MarketTools Offers Custom Social Networks for Research

MarketTools has added to its market intelligence tools with a new platform for marketers to monitor blogs and social networks, as well as build their own social networks for marketers to interact with and mine for ideas.

The new tool, dubbed “Insight Networks,” uses Umbria’s Buzz Report monitoring service to keep up with conversations in consumer-generated media like blogs, message boards and social networks. (Separately, Umbria will today unveil an enhancement to the Buzz Report service, called Accent, which allows marketers to manipulate data from the blogosphere in a more customized fashion.)

On top of Umbria’s tools, MarketTools adds the ability for marketers to create their own online communities, which act as an ongoing research panel, according to Mike Waite, MarketTools’ VP of panels and communities.

“There’s a flood of data that’s not being filtered or processed. Typically marketers don’t know where to begin,” Waite told ClickZ. “The solution to a lot of problems would be to give them direct and continuous access to an online community, so they can learn and participate, listen and collaborate.”

MarketTools has been building custom research panels for clients for more than five years, and also maintains a panel of more than 2.5 million users accessible through its Zoomerang and zTelligence survey tools. With Insight Networks, clients can still stay on top of trends among its consumers, and they gain the added ability to interact with their customers and maintain an ongoing relationship with them, Waite said.

“It’s a fluid way to develop and refine ideas, streamline development processes, or create stronger ties with consumers,” he said.

MarketTools takes a three-faceted approach with Insight Networks. It starts with the “discover” process, collecting unstructured data from across the Internet and filtering it with Umbria’s algorithms to make sense of topics discussed, sentiment of the discussion, and signal strength.

The “understand” component involves creating custom online communities. This could be a message board, blog, or a vertical Web site designed to attract consumers in the marketer’s target audience. Some of MarketTools’ clients choose to prominently show their brand as part of the community, while others keep the site unbranded to avoid clouding the research results, Waite said.

For example, a large international banking client created a branded site for its best “global citizen” clients, ones that had banked with them in multiple countries and had a high net worth. The community site it created offers users a place to share trials and tribulations of world travel, moving abroad, and other similar issues common among the group. The bank uses feedback from the message boards and online polls to decide what content to offer, and in turn learns more about this important target audience.

MarketTools has built two custom research panels for consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer Del Monte Foods, which it has used to test concepts and packaging, and to monitor its brand equity. Del Monte is currently creating a community with MarketTools to move from ad-hoc projects to a continuous communication with its key consumers, according to Gala Amoroso, senior market research manager with Del Monte.

“We’ll be in a position to let consumers tell us what products or messaging we should be developing, as opposed to the other way around, which is happening today,” Amoroso told ClickZ. “We’re very excited about this new opportunity and truly believe this will help us get smarter about understanding our consumers’ needs and motivations.”

The third component to MarketTools’ approach is its traditional survey research, which “helps to put numbers behind what we’ve learned,” Waite said. MarketTools can either build a custom panel for a client, or use segments of its own panel. Typical turnaround time can be as little as 24 hours for some surveys.

Clients that have been most enthusiastic about the Insight Networks tools have been technology product and services vendors, Waite said. Others among MarketTools 400 full-service clients that have expressed interest come from various industries, including publishing, entertainment, personal electronics, financial services and CPG.

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