Update: AT&T Announced today that Buzz.com is now available to the pubic. To read more about the service, read our exclusive interview with AT&T about the services below.
Original Article: Google Buzz has captured a lot of the buzz around services with "Buzz" in the title (of which there are a few), but before Google Buzz was even announced, AT&T Interactive had already launched a beta version of its latest take on local business search at Buzz.com. Buzz.com has only been available on an invitation basis so far, and will remain that way until some bugs are ironed out, but you may find AT&T's Buzz becoming a bigger part of your life than Google's simply, because it will be coming at you from your Facebook friends.
We spent close to an hour talking to AT&T about the product, checking out a demo of the service, and getting a feel for just what AT&T plans to do with Buzz.com. Right off the bat, Charlie Hornberger, director of product development told WebProNews it's not as much about getting in front of people on Buzz.com, but getting in front of them on Facebook. That's just for now anyway, it's already integrated with Facebook, and Twitter is next on the list, he says. Then they'll figure out what other networks to integrate, whether that be Gmail contacts, instant messenger lists, or anything else.
Buzz.com is focused on only positive reactions to businesses. Users can "favorite" businesses and recommend them to their friends. So as far as reputation management goes, there shouldn't be too many issues here from the standpoint of monitoring negative commentary. Although if your competitors are getting a lot of "buzz" and you're not, that may be worth looking into.
Hornberger doesn't appear too worried about any branding issues around the name Buzz. Jokingly, he said it seems like "if you don't have Buzz then you have a problem." The very nature of Buzz.com shouldn't make it much of an issue anyway, because it's essentially coming at you right in your Facebook news feed. You don't necessarily have to go to Buzz.com to feel its presence, although he views having buzz.com as a URL as a "great asset," because it "makes sense for this product."
Before you get all riled up with visions of Farmville-style Facebook updates, relax, because Buzz's Facebook integration is set up to prevent feed-spamming. If a user shares a lot of businesses at a time, it will consolidate these into a single update on Facebook. Some Facebook users may still wish not to see such things, but they can adjust their settings in Facebook the same as with anything else. Frankly, this is adding more value to the user than learning about friends' pseudo-farming practices, because if a friend recommends a dentist, for example, that might be useful to you at some point.
Businesses will want to make sure they're listed in Buzz.com, because not only will they be listed in Buzz.com, they'll be listed right in Facebook users' news feeds anytime a Buzz.com user "favorites" their business, and shares that with their friends. Hornberger calls it a way to get on Facebook "in the best possible way."
Currently there is not a place on Buzz.com that businesses can go and get listed, but he says there will be soon. However, listings come from the same database that powers AT&T's YellowPages.com. I'd advise making sure you have a listing there, complete with a link to your site. They are looking at other potential ways to expand listings as well, including potentially, a way for users to submit things besides businesses (like a public tennis court for example).
They will have a mobile web app available in a couple weeks for Buzz.com. Hornberger says they haven't started on one for the App Store, but even if they do, it will be more for visibility purposes, and the web app will likely provide the better user experience (no mention of an Android app).
For now, you can use Buzz.com if you get an invite. Everyone that gets an invite can send out more invitations. There is a chance you are already seeing people post Buzz.com activity to Facebook. Until the kinks are worked out, it will continue to be on an invitation-only basis, but that will likely change in the not-too-distant future.
Buzz.com could play a significant role in the local search space as it grows, and is probably not something businesses want to ignore. On a side note, Buzz.com utilizes AT&T's existing partnership with Microsoft by providing Bing Maps imagery, so this could be considered another factor in Bing usage.
Have you used Buzz.com? Share your thoughts.