Notes from today's Virtual Handshake conference: Jonathan Carson, Buzzmetrics

I’m liveblogging from today’s Strategic Research Institute conference, “Beyond Blogs and Social Networks: How Consumer Generated Media and the Virtual Handshake will Make or Break Your Business”.

You can download the notes from my initial keynote here: Introduction to Social Software.

Jonathan Carson, President & CEO, Buzzmetrics; Co-Founder, Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is the next speaker.

You can download the slides from this presentation here: BuzzMetrics

Some impressive statistics
New blog created every second(Technorati)
MySpace has 50% more traffic than Google—will surpass MSN and AOL within a few months; only Yahoo will have more (Comscore)
Wikipedia is #1 online reference site, double #2, which is dictionary.com, 5x Encarta (Hitwise)
5m US podcast users in 2005 (up 500%)
Forecasted to grow to 63m by 2010…vs. XM and Sirius have 7m subscribers
June 2005: Flickr had 19.5m photos, 80% shared publicly. 75m by end of 2005, vs. Getty Images, which has 70m images (and a $5.7b market cap)

Almost everything that’s going on was predicted in Cluetrain Manifesto (published 1999—long time ago)

230 members in WOMMA. Definition of “word of mouth”=one consumer passing marketing –relevant information to other consumers.

“Word of mouth marketing”=any marketing effort designed to affect the ways in which one consumer passes information to other consumers

Consumers trust WOM much more than other media

Yankelovich says: best source for advice on a new product: 35% say Consumer Reports, 67% say another consumer.

NOP says: best source for new ideas about products. In 1977, 67% said word of mouth, but in 2005, 92% said word of mouth.

Why so powerful?

1) Channel large and growing.
44% of online US adults (>50m Americans) are content creators (Pew Internet)
Virtually all online consumer encounter consumer generated content
8% of online adults blog; 27% of online adults read blogs.

2) Internet increases power of consumer influencers

Their reach is greater, and consumers seeking help can find them more easily.

3) Consumer content dominates Internet content.

Jupiter: 26% of top search results for world’s 20 largest brands is consumer-generated. 22% expert content, 12% media content, 18% corporate content, 22% other (affiliate, etc.)

SUMMARY:

Consumers trust other consumers more than advertising, spokespeople, unbiased “expert” third parties, or traditional media.

New technology tools make it much easier to find and share insights.

FOUR THINGS YOU CAN DO BY LISTENING

1. SEE THE FUTURE

Ex: study buzz on nutrition as predictive tool. Consumer buzz about “Atkins” and “low-carb” started dropping in Q32003, precisely the time when all the big food companies started releasing low-carb food. Meanwhile, over the last year, steadily increasing discussion of “portion control”, which the big food companies are unprepared to service.

2. DISSECT CATASTROPHES IN NEAR-REAL TIME

Ex: research done jointly with Pew on blog storms during 2004 election.
Analyzing buzz is like stormwatching. Bloggers used buzz to keep Rathergate alive.

3. CREATE A HIT WITH NO ADVERTISING

Situation: appliance manufacturer starts to get fan mail for a high-end washing/drying machine. Selling very well. Started to get fan mail. (seriously…they were shocked too)

Heard anecdotal reports of evangelism.

Amazing finding: 48% of the machine’s most aggressive advocates were men. Very unlike this company’s traditional market, women.

What do owners talk about (in this order): provide usage reports, misc. duet banter, promote/swap, complementary products, provide usage tips, seek/provide product info, seek tech support, request features, give tech support, seek usage tips, FL/TL debate.

People particularly reported testing the machine with little league uniforms, which are an acid test for these machines.

I asked, is Buzzmetrics’ sample of communicators skewed from the overall market?

Carson answered: it’s definitely skewed; they’re much more passionate than the norm. However, targeting the mass market is old school marketing. New school, WOMMA-style approach: target the enthusiast influencers, and let their message trickle out to the mass market.

Influencer marketing has been the norm for B2B for years; now we’re seeing the same phenomenon in consumer marketing.

It was always feasible to target developers for a new software product. Now it’s feasible to do the same thing for consumer marketing.

4. UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE OF BUZZ

Case study: How strongly are consumers linking GM (Pontiac G6) to the Oprah event?

GM owners: they all linked the Oprah story to GM

Among general population, 84% talked about Oprah car giveaway, but didn’t discuss the G6.

Initially, this was perceived as a success. But then GMInsidernews.com commented this will be considered a chick’s car not a guy’s car. And then it turned out all the recipients owed a $7,000 tax bill. This became a very problematic promotion from GM’s point of view..but turned out well from Oprah’s point of view!