The Internet is a superb way for everyone to communicate with everyone else. Ideally if you are selling products or services and your customers are passing on the word to others, then this is the best possible way of expanding your sales. That is why there is such intense interest in what are called social media, which are really just places online where people communicate with each other. Facebook is the biggest but there are many other online communities
These new networking possibilities are what is fueling the interest in what is called word-of-mouth marketing, or viral marketing, or buzz marketing, or exponential marketing. If you are a marketer, then this has huge potential. For simplicity in the balance of this article we will use the term buzz marketing. The nuances between the different terms are of interest only to the gurus.
Social Media And Buzz Marketing
Social media involve people. People can be notoriously unpredictable in their behavior and reactions. That is why social media represent such a challenge to the big brand marketers. If social interaction is between individuals, how can a big corporation get involved in such communities. There are a number of difficulties involved and the solutions are still being worked on.
Another difficulty, which is the subject of this article, is how well can you measure the effectiveness of any buzz marketing you are able to do. What tools are available? How well do they perform in determining how many people are passing on the messages?
Checking the Buzz With Google Trends
Google as it attempts to catalog all the information in the universe has a great deal of information about how people are thinking. It is for this reason that they have come up with a search vehicle that can help. It allows you to identify how a particular topic is becoming of more or less interest to people.
With Google Trends, you can compare the world’s interest in your favorite topics. Enter up to five topics and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most.
As an example here is what the search using Google Trends provided in a comparison of [McCain and Obama] prior to the presidential election on November 4. This is the picture as seen on November 1 looking back over the previous 30 days. Clearly one brand here is getting much more attention than the other.
You can also identify by geographical region how the two brands are attracting interest. Unfortunately Google normalizes the data so that everything is measured relative to the score for a particular brand at one particular point in time. Nevertheless we would seem to be getting useful data and the election results seem to be a confirmation of the wide difference between the two trend lines at the end.
Google Hot Trends
A further analysis that Google does is what it calls hot trends. These aim to give an hour by hour picture of what is of interest to people.
With Hot Trends, you can see a snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind by viewing the fastest-rising searches for different points of time. You can see a list of today’s top 100 fastest-rising search queries in the U.S. You can also select a recent date in history to see what the top rising searches were and what the search activity looked like over the course of that day. We update Hot Trends hourly.
The following is added as a footnote to the hot trends data – Google Trends provides insights into broad search patterns. Please keep in mind that several approximations are used when computing these results. In addition there are two major problems in using this data as a possible tool to measure buzz marketing. The first is that it includes all members of the population and so one is getting an average result for everyone. It is impossible to break out data by social groupings, although some information on geographical regions is provided.
Passive and Active Buzz
The other major problem with the Google Trends data is that it deals with what topics people are asking questions on and finding information about. It could be viewed as passive data. It may or may not correlate with what they are talking to their friends about. It would be much more interesting to find out what people are writing in e-mail messages to their friends. However clearly that would be a major breach of privacy.
Checking What People Are Talking About
Another possibility would be to assess what is being written about in blogs and similar online articles. Although only a fraction of people write such items, it might be indicative of more broadly based conversations. This is not something that Google attempts at all. SocialMedian is attempting to do this and in fact during the election has opened a special section for political commentary.
One interesting feature of this is that the content is likely to be from a more meaningful slice of the population, which may be good or bad depending on the researchers’ needs.
If blogs and articles require too much effort on the part of the writers and thus limit those who get involved, that is not the case with Microblogging. That is the somewhat pompous name given to processes such as Twitter. 140 characters and spaces is no barrier to people recording how they are feeling and they can even send that with their cell phone. If Buzz is what you are trying to measure, this certainly is a huge river of information. Unfortunately it is very difficult to measure the flow generated by a particular topic
Thankfully Twitter acquired Summize and this is now featured as Twitter Search.
This breaks out a little more information. Twitter Search even lists in a sidebar what terms are currently hot. There are some interesting features in the Advanced Search. For example the following searches are possible:
@mashable – referencing person “mashable”
“happy hour” near:”san francisco” - containing the exact phrase “happy hour” and sent near “san francisco”.
near:NYC within:15mi – sent within 15 miles of “NYC”.
superhero since:2008-05-01 – containing “superhero” and sent since date “2008-05-01″ (year-month-day).
movie -scary :) – containing “movie”, but not “scary”, and with a positive attitude.
flight :( - containing “flight” and with a negative attitude.
traffic ? – containing “traffic” and asking a question.
hilarious filter:links – containing “hilarious” and linking to URLs.
Despite these refinements, they only help only to find specific tweaks or authors. It is still very difficult to calculate metrics, such as how many people talked on a particular topic.
Ideally it would be nice to see data only for particular sections of the population. This could become a possibility if people used tags in their tweats, or even better would be using Hashtags as offered by hashtags.org.
Hashtags as envisaged is an opt-in service. You must follow @hashtags for the service to index your tweets. Their service would allow much better metrics on how many people are involved with particular topics with the associated hashtag.
Unfortunately according to the Hashtags website, they are no longer receiving the data they need from Twitter and the service has not been operative since July 10.
Posted August 5, 2008 by Cody Marx Bailey
Well, as many of you have pointed out, hashtags.org has been down since July 10th – nearly a month. This is because we rely on Twitter’s XMPP service to receive tweets. They took the service down on the 10th and since then we’ve been waiting, patiently.
I have emailed the folks at Twitter several times, but I haven’t been able to get a solution from them. In the mean time we are going to try a few other ways to get the data from them – even if it means banging on the public RSS feed every 2 seconds. I assure you that we will be back, it’s just a matter of when Twitter gets its things in order.
People are still using the hashtag format and such hashtags can be found as normal search terms within the Twitter Search. There is currently no directory service for such hashtags so you can only search for those you know exist. However it is difficult to derive metrics via Twitter Search for how many people are involved.
Social media are clearly a powerful way to go in creating dialogue with prospects and customers. There are many problems in large corporations using such media, which involves individuals rather than companies and agencies. One particular problem that affects all of us is the difficulty of measuring how strongly the buzz is being transmitted through such media. There are no very easy solutions. It is very much a work in progress.
Barry Welford is a writer, speaker and Internet Marketing expert working for SMM Internet Marketing Consultants in Langley, BC, Canada. He is a consultant and coach to manufacturing and service businesses of all kinds. He has extensive international business experience with major multinational corporations, particularly in marketing.
Barry is well known in the Internet marketing world and is a moderator on the Cre8asite Forums. Many know his writings through three business blogs. BPWrap covers Internet Marketing (SEM, SEO, etc.) from a global perspective, The Other Bloke’s Blog covers Business and Internet Marketing from a Canadian perspective and StayGoLinks provides news and views on the rapidly growing Mobile Web.