Tuesday, January 10, 2006

blog monitors and big business

Blogs have made such a huge impact, that, even if a business has no blog, they may have blog monitors.

How stupid is it, to monitor a communication channel, but not have one's own channel in the mix?

Businesses need to get up off their butts, learn about blogs, and get their blogs started, so they can tell their story, answer questions from consumers, and establish an ongoing conversation platform for market research that is real-time. This is what a blog offers any organization smart enough to use one.

Blog Monitor: a service that keeps track of what bloggers are saying about an organization, product, political candidate, or other item of concern. Other online venues may also be monitored: web site forums, internet chat rooms, email discussion lists, podcasts, and bulletin boards.

Intelliseek is one service that is helping businesses monitor, keep track of, watch, follow what is being blogged.

"Why Companies Monitor Blogs"
by Daniel Terdiman
CNET News dot com
Jan. 3, 2006



The premise behind services like these, as well as companies' own internal Internet-monitoring programs, is that online discussions--be it in forums, on blogs or elsewhere--are a modern replacement for customer satisfaction surveys or focus group reports, which can take months to compile and analyze.

"When you're listening to the Internet, the discussion is taking place in real time," said Intelliseek spokeswoman Sue MacDonald. "We're able very quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, to pick up on what consumers are saying. If there's certain issues, like safety recalls or any mention of a boycott, we can set up an alert, so that we can alert a company or a brand so they can be on their guard and be ready to react, if that's what it takes."

The Intelliseeks and BuzzMetrics of the world are finding fertile--and lucrative--ground to till with the monitoring and analytic tools and products they offer their clients.

MacDonald said that Intelliseek's clients sign up for contracts that average $75,000 a year and can range from $30,000 to $500,000. Similarly, Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing at BuzzMetrics, said the firm's clients pay anywhere from $30,000 to more than a million dollars for its services.

"What we're saying to (our clients) is that it's pretty important that you listen," MacDonald said. "Your customers are listening. Your customers are using the Internet to search. It's keyword-dense. It's contextual. When you type in a product name into Google, you may run into the company's Web site, but you may also run into 10 people who have had an experience with it."

Ear to the ground

It's not clear how many companies are monitoring the Internet for brand mentions. Nor is it clear how many of those businesses hire outside help to do the research, or invest in both in-house and outside services.

One example of the latter is Hewlett-Packard, which is a BuzzMetrics client and also has an internal program.

"We pay attention to the blogosphere," said Scott Anderson, HP's director of enterprise brand communications, in a talk at the Syndicate conference in San Francisco in December. "Our audience is online. They're having discussions about us and about our competitors, and they're talking about the marketplace. It may be good, and it may be bad, but it's important for us to pay attention to what's being said out there."

"When consumers have their own pen, they may not call in anymore."
--Steve Rubel, CooperKatz

Effectively, Anderson said, HP considers bloggers--especially chief-level executives, journalists and "influencers in our market"--to be valuable filters for what people think about its products and services.

"The blogosphere is a great place for customer intelligence," he said. "Things are happening very fast. Bloggers are considered to be people with real strong opinions. So it's a place where people are being really honest about what they think."

Naturally, there are countless small companies that want to keep up with what is being said about them online, but can't afford an Intelliseek or BuzzMetrics.

For them, said Steve Rubel, vice president of the Micro Persuasion practice at CooperKatz, which consults with companies about monitoring the Internet, there are a number of free and low-cost tools that companies can use to gain insight into how their brand is being talked about online.

Among them are Technorati, Google Blog Search, Hubsub and Icerocket, Rubel said.

"Those are very good if you have a manageable volume," he said. "If you have anywhere from single digits to 50 to 100 posts per day (about your company), you can probably manage that. With a huge brand, you need some tools to help you manage that. Otherwise, it just becomes too time-consuming."

Rubel pointed to public relations nightmares like that precipitated by Buzz Machine blogger Jeff Jarvis' much-publicized rants about his bad experiences with Dell and its customer service operation.

"When consumers have their own pen, they may not call in anymore," said Rubel. "They may choose to blog about it, because they think they'll get quicker service. Everyone has seen through different examples that they have to grapple with this."

calls a "lockbox" blog. He described it as "a blog you keep behind glass. In case of fire, break glass and blog."

The idea, he said, is that companies need to be able to quickly respond to crises and to do so in a medium that bloggers respect.

Ultimately, the point of tracking what online consumers are saying about brands is to be able to react quickly if something bad happens or learn from the good things people say. Either way, though, companies are learning they have to pay attention.

"The whole point," MacDonald said, "is if a company's not listening, they're not going to pick it up."


I think this is very funny.

My favorite parts are "bloggers are considered to be people with real strong opinions" and "companies are learning they have to pay attention".


Or we'll crush them.

[signed] Steven Edward Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

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