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The Buzz Factor: marketing research tools

Combine one part traffic pattern analysis (who links in from what and leaves to where), a tablespoon of popularity ranking, two parts subject matter, a dash of keywords and a map showing the picture it all yields and you have a recipe for funding.   Buzz Logic, a San Francisco startup focused on gleaning market data from blogs and social networks  recently closed a Series A financing round with $9.6 m.

Considering Blogs are today’s water cooler conversations, it’s not a bad market to jump into.  Social media (blogs and social networks) are accessible to almost anyone, at any time, and provide a discussion forum for anyone’s rants and raves.   Does Red Sox Nation approve of the Bo Sox’ new pitcher? Ask the blogs.  Nintendo Wii or PS3? Ask the blogs.   Are horror/suspense thrillers still a hot film genre? Ask the blogs.   If you can get them to answer you might just have something.

Buzz Logic, differentiates itself from search engines, which rank popularity of a site or a search term. The Buzz Logic approach is to consider the popularity of subjects and speakers, in a moment and over time,  and then maps the spread of conversations to determine who the most influential members of a discussion are.  It seems like an effort to visually map the way an idea or concept grows virally; like maps showing the spread of disease.  It’s interesting, and it’s different than a pure Buzz index like Yahoo’s, which displays an index of popularity of search queries  or Google’s Zeitgeist.

Buzz logic’s website is a little heavy with the marketing buzz-words and self promotion and light on substance. I suppose that’s not expected for a company so marketing-focused. Still, the over-the-top sheer volume of it makes it is hard to get a feel for how much value they are actually providing.  On the surface:  of the who, what, when, where and how questions an analyst might want to see answered, their tools  seem to address only some.

For me, I think providing great value requires going deeper than just surface buzz , or showing how buzz spreads.  I want to see tools that give the who and what in more detail: the ability to text-mine a blog’s  (or social-network’s) content in order to allow keywords to be matched with demographics and other information.   For example, if I were in movie marketing, I would query my recently released film’s title and want to see feedback showing the use of positive or negative keywords around my title and then be able to have that associated to the demographics of who’s said what.  I don’t need personally identifiable information, but I do need to understand who is talking.   Marry that to maps showing spread, and weight of influence … I’d be impressed…. And pay for it.

Similarly, if I were selling a new gaming platform? Or better yet: a politician on campaign?  The same tools would be interesting to me.   I’d call it intelligent polling.  If only algorithmic search and indexing would let me get answers to survey questions from what the bloggers already said  instead of my having to explicity go ask them…that would be something.

There is no confusion about the immense value of information for product development, sales and PR.  The better salespeople I known have all shared a common tendency to spend time listening first and then tailoring product or pitch to what they heard.  the blogosphere has the potential to be a giant, free, focus group and it is a potential gold mine for those able to tune in and listen.  The challenge is getting the dial set to the right stations.   It still feels like these solutions are first broadcasts of AM or even early FM radio. They are full of static and at times annoyingly interrupted.   I want to see the market bring high definition on FM.

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