Last year was a watershed for social media, with millions of people
creating and sharing their own media on sites such as MySpace, YouTube,
and Flickr and turning away from traditional one-way media such as TV, radio
and newspapers. But for the proprietors of these new media sites,
there’s one very big problem: How do you make money off that popularity?
The conundrum for social media is that if you try to commercialize
that user-generated space, it loses its allure for the user who wants
to be in control. But for research companies, there’s no conundrum —
just a good niche to exploit for juicy data. One company stepping into
that niche is Nielsen BuzzMetrics, an amalgamation
of three other companies — BuzzMetrics (word-of-mouth marketing),
Trendum (linguistic analysis) and Intelliseek (enterprise search)—
which merged last year under the Nielsen/VNU umbrella. The idea for
Nielsen BuzzMetrics is to measure buzz in social media such as blogs,
forums and usenet groups and then package that data for corporate
Marketers at companies such as Toyota, Sony and Coca-Cola have
tapped BuzzMetrics to tell them what people on social media sites are
saying about their brands and products. If they can gauge and nurture
this buzz, the marketers hope to eventually turn positive buzz into
sales. But building buzz online has its pitfalls, as various companies
from Wal-Mart to Sony have found with the recent fake-blog scandals in which marketing blogs posed as fan-generated content and were outed by the blogosphere.
Using that site, I checked out the way the conversation about Saddam Hussein’s execution
changed over the past weekend, as the cell phone video leaked out to
various blogs. You can also compare trends like the number of times
bloggers mention “mother” vs. “father” (mom always seems to double up
on dad, with a spike in both mentions around Christmas).
Fun facts aside, the ground is shifting mightily under
the feet of corporate marketers, who need to follow changes in online
opinion even before a product comes to market. One recent pilot project
for BuzzMetrics combined grocery sales of certain foods with the online
buzz around trendy diets. Not too surprisingly, people were talking
about low-carb diets for months before sales of such foods actually
went up at the cash registers.