Blogs aid marketers

The chief of a Mumbai Firm that works on analyzing blogs says web-monitoring is fast turning into a strong market research tool. A traditional researcher might gather a group of music fans to talk about their favorite MP3 players or spend an afternoon driving around with a research subject.

Blogs are not just inane conversations on the web and the marketers give a serious thought these. Because bloggers who harp about their favorite new gizmos or pen down their rants about the services they hate, are making companies rethink their marketing strategies sometimes even making them take their products back to the drawing board. The growing popularity of blogs and online forums is prompting companies to pay more attention to what is being said about them on the web, and has given rise to a new kind of market research called blog-analytics.

Businesses can get an up-to-the minute feedback on what the world is thinking about them. Studios are already using blogs to see which movies are generating a buzz. Advertisers are tracking responses to their campaigns. Big names like Volkswagen, Toyota, Sony and Apple have been putting the intelligence of the masses to use for improving their products.

Specialized companies such as Fractal Analytics, Intelliseek and Techdirt have developed sophisticated search engines to drill down into the rich conversation online. The search engines retrieve phrases, opinions, key words, sentences and images. By analyzing vocabulary, language pattern and phrasing the program determine the age, sex, and the sentiment of the author. Language based classification indexes are then used to measure their intellect and education to identify the kind of consumers.

This forms the basis for fine tuning marketing strategy and incorporating out-of-the box features.

Fractal Analytics for instance recently carried out an ‘eavesdrop’ study with electronics manufacturer Onida. The study threw up interesting snippets of information that helped Onida design their new product.

For instance, when buying an LCD, users put the ergonomics of the remote over performance, as the remote control was their point of contact with the LCD. In addition the company incorporated a port for iPod and auto-timers just based on blog analysis.

Blog analysis works for companies across the board. Whether you are General Motors or a small car hire company around the corner, bloggers will write about them also, because people don’t have an agenda while they blog, they are simply documenting their lives. So whether a marketer wants to find the right price point for his product or create a buzz about their service, or even manage public relations, blog analysis can be a great tool. Costs too are much less compared to regular market surveys.

Secondly, these are unbiased, unsolicited commentaries, so the information is that much more authentic and meaningful. Also, the base is being worked with is humongous – because the analyzing is for over 200 million blogs worldwide where people post 2 million posts everyday.

And just because the bloggers are based in a different geography doesn’t make the data any less relevant. Simply because no matter where the blogger is, the basic things looked for in the product are essentially the same.

For instance, a study found that parents of babies aged between two and four were willing to compromise slightly on the absorption of the diapers for more colorful diapers, because kids were happier wearing attractive colors.

There are companies that will handle bigger projects, but for smaller projects, one can use one of many tools available from companies like BuzzMetrics and TechDirt to find what the world is saying about a particular topic.

These tools have created a panel of what it calls ‘word-of-mouth influencers’ – a list of thousands of bloggers, message board posters and other people deemed influential in the online community, in part by examining traffic numbers. By studying their online interaction, these tools claim to give companies important information about how they are perceived by customers. For a small price, clients can access a web site to download data generated by the service, and customers can also receive a monthly report summarizing key findings.