Magazine article Online

Social Search for Market Intelligence

Magazine article Online

Social Search for Market Intelligence

Article excerpt

IN a world of information overload, the last thing we need is another method to ascertain the thoughts and opinions of people in our social circles-right? Actually, that may not be the case. In the web search world, one of the least-used resources is the other people that we know. Word-of-mouth content is dispersed and sporadic across the internet. Many real opinions about products and services are not documented. According to the Keller Fay Group's Talk Track, as much as 90% of word-of-mouth takes place offline ("Comparing Online and Offline Word of Mouth: Quantity, Quality, and Impact," by Ed Keller and Brad Fay; www.kellerfay.com/wpcontent/uploads/2011/ 01/KellerFayOnline-OfflinePaperforWOMMAFinal1.pdf).

To find people's opinions online, we rely on algorithms. However, this process is still somewhat unnatural. As the Keller Fay Group, LLC's report also indicated, many agencies and research companies pull their information from multiple sources, which focus on finding online word-of-mouth and tone (is it a positive, negative, or neutral opinion), in posts to blogs, chat rooms, consumer review sites, social networking sites, viral videos, and other social media.

In the unplugged world, if you want to watch a movie, read a book, or learn about a brand, you ask your friends for recommendations. With movies, for example, you hear friends discussing how great it was or what a waste of money it is and then base your judgment of whether to watch that movie on those opinions. You might also consult a published review from a critic you trust. The same goes for restaurants, technology, retail stores, and almost every other thing on which people spend money. These recommendations from people you know and respect have infinitely more weight than those from people you don't know-faceless people on Yelp or Amazon reviews. Website-specific reviews are also very fragmented. Depending on the clientele of a website, the reviews and overall impressions of a product may be markedly different.

DEFICIENCIES OF EXPLORATORY SEARCH

Search engines are severely lacking in the realm of exploratory search. If you know you want to find information about a specific movie, product, or venue, the current search engines are valuable resources. However, if you want to find new things with which you're unfamiliar, the online world has a market gap. Social sites, such as StumbleUpon or Go2web20.net, offer relatively easy ways to discover new technology, but finding tools that are recommended by your peers or people you respect in the industry is not so consistent or easy.

Computer algorithms are not quite there yet. They can't provide the exploratory search results in the way that people can conceptualize. This is a "white space" where social searching can improve in order to capitalize on the opinions of users and build up market intelligence.

Better social searching tools will enable information professionals to find reliable sources for sentiment or common knowledge for word-of-mouth coverage. Having an online tool that readily has this information available can provide inferences about specific topics that domain professionals would find useful for discovering new products and concepts within markets. Essentially, the information industry is still in need of better ways to capture social opinions that make it easier for connected people to find their thoughts about products and services.

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PERSONALIZING WITH A PURPOSE

Shared authentication is one of the latest features that is having some impact on bridging the gap. When logging in at one site, you are asked to authenticate that you are really you via your Twitter, Facebook, or other social media identification. A number of services are partnering with established social media in the interest of making it easy for users to sign into their service to help grow social use of their product. This is an important offering because authentication via Facebook or Twitter give access to the people we are already connected to and trust. …

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