticed it in my account this afternoon so I’m not sure if I’m part of the lucky 1 percent or whether it has rolled out to a larger audience since it went live this morning.

Regardless, when it does roll out to everyone, it will make a huge difference to how we use Twitter to target a regional audience. The benefits for geo-based mobile apps like Four Square and Gowalla should be immediately apparent. Add to that the ability to pinpoint regional trends in real time search and this becomes a social media game changer.

Everybody knows a business that is still sceptical about using Twitter. But when they see they have the power to follow and influence social media conversation in their specific target markets using Local Trends, I think even the sceptics could be convinced to start using Twitter as a full time marketing channel.

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Facebook Implements Their Version of Twitter Retweet

You can now share your Facebook friend’s posts in a similar manner to the way you retweet a post in Twitter.

According to Mashable, Facebook rolled out the new feature called “Via” yesterday. It lets you repost a friend’s shared items with attribution. The Mashable post explains how it works:

“To try it, just go to a friend’s posted item in your news feed, click “share” and you’ll see a “via [your friend’s name]” (with an option to remove it). Once shared, the item will appear on your profile, with a via link that points to your friend’s profile. Your friends will also see the item in their News Feeds, creating the viral loop that is the Twitter (Twitter) retweet.”

The feature is only active for posted links and not other items such as status updates or photos. Also, you’ll only see the *share* link on newsfeed items that are posted for public view (i.e. based on the privacy settings set by the Facebook friend who you are quoting).

The new feature is now live for all Facebook users.

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Shorty Awards Celebrate Twitter Brilliance

If you’re a Twitter fan, you probably already know that the second annual Shorty Awards are underway. If not, then let me explain.

The Shorty Awards are a celebration of excellent Twitter content, as voted by the community. Voting is now open in 27 official categories such as tech, humor, weird, government, news and art, but votes are also being accepted in unofficial, crowd-sourced categories.

To vote, send a tweet like this:

“I nominate @TwitterUser for a Shorty Award in #category because… (add reason here).”

You can do this on Twitter.com, with any Twitter client, or using the voting box on the Shorty Award site.

In February, the nominees will be narrowed down to five finalists in each category, with winners determined by a combination of popular vote and by the members of the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences. In March, an awards ceremony, complete with 140-character acceptance speeches, will be held in New York City and live streamed on the web.

If you missed out on a Shorty last year, never fear. You’ve got the whole of January to garner votes and topple the early leaders.

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Real Time Search Has Arrived!

Google drastically changed the way we search the web this week with two major changes to their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

The first big change was the rollout of personalization to all Google users, whether they are logged in to Google or not. [Editor note: I've written a longer article about Personalized Search if you're interested].

The second change is the introduction of Real Time Search (RTS). Google has added live scrolling web data to the SERPs for timely or popular search queries.

That’s right – you can now view web data, as it is published globally on blogs and social media sites IN REAL TIME.

From the official Google blog post:

“…we’re introducing new features that bring your search results to life with a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web. Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we’ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page.”

To enable Real Time Search to become a reality, Google has been working hard for months on partnerships with major social sites such as Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca, as well as Twitter, with whom they partnered back in October. Although they haven’t confirmed it, word on the street is that they are paying Twitter for access to tweet feeds.

Not to be outdone, Yahoo announced a similar deal with Twitter this week, to include tweets in their search results.

So what SERPs include Real Time Search? Google says searches for things like your favorite TV show, sporting events, breaking news stories or the latest developments in politics will trigger RTS.

I ran a couple of test searches and timely topics such as climate change and entertainment-related search queries such as movie titles and celebrities also triggered Real Time Search.

You can see my test tweet including *Michael Jackson* in the Real Time Search results under the heading “Latest Results for Michael Jackson” below:

That’s right, I was able to get featured on the first page of Google results for the search query *Michael Jackson*, simply by including that query in a tweet.

To get an idea of the searches likely to be impacted by RTS, visit Google Trends and view Hot Topics, which is a new feature added today to coincide with Real Time Search going live.

As exciting as Real Time Search is in terms of technological advancement, the real story is how easily RTS can be exploited. You can see how easily I featured on the first page of Google for the year’s most popular search query!

I’m working on a major article about this, but in the meantime, a read of Sebastian’s spam recipe and Sugarrae’s post should be enough to make your eyes widen in alarm.

For more detailed coverage of Real Time Search and screen grabs of it in action, see Danny Sullivan’s two excellent articles on the subject.

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