September 09, 2004

The Power of Word of Mouth
Online It's Cluetrain

If you are in one or another online communities, you know they are powerful amplifying tools for spreading information. Sometimes the information is good/true/real and sometimes it's not, and it's important that readers and other writers pay attention to the credibility of those passing information as well accurately passing information along as they restate and comment on it. But often information and communication take on a life of their own online, and that's why I think the previous post, on blog comment spam caused so much commenting, as well as email directly to me. In fact, Tom at LevelTen emailed me after the post, and describe the entire situation, saying he didn't really want the information out online. But nothing he said would appear to be damaging to him. Rather I encouraged him to post the whole thing in comments to my blog and those others that had experienced the illegitimate comment spam.

I think the way to fight false information is to shed light on it. This medium is about iteration, and bloggers know the value of getting the most true and real information out there. The point is to get to it, often through the group process of multiple bloggers linking and discussing, to inform, to question, to learn and to create the best information about an issue that we can. It may well mean conflicting opinions or frameworks are stated, but still, readers and other writers over time have the option of reviewing those varying viewpoints, and adding or iterating themselves. That reflects a healthy discourse and is, I think, the main goal of many bloggers, though not all blogs fall into this category of purpose.

Buzzmetrics did a study which the Center for Media Research has noted because of the effect a lawsuit, and online communities passing the word had on a particular brand and industry.

I met Jonathan Carson, the CEO of Buzzmetrics at Ad Tech a couple of months ago, and he told me that his company assesses online communications from sources such as usenet groups, public IM, chat groups and forums, bulletin boards, public email lists and blogs, among other things. They take everything, and crunch it, attempting to make sense of all the different types of online communications and the kinds of things being said, usually when a company or entity asks. The analysis is packaged into a report for that entity. They started four or so years ago, weathered the dot-com bust, and more recently have done lots of work for health care companies.

So the study they just did, on online communications around Transfats, Oreos and a lawsuit filed against Kraft/Oreos for using Transfats is interesting. Key findings summarized by the Center for Media Research:

Key Findings of the Report:

But reading < ahref="">Buzzmetrics writeup, this came up:

Amazing but not surprising. So online, the perspective as determined by Google search results is that of the top 100 results, at least with the Transfat issue, 40 were consumer generated, 20 were from top down media, and the remaining 40 were other? Corporate sites? Non-profit? Government?

That's facinating. It's very strong evidence that entities who are used to dealing top down with carefully scripted messages and broadcast mentalities, like Kraft, are very much in need of rethinking what marketing and PR are about, how people want to get information, who they trust and why online communities which often deal with a level playing field, where no one controls the message, where individual integrity and transparency of motive are often more valued by individuals.

Posted by Mary Hodder at September 9, 2004 07:01 AM | TrackBack