Buzz Monitoring: The New Word-of-Mouth Advertising?

Buzz monitoring has gotten increased attention lately as something that partly falls under the category of online reputation management. BuzzGain is a new company that targets individuals or SMBs with the ability to track this buzz — i.e., where the conversation is happening around their brand.

The idea is that you listen to where conversations are happening before you make the decision of where to position your marketing. In blogs and social networks, there are “influencers” and those through which a message is passed more effectively. This is part of the idea behind Charlene Li‘s “personal CPM” — where individual consumers are valued in a way that is conceptually similar to Google’s Page Rank.

This was a big theme at the OMMA Social conference I attended earlier this week, where the one liner was: “Advertise through your users not to your users.” This is a message that at its core contains the word-of-mouth factor, which isn’t anything new in the SMB realm, and continues to be the biggest driver (or inhibitor) of new business.

The question is, how do you harness that effectively in online advertising — especially at the local level? Taking part in Yelp’s SMB tools is one way, and others like MerchantCircle have similar features. BuzzGain appears to be attempting a more sophisticated and all-in-one way to do this, with the tag line “do-it-yourself PR.”

Buzzlogic has been doing this for years, but mostly for larger companies. It was first a tool for PR people to track where conversations were happening around their clients; then it evolved to other things such as SEM keyword research and influence targeting. BuzzGain seems to be positioned and priced ($99-$999/month) as a sort of Buzzlogic “lite” for smaller-scale businesses (characterized by TechCrunch as targeting SMBs).

It’s a great idea for any business to listen to the conversations and act accordingly. But whether SMBs will do it is the real question. We know SMBs to be famously averse to self-service online advertising: About half have a Web site, and far fewer initiate and manage PPC campaigns.

Buzz monitoring is the next level of sophistication, and an evolutionary step for many SMBs. The savvy ones will get it, but they’re unfortunately a very small segment, relative to the whole. Mid-market businesses with dedicated (and savvy) marketing managers could, however, eat it up.

For SMBs, it seems to be a tool that is more likely to be adopted and bundled by the many publishers and SEM firms that manage and fulfill online campaigns on their behalf. That’s where the action is taking place at this level. To be fair BuzzGain also markets to PR and marketing firms as a tool to help them to be more effective for their clients.

As goes with any start-up arming smaller businesses with tools to be more effective, we’re supportive of it to work, and to scale.

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