Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three Free and Not-so-Free "Listening" Sites

I've talked about "listening" or inbound marketing as a key component of a marketer's job in the late 2000's environment, and I thought it would be helpful to aggregate a few of the sites that have interesting ideas on the listening front. What I do to keep all of these listening sites organized is to use (formerly and tag each of the listening sites so I can keep them as a group or sort through them based on what I'm looking for.

1. One of those ideas you wished you had, BrandTags allows people to come in and partake in one of two activities. First, you are flashed a brand--like The North Face--and you type the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Tags are aggregated and presented in a cloud format. The second option is a forced trade-off for brands, ultra-simple style. So, you might have to choose between Microsoft and Apple. Is this biased? Of course it is!!! But, I bet it's a pretty good proxy for a digitally savvy 20- or 30-something male audience. Brands are also ranked against each other in a list, based on their "winning rate" in the head-to-head.

2. Buzz Monitor. Why the World Bank went and built their own tool to aggregate digital buzz I'll never know, but they did, and because they're .org they've made it available to anyone who wants to use it. All you need is a Linux server and the thing installs using Apache / MySQL / PHP. It basically goes out there and "scrapes" the web for what people are saying about you. Yes, it requires some effort, but it's very cool. I don't think it'll be free for much longer. I think they have non-profits in mind as users.

3. Nielsen BuzzMetrics / BlogPulse. It's no surprise that Nielsen's in this business, but this tool is pretty slick. Blogs are theoretically the "rawest" content on the web, and BlogPulse lets you see what's going on in real-time. There are free applications, but of course you have to pay for the good stuff. They have a neat blog that discusses some of the trends they're seeing in the blogosphere. This is mostly harmless stuff, yet good cocktail chatter. For example, the percentage of blogs mentioning "New Year's Resolutions" as the New Year approaches. Sometimes there are interesting posts for companies, such as this one tracking XBox vs. PS3 vs. Wii through the holidays. Turns out XBox is winning. Or, the interesting "bursty phrases" page which allows you to see which phrases are "accelerating" fastest out there. You can even do custom searches that are actually really enlightening. Say you wanted to do an informal analysis of the impact of Microsoft's Seinfeld commercials on the blogosphere. I did three searches and did a serial plot through six months.

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg. It's astonishing how much a motivated marketer can learn about his brand, products, and customer perceptions by keeping a few sites bookmarked and checking periodically. The opportunity to do "big" market research tasks with little or no budget is huge, lowering barriers to entry for digitally-focused brands. I'm always on the lookout for new "listening" sites (beyond the obvious such as Google alerts) so keep the comments coming. Happy New Year... hope everyone had a great holiday season.

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