How to Monitor Blogs: It's about Knowing the Questions You Want Answered

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by: Mark Rogers

When we first speak with a brand manager or a PR person they normally ask us these questions:

“What are people saying about my brand in blogs?”

“Can you help me monitor that?”

We say: we can help you monitor blogs, but first you need to do to help us define the questions you want answered. Monitoring blogs, review sites and messageboards on its own gives you large quantities of information, but few answers that can help your business. It is easier to make a business case for spending on online research and analysis if you can be pretty specific about the question that you need to have answered and about the relationship between that question and the business’s bottom line. These are the questions that we suggest the client starts with:

Question 1: “Why do people choose my product?”

Question 2: “Why do people choose my competitor’s product?”

Question 3: “Why do people recommend my product to their friends?”

Question 4: “Why do people recommend my competitor’s product to their friends?”

Questions 1 and 2 may seem at first blush to resemble questions 3 and 4. But actually they are dissimilar. When someone recommends a product they will often choose a reason that says something about themselves. People will rarely say: “I chose this product because it’s cheapest”, but they may often say: “I chose this product because I care about the environment”. Conversely, why people actually buy a product is often around a combination of product features, reputation and price.

(Reputation and price are in some measure inversely related. Products with good reputations generally achieve that reputation by good service. Good service costs money and although consumers are tempted by cheap offers, they know that “free broadband” generally carries a cost in poor customer support. We recently completed some detailed research in this area which shows that brands with good customer support can keep their prices higher for longer than their competitors. )

All these questions are answerable from online research, and we can put numbers against the characterisitics of a product which are most likely to drive adoption. Those numbers have direct benefit to a key hiearchy of stakeholders within the company:

a) the product managers suddenly know which aspects of the product are key to marketing success (and which need most attention);

b) the marketing managers know what is the key product strength to push in relation to the corresponding weakness of a rival’s product;

c) the word-of-mouth marketers and PRs know which messages are most likely to drive viral adoption amongst users and can devise appropriate campaigns.

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