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Measure Word-of-Mouth Buzz

Word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) develops market share by encouraging people to talk about a particular product or brand. A successful campaign targets influential individuals according to demographic, imbues them with a developed message, and these influencers spread the word to others in their community. Although WOM efforts are not limited to the internet, the web is a great place to run a program and gauge its success.

Determining the penetration of a WOM campaign is challenging at times; it's tough to define the overall interpretation of a brand within nebulous social groups. The web, however, provides a number of tools to help measure success, from free indexing tools to heavy duty analytical software. 

Use indexing tools to extract meaningful data from blogs
The current popularity of weblogs provides a rich medium for assessing a WOM campaign. Using free indexing tools available on the web, it is possible to extract meaningful data from the noise in the blogosphere, which according to Technorati, can run up to 1.2 million posts/per day. To start, choose a manageable list of blogs and balance the blog's popularity with the target audience against the focus of your campaign. Websites such as Blogpulse and Technorati are search engines for blogs that allow users to analyze blog content. Success can be assessed by tracking what is said, as well as how often it comes up. Don't limit the search to blogs; forums such as Chowhound create user communities to facilitate "one to one" chats on a particular topic area and can provide a rich data set.

Leverage tag analysis to measure discussion share
Experts at Ammo Marketing, a word-of-mouth research and planning firm, suggest looking for discussion share by analyzing user-generated tags. Tagging is the practice of labeling information with descriptors. Del.icio.us. allows users to tag and store content to manage a list of favorites, which can range from blogs to individual restaurant reviews. Other users can then perform a search function on Deli.cio.us to provide insight into popular tags being used. The volume of returns sheds light on how frequently something is being discussed, and this helps cast light on the associations being made. While tag analysis is valuable, there is a risk: like all cutting edge technologies, not everyone is using it.

Incorporate code to assess the performance of viral elements
Entertaining or compelling content distributes itself within a target audience, reaching a large body of users in short timeframe. To assess the performance of a viral element, incorporate code which can send information back to you as it travels around the world. Hooks in the code indicate geographic penetration, duration, and popularity. Youtube sets a great example as the site provides code to help integrate video content into any user's homepage. When content is mashed into personal websites, advertisers propagate their message and capture metrics on their audience.

Utilize analytical software to capture enterprise information and competitive intelligence
Meaningful analysis requires a level of automation; 40,000 blogs are created daily, and with volume like that, analysis can't be done manually. Companies like Umbria, Intelliseek and Buzzmetrics provide web tools to index and analyze an abundance of data. Natural Language Processing filters text, exhumes information, and highlights correlations. Machine Learning enables computers to modify themselves to refine their searches.While the results can be patchy at times, user sentiment, brand associations, demographic data, and a host of other facets can be created and analyzed. These firms offer consulting services as well, providing report generation and analysis of data gleaned off the web.

There are many ways to execute a WOM campaign, and many ways to measure its success on the web. Go where your users go, and understand what they are talking about, how they define it, and who they share it with. Blogs and forums allow you to listen in on the conversation, tags provide insight on associations, and viral content sheds light on global reach. With some old fashioned analysis and cutting edge software, the internet can provide detailed feedback on the success of a word-of-mouth campaign.

Evan Gerber is a Senior User Experience Consultant at Molecular. Read full bio.

Since the late ‘90s, Evan Gerber has created innovated technology solutions for unique business problems. Evan is the Vice President of Mobile Design and Emerging Interactions at Fidelity Investments.  An avid technophile and self...

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