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Blogs, Consumer Generated Media and Buzz

Posted on Mar 6th, 2006
Written by Lee Odden
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    One of the areas of online marketing and PR that continues to gain interest is buzz marketing through blogs and similar consumer generated media. Blogs are many things including marketing tools and also voices to be heard. Consumer voices that provide insight into your marketplace. The availability and ease of communications and creative tools make consumer generated media a force to be reckoned with.

    Today I noticed that Al Gore’s Current TV is looking for consumers to create commercials for its commercial sponsors (AdJab). I think you’ll see more of that as marketers and comsumers embrace the medium.

    At the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York last week, Rebecca Lieb moderated a session including Dave Balter from BzzAgent, Pete Blackshaw from Nielsen BuzzMetrics (Intelliseek) and Jim Nail of Cymfony who presented on creating and measuring buzz using blogs.

    First up was word of mouth guru, Dave Balter. “What good presentation doesn’t start out with a picture of Paris Hilton?” Balter explained Carl JR’s viral marketing effort with Paris Hilton.

    Ophrah Winfrey gave away 26 cars. Pontiac proclaimed success, etc. Sales were down. Why? Car receipients reported, “The only good thing about this car is the sun roof”.

    Buzz marketing is powerful but you must use it with the right products or consumers will figure it out.

    Shilling – “evil marketing”. Hiring actors, etc. Provides example where Ericsson hired actors to pose as tourists to demo the new photo phones.

    Word of Mouth (WOM) – Two thirds of U.S. economy is influenced by word of mouth, via McKinsey.

    Northeastern University study on Word of Mouth WOM. 15% of every conversation involves a product or service.

    4 steps to organizing honest WOM

    1. Enlist volunteers
    2. Provide experiences
    3. Educate customer
    4. Communicating – engaging customer, listening, feedback

    North Eastern Study 40% of every WOM includes info about another media form
    16% TV
    Print 8%
    radio mail 2%

    20% online WOM
    80% offline WOM
    = More people are influenced offline

    Can no longer measure just initial contact or exposure. Must also pay attention to how and how far that message will reach. Explains “Rings” analogy, as in tree rings. The initial point of contact may influence others and so on and so on, each time reaching another “ring”.

    Case Studies:

    50% of negative WOM happens because of a feeling of injustice on behalf on the value of the brand

    P&G product test – coffee machine malfunctioned and started on fire.
    – P&G sent out new machines which created quiet advocates

    Who’s creating word of mouth in the marketplace?
    Influencers, sneezers, etc

    Rock Bottom Brewery – 1000 loyalty card holders.
    Four groups (personas)
    Heavy Local
    Iron Chef
    Light Loyals (most productive WOM)

    You cannot control your customers. Get out of the way and let them do what they do best.

    Next up is Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen BuzzMetrics (Intelliseek).

    Asked audience about behaviors related to online influences and then explained what BuzzMetrics does. Brand promotion, protection through measurement of online WOM.

    Consumer Generated Media characteristics: Diverse and fast growing body of online content. Rapidly epxands into multi-media formats. Blogs have been a launch pad for other media.

    CGM is important because consumers trust WOM over advertising. “Buyers before marketers”

    CGM and Search
    1. Speakers find seekers
    2. Your brand equity is the sum total of your search results
    3. Defensive branding may be the best offense

    CGM acts like “media” and is highly targeted. CGM is providing many more options for consumers to save their opinions in various formats. Boards/forums, blogs, reviews, microsites, social networks.

    Blogs are indexed at a faster rate and will enter search results. Brands have an oppotunity to leverage this. i.e. SERPs are “shelf space”. WOM is reflected in search results as more blogs, forums and ratings are indexed by search engines.

    CGM can be used as a “keyword discovery tool”

    Can SEO counter negative CGM?
    – Defensive Branding – Buy SEM to counter negative CGM. Paid search is a branding medium
    – Viral Sandbagging – Buy negative phrases and point those clicks to landing pages that explains the company side of the story
    – Prime Internal Brand Search – Maximize

    Very little SEO/SEM is currently being used for attracting negative queries in order to convert to positive.

    Metrics are varied. The key is to listen, learn and leverage.

    Next up is Jim Nail of Cymfony (formerly with Forrester)

    How does CGM give insight to what consumers are thinking?

    – Charting the main stream media (MSM) and consumer generated media (CGM) crossover.
    Example using Teflon’s issue that a compound in Teflon may cause cancer. Multiple news stories influenced blog posts about the issue. Insight is that just because journalists are not writing about it, doesnt mean it’s not being talked about. Traditional PR would see no press, and think things are ok. The reality is that conversations that can influence others are still happening,

    Moving from observing issues to actionable data: Establish a few basic metrics that align with company goals, then track them over time.

    Analyze CGM for messages that resonate
    Measure with a quantitative methodology
    Track messages through MSM and CGM
    Engage directly with influential consumer bloggers