The Internet is full of information, and since the rise of social networks and micro-blogging, many brands and organisations have turned to social media for quantitave data such as the number of ‘likes’ a product has or the number of ‘followers’ accumulated over a period of time.
Although these figures might be good indicators of people’s initial feeling towards a product, service or even a brand, there’s a much greater mine of insight hidden among thousands of casual but honest online conversations everyday between friends or members of communities.
Social media has given individuals the power to speak-up and comment on what they like or dislike; one’s opinions being heard is no-longer the privilege of experts or authorities. Whilst consumers are enjoying being listened to, marketers should optimise this opportunity to harness opinions and turn them into valuable market intelligence.
As social networks become an ideal platform to conduct fast and effective research on customer behaviour and community patterns, netnography is now the key to faster, better and more cost-effective qualitative research on a massive scale.
Netnography is the branch of ethnography that analyses the free behaviour of individuals on the internet. The term is believed to be firstly employed by Professor Robert Kozinets in 1997. The concept has evolved with the advancement of the Internet as well as the way people consume and exchange information on the net.
Nowadays netnography allows organisations to gain customer insight through both a passive and an active approach. For example, companies can easily observe what their customers think of their offerings and study their behaviour towards brands, through listening to their social media conversations or reading users’ comments on blogs or in forums.
Of course, there are also plenty of channels for organisations to respond or proactively engage with their customers directly using a range of social media tools. A successful sales channel set up by Dell on Twitter, for instance, has brought the technology company an impressive return on investment through simple but direct interaction with their customers on social networks. Organisations can also design highly targeted netnography tools to fine-tune their interaction strategy with specific groups of key customers and brand advocates.
I believe marketers would be pleasantly surprised to re-discover the idea of netnography together with social media. Do you have any experience or success stories to share on using netnography? If so, we would love to hear from you either via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through comments.