Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social Media

Is the Social Media world about to change on Tuesday? Probably not, but all eyes will be on Mountain View tomorrow when Google announces their latest venture into the social sphere, reportedly a social add-on to Gmail.

Let me begin by saying that I know absolutely nothing about what Google has up its sleeve, but let's speculate.  Why?  Because like Apple, Google is one of those rare companies that can still capture our imaginations and make us hope for a new product or service that will dazzle our eyes and change our lives.

At first glance, the addition of status updates to Gmail--if that is in fact what Google is announcing--seems to add nothing new.  After all, Yahoo added "Status-Casting" to their mail and IM offerings six months ago.  Moreover, it would seem to make little sense for Google to try to compete directly with Facebook and Twitter, the reigning kings of the status update realm. 

But what if Google isn't aiming to compete with Twitter and Facebook but instead with Seesmic and Hootsuite?  What if Google doesn't care about owning the stream so much as accessing the content and owning the place where consumers look (and where AdSense ads can be served)?  For some, it would be a powerful combination to aggregate email and status feeds in one simple and powerful tool.  And add Google's Android and Nexus One into the mix for mobile viewing, and you begin to see the makings for a dominant and portable tool for managing highly personalized real-time information.

Let's not stop our speculation there.  Where else might Google take us once they gather and display our friends' tweets, emails and status updates?  Well, what is the one thing at which Google excels, more than anything else?  Relevance!  Search for it, and chances are you will find just what you were seeking at the top of Google's first search engine results page.

How might Relevance Filtering change our ability to monitor what is pertinent and ignore what is not?  Admit it--you find Facebook and Twitter noisy.  Do you care about Farmville?  Some of you do; most of you do not. How about your friends' FourSquare check-ins?  Some of you care where your local friends are, but most of you likely couldn't care less where I'm dining when I'm thousands of miles away. 

That's the trouble with today's Social Media tools--they are largely based on People Filtering (following everything posted by select individuals) rather than Relevance Filtering (seeing only what is relevant while ignoring what is not).  To get a sense of the power of Relevance Filtering, see the chart below; based on this simple example, Relevance Filtering cuts down on the data received by 50% and more than doubles the relevance.  Less time, less noise, more pertinence--where do I sign up?

The company that not only aggregates our friends' lifestreams but turns them from data into interesting and useful information would own the world, wouldn't they?  Google was the hands-down winner of Web 1.0.  Might they be about to repeat the feat in the Web 2.0 era?

I'm not expecting anything that earth shattering from Google's announcement tomorrow, but you have to think the folks in Mountain View have more on their minds than simply tweaking Gmail to compete with Facebook and Twitter.  Time will tell, and I'll be watching where Google is heading, not just where they are.



re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Another nice post Augie.. I think there will be a time when people would maintain a diary throughout the day on what they are doing and where they are doing thereby sharing with friends so that in other part of the world their friends are in best touch...

that would be the impact of social media..I definitely agree that relevancy has to play a major role in social media...

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Thanks Manish,

I have no idea what Google will or won't do, but the time will soon come for us to expect more usabililty and look beyond Twitter and Facebook (or at least expect more from the Social Media Leaders).

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

I believe this is Google's move to change the social landscape and it is mainly directed at Facebook & Twitter. One thing to consider is that Google has Google apps, which is the best email & collaboration suite out there; 20mil users & 2 mil small medium businesses using Google Apps.

The emergence of social feeds as a way to collaborate is why we did Socialwok - social layer for Google Apps. We will be one of the first developers to do integrate with Google's feed social layer. We have been very impressed with the Google teams working on different aspects of Google's products like AppEngine (btw is what Socialwok is built using), Google Apps. We believe this is the key platform to play in. Hence, we brought feed social sharing to Google Apps

CEO of Socialwok (

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

I've posted a little piece I've written about how this move makes Google look more and more like Microsoft, expanding into other companies area of domain instead of being on the leading edge of innovation.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

I just vented via Facebook last night and one commenter replied that Twitter, while good, is happening too fast for them to keep up. Let's hope.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Except what Google is launching is not social media.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

I think this could be Google's great flanking move: don't become yet another Facebook/Twitter status engine, but become the next Outlook. Become the aggregator of social information in a way that Hootsuite and Seesmic cannot -- with access to Gmail, Contacts, Gtalk, Google Docs, etc. And all with speedy search and filtering. Gmail as the dashboard, with its powerful filtering and tagging capabilities.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Hi there!

On behalf of the HootSuite team, I must say we look forward to what Google Buzz may add to the social media world. Already, HootSuite supports Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,, and -- and we'll probably add more. Eventually, we may even support Google Buzz (although this is not yet planned).

HootSuite already offers relevance filtering. We offer keyword tracking, search filtering, and trend explanations. Users can convert their searches into custom columns, modify them later, and embed them into external websites. We intend to innovate by offering more relevance filtering in the future.

Currently, over 400,000 users choose HootSuite as their social media dashboard of choice. Our userbase uses HootSuite so they can make sense of their social media lives, and therefore organize it better. We are always listening to our community, and as long as HootSuite sees a need, we will attempt to fill it. This includes relevance filtering.

Thank you for mentioning HootSuite. We are honoured Forrester blogged about us.

Ambassador of Happiness

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Rich, thanks for sharing the blog link.

Patricia, it seems to me Google Buzz is, in fact, Social Media. It facilitates easy sharing of photos and videos and aggregation of friend's status updates from different sources. How do you see it as NOT social media? Can you expand?

Bill, Google may be making the play you suggest. With Facebook rumored to be launching an enhanced email feature, it seems they're also aiming to be "the next Outlook." Time will tell!

Chris, I am a BIG fan of Hootsuite--it's my preferred Twitter client--but I cannot agree that the tool already offers relevance filtering. Keyword tracking and search are not filtering for relevance but for specific phrases manually entered. I believe the next wave of innovation in terms of Social Media aggregation will deliver more insight based on what the user finds interesting (which is one aspect of what Google Buzz is promising to users.)

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Great post.

I feel that Google is stepping up is Google Personalised search process. You can now search the buzz of your "friends" and you grant google access to your twitter account etc.
You give Google the tools to access your connections on Twitter etc. So, if you combine social network friend search with cookies and personal google accounts. Then add a little advertising to that context and you get an idea of how google could monetize your "friends" buzz.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

I'm going out on a limb and predicting that Google Buzz won't be successful. Here's a link,, if anyone wants to know why. But in a nutshell, do you really want to share photos and videos with your friends using the same system that also stores your boss' email address?

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Marten, Google certainly could be a player in this space, given their data and capabilities at personalizing search. But, I believe they'll need to continue to develop Buzz if they're going to create a tool that pulls people away from their other social nets.

Doug, you raise a good point. But remember, this is just Buzz's first iteration. It could become more usable and more controllable in the future. Still, this version is merely interesting and not really game changing, as far as I can see.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

I think Social Media is going to be safe as we know it for a while. Although Google has launched Buzz, and the resources to make it huge, they are too diversified and not willing to upset the users to gain press. Facebook and Twitter can do that stuff, and we keep using their Free product because we have no control.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M

Thanks for this insightful post. I especially like your opinions on relevancy. How much time would we save reading only things we are interested in? The closest I have seen to relevancy is on Facebook where you can categorize your friends upon adding them and then view the feed based on categories. This however still does not sort updates by relevancy.

As for as Google Buzz is concerned, this is a great idea but they failed to implement it successfully when they gave no consideration to privacy issues.

re: Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social M


Thanks for the comment. Like you, I use the Facebook groups to try to create more relevance, but it's still a bit of a firehose (and I am pretty active in "hiding" the junk I don't want to see--which is pretty much every application on Facebook.)

Google did misstep on the privacy issues, but so has Facebook. I expect Google to give Buzz more support than they have some of their past ventures into Social Media. We'll see how assertively they attack the relevance issue in the future!