Buzz banter

I drank my fair share of beer back in college, so the word buzz has a
lingering meaning.

We marketing types know what buzz is at beer gut level. Many firms, notably Proctor and Gamble with their Tremor initiative, are mastering the creation of buzz.  Yet many of these innovating firms have created buzz management in the small scope of well defined markets and segments.  What is a company to do when they want to improve buzz across the big, bad internet with ill defined points of origin?

Some of the answers may well come from BuzzLogic, a firm still (partially) under wraps, but soon to emerge from their cocoon deliciously near Willy Mays Field in San Francisco ( SBC Park my ^%#&# ).  I stumbled
across one of BuzzLogic’s co-founder’s at a little Silicon Valley dog and pony show. They also invited me to their offices to get an eagle’s view of their developing tool and the nature of buzz.

What must be understood about buzz, and what the folks at BuzzLogic can map
and diagram automatically, are the vectors of buzz.  These include who
starts buzz, who amplifies buzz, and how much their creation/amplification
matters.  For example, if I write a blog that needles Sun Microsystems, and
100 people link to my blog and pass it along saying "Look at what that madman
Smith wrote today", and these people in turn reach 100 more people, then Sun has
some negative buzz with which to deal.  I created the buzz, blog readers
amplified it, and Sun sucks it up.

The key elements that BuzzLogic measures in the ether include:

Influence: Do the originators or amplifiers of buzz really
influence the thinking of others.

Popularity: How many people do influencers and amplifiers
reach.

Relevance:  How relevant is the information to the buyers of
a product/service.

What BuzzLogic offers is a way to trace all this buzz back to the source. 
Let’s say you are Sun Microsystems and some malcontent uses his blog to claim that Sun Microsystems is struggling. After a couple of generations of passing that thinking along, the provocateur’s thinking becomes common wisdom, and the source of negative spin is largely lost.  BuzzLogic maps backwards, and can show (graphically and in tables) who are
creating and spreading these vicious and nasty ruminations.  Naturally this
works with positive buzz as well.

The bad news is that marketers are no longer in control of communications. 
In the old days, we could create branding and shove it down the collective
throats of buyers via magazines, television, and direct mail.  Peer to peer
conversations were rare, fleeting, and not easy to propagate.  Today you
can spend a million dollars doing just that, and have your investment vanish
when one influential person with an email program and a contact list of peers
gets motivated to write.  This ugly new reality will soon require every
company to identify who in their industry creates, spreads, and amplifies buzz,
and bribe them (just kidding – maybe).  Companies will have to influence
the influencers.

This will be tricky.  According to Pew Internet research and others, people trust peers mainly because they are perceived as sources of impartial information (this excludes political blogging where people actively seek either similar and opposing viewpoints with little regard to trust and
validity). If a company compromises an influencer, and this is detected, then
the value of the influencer declines.  If little Cindy Sophomore’s friends
discovered that Cindy was bragging about Proctor and Gamble’s Cover Girl makeup
line because P&G had sent a case of that war paint to her house, then they might
quit reading Cindy’s blog, quit passing along her recommendations to other
teenyboppers, and might well extract some school bathroom revenge.  This of course should not stop Sun Microsystems from sending me a couple of fully loaded servers for my home recording studio (oh, and a million dollars, small unmarked bills, no consecutive serial numbers please).

Having not used BuzzLogic for any specific project, I cannot personally
attest to its effectiveness (though I heard one interesting story of discovery
via BuzzLogic’s tools).  But marketing people will have need to invest in
such tools, and there is a growing list of such service vendors, including
Nielsen.  Marketers will also have to learn the motivations of each
influencer, and craft specific methods for coaxing each into positive influence. 

The first step is knowing who to coax.


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