You’re looking for a new TV. . . . You’re not certain whether you want Hi-Def or plasma screen. You decide to research it online. You find a few blogs and forums. You start reading, asking questions, making comments about the TV that you have now.
You’re a saavy Internet user. You know that not all you read will be true–that some folks will be talking without knowing anything, and some will be there to just sell you. You also know that what you say will stay where you wrote it long after you leave it behind.
But did you know that sophisticated software could be picking up your comments, evaluating them, and sending that information back to the manufacturer? Blogging, list serve, and forum comments have become a predictor of consumer trends.
The comments are particularly valuable for measuring customer sentiment because they’re gut-level and spontaneous. “Internet word of mouth is extremely important,” said Steve Rubel, a marketing expert and senior vice president at Edelman public relations. “You see what the most vocal consumers have to say about you and about your competitors — and they’re saying it without necessarily knowing you’re watching them.” –from Washingtonpost.com Blog Buzz Helps Companies Catch Trends in the Making, March 3, 2006
It was inevitable.
Nielsen Ratings? No Nielsen BuzzMetrics
In a merger that took place last week, BuzzMetrics joined with Intelliseek to form Nielsen BuzzMetrics. The new enterprise uses trawling software to collect, sort, and evaluate consumer comments to a level of sophistication that allows an overall rank of positive or negative, with details that to the other way. An example of that might be
I’m totally sold on the new plasma screen by Company K, but I worry about their customer service.
Neilsen BuzzMetrics captures hundreds of thousands of comments daily. They are literally tracking word of mouth–well, word of keyword as mouth proxy. The data is sorted, compiled to meet specific job parameters, and trends are plotted for client companies.
What Does This Mean?
As with any new technology, it’s only as smart as the people who use it. As with any data tool, the art is in how you choose to sort and interpret it.
- This new process could mean that consumer companies will start doing things that need to get done, because consumer issues will come to light.
- It could mean companies will hear faster and move faster when they have a customer base that is unhappy with them.
- It could mean that customer service would happen and companies will be more profitable–the economy could improve for everyone.
- Companies could let the software make decision for them.
- We could end up with even more “sit-com,” one-size-fits-all consumer solutions than we have already.
What I See
If you think about it, this is hi-tech version of a poll or a focus group and as such, it carries the same values and pitfalls. I can’t help but think about a court transcript that might read like this:
Policeman: May I have permission to search your car?
Driver: Oh yeah, that’s what I want.
Without context, it’s not certain whether the driver’s answer is a “Yes, please do.” or a “Not on your life.”
The leaders who know what to take and what to leave from a Nielsen BuzzMetrics report will make great gains. Those who blindly follow the numbers will be as lost as they were before.
The good news for small business is that trend, if it becomes the norm, provides one more temptation for big companies to be looking in the wrong direction–to be getting overly-involved with discussing the data rather than taking what they need and moving on.
While big companies are playing with this new toy that brings everything down to numbers. Small enterprises can channel their energy into building brands based on innovating and strong relationships with real people–their customers.
Business is relationships not numbers. No matter how you compile, sort, and plot it. If you don’t understand the people who are talking, it’s awfully hard to tell which words are important and which words don’t mean a thing.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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