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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, March 26, 2007

Maggie Fox has a neat post on How Social Media is Changing Everything

"If you've ever wished you had the budget for a focus group, now you do. All that's required is reaching out to a couple of key individuals and asking them if they would be interested in testing your product or process and letting you know what they think, or posting about it, if they like.

Blogs in particular and social media in general can offer incredible insight for a relatively small investment (your time is another matter!). When I speak to clients about investigating a corporate blogging strategy, I often refer to it as "low cost market research", something Iím sure weíd all like to see a little more of!"

Belonging to the qualitative research industry, this resonates big time with me. Blog Influentials, in July 2005 had called blogs the 'market research of the future'. Again, way back in 2005 I had said:

While nothing beats face-to-face contact, blogs can be a great space to have conversations with customers - Scoble does it every day. In other cases, customers are the ones encouraging marketers to engage in conversation - SkypeJournal is a great example of heavy users of Skype providing constructive feedback both positive and negative, observations and ideas. They're even writing poetry in the form of a Skypku :)

Are marketers listening and engaging in dialogue? Maybe. Maybe not. Are marketing departments afraid of this? I think they are.

Blogs may be one such tool available to us - there are so many more that can reveal and understand the motives and the process of emergence in conversations as they manifest in conversations between marketers and users. I met Jim McGee in Chicago last year and we had a lovely discussion about how blogs might change the nature of market research and how the notion of oral culture in organizations might help explain the relatively slow take up of blogs in the firewall. From his post after our meeting :

"In the marketing research context, blogs are a disruptive technology. Instead of having to generate data by way of surveys or focus groups with whatever artifacts the process introduces, blogs provide direct visibility into customers. Instead of having to connect potentially artificial samples back to the actual market, now you have to filter real market behavior, interpret it, and make sense of it. That presents two challenges to market research functions. First, market research staff have to develop new skills. Second, management of market research needs to spend some quality thinking time what to do with access to this new kind of market data.

The opportunity that blogs introduce into the marketing research equation is to create the opportunity to identify and run multiple micro-experiments in the market. Those that succeed get the resources to scale, those that fail to generate some useful data are quickly shut down. There are challenges, of course, especially given how quickly ideas spread in a connected world, but that should be offset by the speed with which experiments can be identified and run. Worth thinking about."

Almost a year ago, I had recruited participants for some usability testing focus groups through my blog. Am now working with some clients, where we are building news aggregators of target audience blogs. And involved currently in a project where we are evolving a sms-blog research interface as a research tool for participants, in the Twitter convention. And we even have proof of concept now .. a recent article in the Economic Times talks of how blogs are boosting sales of bikes. Keeping track of blog conversations replacing traditional market research survey methods! Giving rise to a new breed of blogo-pologists and the field of netnography!

"What started as platforms to share passions and frustrations of bikers are now being tracked by corporates to fine-tune their offerings. Instead of tedious market surveys and data crunching, companies now get reviews within hours of product launch, courtesy blogs. ìThe first review of our latest Pulsar was on our table within three hours of its launch in Chennai thanks to bloggers,î Bajaj Auto VP (marketing-two wheelers) S Sridhar told ET. A dedicated team at Bajaj Auto now regularly tracks discussion-boards and review section of blogs and online biking groups and provides feedback to companyís marketing and product development group."

Much better than having professional respondents in a conventional focus group or unwieldy questionnaires which are filled up so superficially isn't it?

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