Google Buzz Tips and Tricks

Reactions to Google’s new social networking tool, Buzz, appear to be divided between those who think it will topple Facebook and those who have already discounted it.

If you still haven’t made up your mind yet about Buzz, here are some useful tips for customizing and automating the service so that it can work with your other social networks. We’ll also look at some ways to share messages and links via Buzz with specific groups, which could make it a useful tool for the workplace.

The Importance of Your Google Profile

Even though Google Buzz works inside your Gmail account, your Google Profile also plays a role in managing the information you share on Buzz. What’s that? You didn’t know you had a Google Profile? Well, if you use any kind of Google account then chances are that you already have one.

To see if you do and what it looks like, go to the Google Profile page and click the “View Profile” button to log in. If you already have a profile, then you can customize it via the “Edit Profile” option. You can add many of your other social networks and RSS feeds. Notice the “Buzz” tab. Also, you can actually edit the URL for your Google Profile and create a vanity URL; mine is http://www.google.com/profiles/ThePaisano. Just bear in mind that you can only do this one time. Simon provided some more information on Google Profile here.

Sharing Stuff with Google Reader

If you use Google Reader then whatever you share there shows up in your Google Buzz stream. It’s all done via the  “Shared items” feature. Look for it under “Your stuff” in Google Reader.

You can share anything you’re viewing in Google Reader by clicking the “Share” button at the bottom of every post you’re reading. (Click “Unshare” to stop sharing it)

You can set privacy controls and only allow specified groups of people to view the items you share. This could be important for those of you that are using Buzz for work.

  1. Go to Google Reader
  2. Click on “Shared items”
  3. Click on “Sharing Settings”
  4. Change the setting for “Your shared items can be viewed by” to: “Protected (Shared with Selected Groups)”

You can manage your groups via Gmail’s Contacts. Note that selecting the “Public” option means just that: Everyone is be able to see everything you share via Google Reader and Buzz.

Buzz Browser Add-ons and Extensions

You can access Buzz via some new browser add-ons and extensions:

Buzz It! is a Firefox add-on that allows you to share anything you’re viewing by adding a button to your Firefox toolbar that launches the Google Reader sharing window. The install process is a little convoluted, and I don’t like the way it opens new tabs instead of using pop-up windows.

The Chrome Buzz extension for Chrome is good if you just want to view what’s happening in your Buzz stream. It does not provide any ways to share items or even post messages there.

By far, my favorite way to share items on Buzz is through Google Reader’s Shared Items “Note in  Reader” bookmarklet. To set it up, just go to Google Reader, click on “Shared Items” and drag the “Note in Reader” button (located on the far right-hand side) to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. I’ve tested this in Firefox and Chrome and it works really well.

Whenever you’re reading something online and want to share it, just click the “Note in Reader” button. A window pops up with all of the details filled out; you can also add a note. Make sure the “Add to shared items” checkbox is selected, hit “Post Item” and the page is shared via your Buzz account.

Connecting Buzz to Twitter via Google Reader Shared Items

If you’re sharing links via Buzz you’ll probably want to share them with your Twitter followers, too. You can do that in a few different ways.

Twitterfeed lets send anything you share on Google Reader to your Twitter account. Just go to your Google Reader Shared Items page, copy the Atom feed and paste it into Twitterfeed. Then just authorize your Twitter account to sync them up.

Facebook’s FriendFeed can also connect Google Reader to Twitter very easily. Just click “add/edit” on your Friendfeed profile and look for the Google Reader service under “News.”

Reader2Twitter is my favorite method of synchronizing Google Reader/Buzz with Twitter because it uses the pubsubhubbub protocol to perform real-time sync. A new version has already been released that works specifically with Google Buzz. Just sign in here with your Twitter account via Oauth. You can even add your bit.ly account so you can shorten URLs and track analytics. All in all, it’s a simple but powerful little tool.

Share your favorite Buzz tips below.

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