Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Google Buzz is perfect for Events Announcements

I've been experimenting with a couple of Google accounts, MissionTexas.net and RGV Life. The first is a local blog for my home town; the second is a regional blog about current events happening in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. The experiment involves posting upcoming events using Google Buzz and Blogger.

Here is a link to Google Maps with the Buzz layer activated. You can click on any of the word bubbles on the map to see the content.

Some Background

Blogger allows you to add the location of your blog post from your desktop; however, it is a crude location, allowing you only to select the city. From the mobile Blogger app, you can select the venue; but, only if you are nearby. So, blogging about a location or an event at that location has the practical limitation of requiring you to be at the place that is the subject of your blog post.

Google Maps on Android allows you to select the exact location that is the subject of your Google Buzz post, it can be anywhere in the world so long as there is an entry on Maps. You select the location, tap on the drop-down menue, and then choose the Buzz about this place option. You can post text and an image to that location. Your post will appear on your Buzz stream and will also be viewable to all future people browsing that place's Buzz stream.

As far as long-tail marketing, having a "narrative" about your location is great. If your venue hosts a lot of events, it is also a good opportunity to market the event and to provide a history of past events. Blog posts with location information included pass that location information into Google Buzz nicely.

What I have done

This is a bit thick if you're not familiar with RSS and other feeds. Basically, I am feeding my RGV Life Blog into Google Buzz. From there, the stream goes into Feedburner, which has a feature that tweets each post with a link to the RGV Life Twitter account.

I have a separate MissionTexas blog that is set up the same way through Buzz and Feedburner, sharing the RGV Life twitter account (no need for a separate twitter account).

The Process

Given the blogging limitations, I tend to use Google Maps to select the location where an event is going to take place. I'll pre-download an image that I'll use for the event, typically a flyer or poster image. At that location, I'll add the title of the post and the image. There are three important components here, an image, location information, and a title. I need to have the title in case the Buzz RSS feeds to Twitter before the next step.

Once that is posted from the mobile, I can edit the entry from the desktop and add more details and a link back to the source of the event information.

When Feedburner tweets the Buzz post, it will contain the title, a link to the Buzz post, and any hashtags I've added to the stream. This shows up on the map with all the necessary information without having to type everything on my mobile screen.

Why all the trouble

Google Buzz is one of those services that is extremely handy if it is used and populated with information. However, it's not much use without that information. Given this chicken and egg problem, I've decided to build content to make the value of Buzz apparent, locally. Just like in the early days of blogging, there is a small audience that has started using the location-based posts and responds with comments. The snowball effect is beginning.

Once more people become aware of the value of Google Buzz and begin to use it more and more, my content will be all over the place, bringing traffic to my channels. Yes, I feed Adsense into the Buzz stream, so it doesn't matter if readers visit the original blog or the Buzz stream. I'm more about the value than the channel.

How does this relate to events?

You are driving around, you want to see what is going on in town. You check Google Maps to see what's happening in the neighborhood. Tap a few bubbles, read a few entries. Or, check the Buzz stream for your favorite venue, see what's happening. The location has the content about events, not ten different websites. Google Maps with location-based Buzz frees you from having to visit different websites to find out what's going on. If 3 different bloggers wrote about the club, you can see all three posts.

Perhaps you are disappointed with the show tonight and want to check something else out. You can use your browser to see the Buzz nearby.

Of course, this is assuming Buzz becomes popular and people realize its potential for benefiting their publication, the venue, and the patron. So, I've been demonstrating how it's done; and we are starting to see an increase in local conversations. The snowball is starting to roll.

What I would like to see

I think there is great value for the Press to post stories with location data on a Buzz stream. If the have a restaurant review, whether it be text, audio, or video, they can post that story directly on the venue's location. If there is a bank robbery or some other story, they can post the story at the location where it happened and link back to their website. Obviously, they shouldn't post the whole story, just a teaser. The point is that these stories don't just disappear into the archives. They continue to provide value to anybody in the neighborhood. In a sense, they add to the lore of a neighborhood.

Soon after writing this post, Google launched Google+, which has many of the same features, but is not as widely viewable until it comes out of Field Testing. Some of the same ideas apply; but, there are differences for the moment, like no Maps interface or location history. Hopefully that will be rolled out when Pages are available.
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