Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Connecting into the crowd as a source of insight and market advantage – 4: adding in a fuller range of online interaction and crowd participation 1

Posted in macroeconomics, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 4, 2012

This is my fourth installment in a series on connecting into the crowd as a source of insight and market advantage, but with an important difference – doing this in ways that explicitly allow and support measurement of costs and of value returned in the interactive online context (see Macroeconomics and Business, postings 77, 81 and 84 for Parts 1-3.)

I began a specific discussion of monetizable metrics and of online visitor activity and interactions in a Web 2.0 context in Part 3: determining monetizable value of this series. At the end of that posting I noted that up to there I had focused almost entirely on the Web 2.0-oriented context with business web sites and review sites and with both offering highly interactive user participation options and experience. As noted in Part 2: considering the inventory of channels and connection points , however, web sites per se can only be considered one of many channels of interactive online that businesses need to address and to track and measure if they are to effectively and competitively participate in the rapidly evolving online marketplace. My goal in this posting is to expand this discussion to include a wider range of channels and the way they interconnect functionally in the hands of specific users.

The most effective way to at least start in this is to track and identify who your target audiences are and this means both potential customers and potential reviewers. These groups might be very similar and both by general categorization through demographics analysis and also by the more focused criteria of individual identification. But it has to be noted that even if there is significant overlap for them, there will be buyers who take a more Web 1.0 approach and do not enter into any online conversations about your site or even within it – except perhaps in going through a forms based purchasing process. There may very well also be online reviewers, posting on review sites and in wider online review and opinion-oriented conversation who do not and even would not ever buy from you even as they share opinions about you. So there will be areas of non-overlap between these two groups too.

For a discussion of the more negative reviewers in this context I would cite Trolls and Other Antisocial, Disruptive and Divisive Social Networkers – Part 1 and its Part 2 continuation for background information, and add that I have had to resolve problems they can create for client businesses. I will simply add here that the people who review and comment but who would never buy or consider buying from you may be acting as such on the basis of ideology and from their beliefs and opinions as to your business as viewed through the prism of a stereotype. Or they might be targeting you as in some sense representing your entire industry in general and without specific separable opinion as to your business. Reviews need not come from a tightly focused, specific basis of experience.

• Online searching is invaluable here, and both for seeing what individuals post in general in social media and review sites, and what they post about your business and its products and services in particular.
• This means taking samples and to know both where messages related to your business appear and are commented upon, and where these people go to interact online in general.
• This means knowing what the basic conversation is as it involves you – and you might want to follow what is said about your primary competitors too.

So this basic first step is all about coming to an understanding of where the message is and where the people who would create and share it go to produce and to follow and read it. And this is where scale and cost-effectiveness come in.

• For a small business, pursuing this to the level of developing complex marketing models might not make sense while purchasing demographics level data as to likely customers at least, and reviewers might.
• But even for very small businesses, identifying troll behavior online that targets and challenges your business is still important, and even though this will not be captured in third party demographics data. You will have to follow the conversation at least this much yourself or hire the service of a firm that specializes in online reputation determination and where necessary, remediation.
• And to pick up again from a point I made above, even the most negative and damaging commentaries on your business might not be coming from either customers or past customers, or from more predatory action by competitors, but rather from those who are ideologically or otherwise driven. So their demographics might not be at all obvious a priori to online search and findings analysis.

For a large business that is contemplating massive effort marketing and sales campaigns, a more detailed interactive online-oriented market analysis might make sense and be quite cost effective to do. Significant parts of this might still be outsourced to third party specialists but the effort would be more comprehensive and customized.

I am going to continue this discussion in my next posting, there focusing on:

• The way that businesses can create value by meeting consumer needs through these complexes of interactive online channels and by tracking this complex conversation flow with meaningful performance metrics for their business participation there.

I will at least begin a discussion of metrics and measurement and on connecting an understanding of the flow of online conversation to monetizable models and metrics. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.) You can also find this at Macroeconomics and Business.

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