Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Master the Art of Eavesdropping

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Master the Art of Eavesdropping

Article excerpt

There is a research group out there that is so big, it won't fit into the biggest viewing room. It isn't bothered about what you think, so it doesn't flatter you or attempt to double-guess you, and you don't need to feed it crisps and Coke, or travel to Watford to watch it.

Digital media are mostly regarded in terms of their capacity for carrying our messages - the pounds 2.8bn that is spent on online media and the thousands of websites that this funds are a direct product of this.

But for all the effort that goes into advertising on the internet, a tiny fraction goes into using it as a research tool - perhaps a reflection of the fact that as marketers we are often better at talking, than we are at listening.

During the past two years we have understood something new about the web; that its true power comes not from the ability it gives brands and companies to speak directly to consumers, but from that it gives consumers, or people, as they like to regard themselves, to connect with each other.

As these billions of conversations have unfolded, marketers have started to understand that there is value in listening in.

Social networks, blogs, forums, Twitter (a mobile social tool) and review sites are bulging with conversations that people are having about brands - often referred to as buzz. Sometimes they are saying nice things about you, often they are brutally slagging you off. The challenge for marketers is to make sense of what is being said - to understand who is talking, and the significance of those conversations.

There are lots of tools available - paid-for ones such as Onalytica and Buzzmetrics, that give us breadth of coverage, as well as dozens of free tools including Blogpulse, Technorati, Icerocket and Tweet Scan.

Between them, these systems allow us to build a picture of what people are saying, who is saying it and how much. However, knowing what to look for is not enough. The sheer volume of data means we have to know what to ignore, too; someone criticising a brand in a blog that is read by only two people is probably not going to be a priority.

So, typically, a researcher is looking at three dimensions of buzz - influence, popularity and sentiment. Flemming Madsen, founder of Onalytica, explains the difference between influence and popularity well; in the area of childhood obesity, Jamie Oliver is popular, but if you want him to reflect your views, you'll find it hard to get to him Oliver gets his information from the National Obesity Forum - in this context, it is the forum that is influential - get to it, and you might get to him. …

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