AT&Ti’s Buzz.com Now in Beta

AT&T Interactive has put up a beta version of its new Buzz.com site dedicated to eliciting positive social recommendations and answers to questions from friends, friends of friends and throughout the Buzz site (which, unfortunately, may get confused with Google Buzz, which was developed after AT&T had announced plans for Buzz.com.)

The site’s main purpose is to zero in on nontraditional categories that aren’t really met by Yellow Pages (such as “romantic hotels”). While no advertising is currently being sold, it will be sold in the future. There is currently no plan to integrate with the reviews that users provide Yellowpages.com, or its new prototype, YP.com. Buzz.com users will have a different intent in mind.

The beta hooks in with Facebook Connect, and will roll out over several weeks after initially being limited to invites only. Project leader Charlie Hornberger notes that Buzz will eventually also be enabled for Twitter, instant messaging platforms, Q&A sites (such as Answers.com), and other social networks as well. “Social search is the future, but not in 2010” he says. As with AlikeList, which we also wrote about this week, the positive nature of a recommendations-only site represents “extremely qualified leads.”

Hornberger notes that the user interface remains a work in progress for the project team, which has less than two-dozen people. Initially, for instance, the site was going to limit its big red heart for favorites to a single choice. It quickly found out that people want to have multiple favorites. The site also currently has a list of favorites for each user. But in the future, that list might take more creative forms, such as tag clouds.

The site will also eventually feature “best recommenders.” Future versions may also have some aspects in sentimental analysis and reputation and presence management. AT&T is investing in these areas. But Buzz.com is actually a fairly simple idea. It just needs strong execution. “You don’t need a Ph.D.” for it, says Hornberger. Current plans are to market it virally, with some advertising on social media likely as well.

AT&Ti Executive Director Greg Isaacs is a featured speaker on the New Directories Panel at Marketplaces 2010, along with execs from Local Matters, SuperMedia and MerchantCircle. r

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