BE A FLY ON THE (VIRTUAL) WALL: MINING SOCIAL MEDIA
by Allan DeYoung
Humans are social creatures. We love to talk and share opinions. Traditionally, our audience has been limited to the number of people in the room, on the phone, reading the article, or watching the show/video, etc. Enter the internet and true to its disruptive nature it has changed the “word-of-mouth” paradigm. People are no longer narrow-casting but broad-casting…around the world. As always, pundits feel obligated to create a moniker for a new phenomenon. Hence, get used to hearing Consumer Generated Media (CGM).
Online chatter can come in many forms including text, images, audio, and/or video. What makes this extra exciting for marketers and researchers is the fact that these opinions and conversations are unfiltered and mostly unsolicited. On the other hand, what makes this scary is the challenge to collect, organize, and interpret the hundreds, the thousands, the millions conversations about your brand. Customers once again are demonstrating that they truly have the upper hand in defining what a brand means and how well it performs.
Not so fast. Just as Google uses spiders and analytical algorithms to gather information to provide web site results for a search, there are tools that gather past and current CGM on the internet from sources such as blogs, discussion boards, web sites, news rooms, and other public sources. While only a few companies offer this service (the scope and pricing differ widely), the value doesn’t lie in the raw data and customer verbatims but the ability to condense it, make sense of it, and detail prescriptive actions.
When seeking a partner, consider using the methodology of the 5 Ws to ensure you develop the right approach and actionable intelligence:
WHO Profiling and comparing segments (don’t forget the press) and competitors.
WHAT Tracking of sentiments, perceptions, hot topics, needs, concerns, trends, words, images, and videos.
WHERE Identifying sites and ranking by traffic, by frequency of mentions. Capturing data on a global basis and translating into English.
WHY Uncovering the underlying causes or triggers that prompt postings.
WHEN Defining the timeframe for the baseline set of data (don’t forget the past since the internet has a great “memory”) and scheduling updates to assess impact of interventions.
And demand the qualitative data to be mined quantitatively so your decision-making is driven by statistically significant results.
Don’t delay. Be a “fly on the (virtual) world” to make sure you know what people are saying about your brand when they think you are not looking!