As of April 2006,  the blog search engine Technorati reported that there were more than 35 million blogs. The so-called blogosphere was increasing at such a rate that a new blog was being created every second. Considering that word of mouth is the best advertising, understanding and using the blogosphere effectively can be a key marketing strategy.

Why blogs are important

“Blogs tend to move at a faster pace and be more informal in tone, so you’re more likely to pick up conversation about a new product type or need on a blog than on a standard website,” says Jennifer Laycock, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Guide. “You have more immediate access to what is being talked about.”

Consumer-generated media (CGM) includes online forums, blogs, message boards, opinions and reviews, and any other public content contributed by consumers. A 2004 Pew Internet study found that “more than 53 million American adults or 44 percent of adult Internet users have used the Internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share files or otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online.”

“The power shift from media institutions to consumer communities means that marketers must track a diverse and growing range of influential voices,” says Peter Kim, an analyst with Forrester Research, the Cambridge, Mass. research firm.

Tracking consumer generated media

There are two ways to track CGM: in-house or outsourcing.

“Checking out a blog search engine like Technorati,

 BlogPulse or’s Blog Search can be a great way to see if people are talking about something new,” Laycock says.

However, experts warn that doing a Web search isn’t the most time-efficient nor reliable approach. It can be tough to use blogs to gauge the potential sales volume or sales cost other than to get a general idea of interest in a product, they say. Laycock recommends doing sneak peaks or products previews with bloggers. Then it’s simply a matter of watching the blog responses.

There are also several companies that offer outsourcing CGM gathering and analysis. Forrester considers Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony the best of the bunch. A recent report cites Nielsen BuzzMetrics the leader in specific consumer-generated media, such as blogs, while Cymfony is better at analyzing multiple data sources including blogs.

According to Kim, Web aggregators/brand monitoring firms do the following:

  • Data collection: video, audio and/or text from media consumer and/or traditionally generated
  • Information processing: filtering the compiled data, classify and tag the pertinent content
  • Data analysis: focus on client requirements and specific questions. Many services stop here
  • Insight delivery: continued updates on new data and analysis via email or another online interface

He recommends going to a brand-monitoring service to get the job done. “Tools like Google’s Blog Search, Alerts, and Trends enable marketers to monitor their brand ad hoc and for free,” Kim says. “But the time required to use these tools is prohibitive, and they do not provide comprehensive coverage of data sources, particularly mainstream media.”