"As blogging about shopping has increased in volume, firms have been popping up that cater to retailers and other companies that wish to monitor and analyze what is being said on blogs about their brands and products, and products and categories in general.
Called blog monitoring, social media monitoring, reputation monitoring, social marketing or word-of-mouth measurement services, these companies include Andiamo Systems, Attention PR, BrandIntel, BuzzLogic, Collective Intellect Inc., Cymfony Inc., Umbria Inc., Visible Technologies and Zeta Interactive. And there is a free but considerably more basic alternative from Google Inc.: Google Alerts.
While the methodologies that monitoring and analysis services use vary, their aim is the same: drilling through the blogosphere on a daily basis to identify blogs that mention certain keywords, such as brand names, and deciphering which blogs and blog posts are the most significant.
Hired by Icon Estates, Andiamo Systems, for example, uses analytics and algorithms to measure five factors, explains John Hingley, founder and CEO. The first is reach, gauging the size of a bloggers audience. The second is authority, which rates a bloggers standing by the number of links from other sites to his blog, the frequency of posts, the position in Googles PageRank system and the ratio of reader comments to blogger posts. The third is influence, which combines reach and authority measures to determine the potential influence a blogger has over readers.
The fourth is relevance, determined through a text-mining tool that considers the placement of a keyword within a post as a whole and within paragraphs, and the frequency of mentions in the post. And the fifth is sentiment, measured via semantic analysis technology to determine if a post is positive, neutral or negative. Vendor analysts review the measurements in all five categories to ensure measurements are accurate. Clients typically pay between $500 and $1,000 a month for the service.
Icon Estates has been using the Andiamo Systems service for nine months and has made some important discoveries about how consumers perceive its brands of wine.
For instance, Robert Mondavi is among its wineries and is well known. The fact that it is so well known actually has created a problem. And posts and comments in the blogosphere have shined light on the problem. The service confirmed something we suspected: There are customers who get confused about Robert Mondavi wines, Wood says. Some people dont understand there is a difference between a premium Mondavi wine and another Mondavi wine. They see the name Mondavi and it becomes very similar to them.
As a result, Icon Estates is considering two actions. First, it may have to tweak its marketing messages. Now we know there are consumers who, no matter how much you are telling your story a certain way, are not getting it that way, Wood says. This means our brand marketers may have to change the way we are telling the story to more successfully get it across.
Second, it could approach bloggers and blog readers in a non-selling manner to inform and educate. We can reach out to bloggers identified through the service who confuse such wines and communicate with them or post comments on their blogs, Wood says. Ultimately, these are members of the public who can influence others in a way that can impact your brand.
Icon Estates has not yet taken any actions, saying it remains in a listening phase and will begin acting on blog monitoring findings later this year, after it better understands blog conversations and subsequently formulates strategies for reaching out to bloggers.
There is, however, a way to monitor blogs that requires no investment. Google Alerts sends e-mails to Internet users when selected words or phrases show up on the Internet. A user creates a Google account by entering an e-mail address and selecting a password.
The user then enters a search term, such as a brand name; selects the type of search blogs, news, web, video or comprehensive; and picks the frequency with which she would like to receive alerts as it happens, once a day or once a week. And she can create as many alerts as she likes.
The difference between Googles free alerts and blog monitoring services from vendors is that Google presents only links to pages that mention selected keywords. Google Alerts does not offer reporting, analysis or outreach services.
Pet supplies retailer Drs. Foster and Smith Inc. is one merchant that has opted to go with Google Alerts. And its blog monitoring program is just as informal as the Google Alerts service."
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