Fall Into Blogs for Consumer Opinion

With the end of summer come fall ad campaigns and preparations for the upcoming holiday season. This usually means trying to gauge which new sites and placement opportunities are worthy of your ad dollars, along with what formats and messages consumers will respond to best.

In the past, buyers and planners have based these decisions on instinct and prior experience with similar campaigns (naturally, usage and return-on-investment statistics for unprecedented initiatives are hard to come by). With new products designed to help make better-informed decisions, however, marketers are taking much of the guesswork out of this complex process. They’re also uncovering a new use for the DIY media efforts that now blanket the Web.

Recently, there’s been buzz about a product from Initiative, Trendum, and TVtracker.com called PropheSEE. The product can harvest and analyze online buzz and predict which new TV shows will become the season’s biggest hits. It uses a form of online media most marketers are intimately familiar with but likely haven’t utilized to its full potential. PropheSEE employs blogs, and does so in a distinctive way.

To make its determinations, PropheSEE scans blogs, news groups, and discussion boards. According to recent reports, it sifted through 15 million of them to come up with this year’s show predications. The product reviews TV viewers’ attitudes and opinions toward specific shows, characters, and plots and the nature of their online discussions. These can indicate an initial excitement about or disinterest in a program, which in turn designates the size of its initial viewership.

Though PropheSEE was designed primarily for TV buyers, it can improve the online buying process as well. Having a sense of which shows are likely to become the next “Desperate Housewives” or “Lost” would help those planning cross-media campaigns involving TV and equivalent online placements (about 95 percent of new shows fail). It’s the concept behind the product, however, that’s more relevant to those in our field.

Tapping blogs, chat rooms, and the like in an effort to get inside consumers’ heads has become increasingly popular among marketers interested in making more educated decisions. Though most would probably like to conduct focus groups and online surveys regularly, few have the time or budget to do so. We’re left to our own devices, including whatever usage and behavioral statistics we’re able to unearth. But interaction with online ads and Internet behavioral trends are constantly changing. That makes this now old-fashioned approach inaccurate and undependable.

Blogs, meanwhile, are online microcosms of society, delivering current, honest consumer opinions. Peeking inside blogs can reveal valuable information about consumer likes and dislikes relating to just about everything, including online ads, your client’s products, and the Web sites you’re considering buying from.

For some time now, automotive manufacturers have been using blogs to measure consumer reactions to new models and ad campaigns. Software companies tune in to blogs to get ideas for future upgrades and product improvements. Both know what online advertisers must discover: the majority of information we seek when planning campaigns is only a handful of blogs away.

Ensuring we have a good grasp of our target audience and consumers’ online preferences is essential to good Internet marketing — as is having the wherewithal to simplify this process. That’s just what this newfound approach to using DIY sites stands to do. With access to sites created, maintained, and frequented by consumers, there’s no limit to the job intelligence buyers can amass.

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