When Google launched its latest foray into the social networking world, sites like Twitter exploded with anticipation. Web users flocked to their Gmail accounts to find out if the colorful Buzz icon was sitting pretty below their Inbox link, hoping the tool would open up a new avenue communication with friends, family, and colleagues.
Although Buzz is an excellent tool to facilitate conversation at work or at home, it’s important to be aware of how much information you’re sharing from the moment you sign up. I recently wrote a 3-step guide for beginners on Buzz, which only allowed me to scrape the privacy surface. Here are four ways you can take control of Buzz before it takes control of you:
Banish buzz. If the idea of Buzz turns you off, turn it off. While it might seem impossible to disable the Gmail tool, it’s actually quite easy. Simply go to the bottom of your Gmail homepage, and you’ll see “turn off buzz” on the second to the last line of text. With one click you’ll arrive at a menu list of items that will allow you to customize your Buzz account, or you can click on “Disable Google Buzz.”
Filter followers. When you first log into Buzz, you have an option to hide your followers. On sites like Twitter protecting your community isn’t such a big deal since they’re only public persona is a username. Within Buzz, a follower’s handle is his or her real name and email account which is often information that you should keep private. For example, you might not want your business colleagues to automatically have your Mom’s home email address (or vice versa). You can also manage your followers within your “Buzz” tab within Gmail. Check “Do not show these lists on my public Google profile.” Click “Delete it” and “Create Filter.”
Nix notifications. One of the things Buzz does automatically is to send all notifications to your in-box. For most people, this content addition is simply adding to email noise. To stop notifications, got to the “Create a filter” link next to Search the Web at the top of your Gmail account. Write “Buzz” within the field “Has the words.”
Mobile management. If you’re using the mobile version, you can easily hide your location on individual posts or on all posts. Simply go to the Location Sharing Setting and choose “Hide My Location.”
Once you’ve taken a few minutes to control your privacy settings, this new Google service makes collaborating with your Gmail contacts a breeze. Not only can you have real-time conversation, you can also pull in photos and videos so that you never have to leave Buzz.
For Gmailers who never really “got” Twitter or don’t have time to frolic on Facebook, this tool can turn your existing Google community into a virtual watercooler experience with commenting, sharing, and recommendations. Just remember, protect your privacy before the Buzz-ing begins.
Amber MacArthur is a social media consultant, speaker, and author of Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Build Your Business (June 10, 2010 release). You can follower her on Twitter at @AmberMac.