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January 22, 2007

Cymfony Measures Influence 2.0 -- But What Does It Mean?

by Josh Bernoff

Cymfony_2 Last week I spoke with Jim Nail, CMO of Cymfony. Cymfony proposes to measure Internet word of mouth. In the analysis of this space we did at Forrester, Cymfony came out at the top, along with Nielsen's Buzzmetrics.

One thing I like about Cymfony's approach is that they try to measure everything -- traditional media, user generated, blogs, message boards, and anything else they can get to -- in an attempt to give a complete picture. This is the next step beyond what companies like Critical Mention have done for TV mentions of products and what used to be done by clipping services.

Now Jim used to work next to me as a marketing analyst at Forrester -- partly as a result, we rapidly got into discussing not just what Cymfony does but what's the significance? The question that kept nagging at me was this: what should companies do about what they learn from services like this?

The challenge is making sense of what Jim called the "firehose" of information coming in. True -- searching Technorati for your brand every day isn't really a good way to get snapshot of what's happening out there. And it misses stuff. For example, Jim points out what he calls "The dirty little secret" of consumer-generated media is that 80% of it is in usenet groups and message boards, not blogs.

A great example is Cymfony's analysis of HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray Disc, the two competing next-generation formats for DVD. I know, from taking briefings from both groups, that they spend a lot of time talking about interactivity, amount of storage, number of studios supporting them, and so on. But, at least as of last December, consumers were talking about completely different issues, for example, that Sony (backer of Blu-Ray) had also pushed other formats that didn't catch on, like BetaMax and MiniDisc.

This appears to be typical of what I'd call the marketing disconnect. You put out your message, X, and broadcast it through the usual media and advertising channels and maybe some other channels, like your Web site. Then you listen to see if consumers are talking about X, or X-prime. But it turns out they're off on some other element of your brand entirely, call it Z, one you never thought about.

The questions in my mind remain:

1. How important is this chatter? How can you tell when it's a bunch of highly verbal geeks and when it's about to explode in your face like a diet coke bottle full of mentos?

2. How should you use the information you get from a Cymfony or BuzzMetrics?

3. Will this eventually change companies and media plans, or not? And does it vary depending on whether you're Tostitos or Dentu-Grip?

4. What were they thinking when they named it Cymfony? I keep forgetting how to spell it!

If you've used Cymfony or Buzzmetrics -- or if your brand is worrying about consumer generated media in general -- I'd love to hear from you.

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