The growing popularity of blogs and other online forums has prompted companies to pay more attention to what is being said about them on the Internet, and has given rise to a new kind of market research aimed at finding useful information in the sea of online chatter.
Jonathan Carson, chief executive of Internet-tracking firm BuzzMetrics in New York, says Web-monitoring is also useful as a market-research tool. A traditional researcher, he says, might gather a group of car fans to talk about their favorite models, or spend an afternoon driving around with a research subject. “We look at what they’re already saying,” he says.
BuzzMetrics has created a panel of what it calls “word-of-mouth influencers,” a list of thousands of bloggers, message-board posters and other people BuzzMetrics has deemed influential in the online community, in part by examining traffic numbers. By studying their online interaction, BuzzMetrics says it can give companies important information about how they are perceived by customers.
In one recent project, an airline Mr. Carson declines to identify wanted to revamp its check-in process. Instead of talking to flyers directly, BuzzMetrics studied their conversations online, on Web sites such as FrequentFlier.com and FlyerTalk.com. The research revealed that many flyers had a positive opinion of the airline overall, but were confused about how and when to use self-service kiosks at airports, rather than waiting in line for an agent. BuzzMetrics helped the airline develop a new system that simplified the check-in process.