You may not be a blogger yourself, but reading blogs written by your competition and your customers may prove to be a great way to conduct market research. Increasingly blogs, along with forums, are becoming honey pots for people to gather insight and information about products, companies, and industries.
Blogs and forums are creating communities for people to express themselves about their wants, needs, and desires. For example, discussion groups are common in the financial arena as investors share their insight about stocks and companies. Check out Yahoo! Finance and you will see what I mean.
Blogs are a great way to understand your competition and the messages that they send to their customers and partners. While it is common for a big company to use a Public Relations firm to assist with blog publishing, many smaller firms will freely tell the world how they feel about things.
Sun Microsystems has embraced blogging as a company and has over 4000 individual bloggers; this candid dialog makes for instant communication with their customers. The downside to Sun is that the same commentary is available to read by their competition.
Customer forums are cropping up everyday in virtually all industries from consumer products to professional services. Many of these forums are highly specialized. For example, I read a forum for Corvette enthusiasts called the Corvette Forum (http://www.corvetteforum.com/) which allows people like me to share their thoughts about buying, selling, and maintaining Corvettes with other Corvette owners. This forum has no affiliation with Chevrolet, but you can bet that the folks at GM read this forum religiously.
Consider setting up a RSS feed to search for subjects of interest to you and your business. For the average web surfer, RSS provides a way to see at a glance if your favorite blogs have updated their content. Using a simple RSS feed reading program, you can subscribe to the feeds from any supporting site to get this information and link directly to the new articles that interest you. You can set up the RSS feed to find articles or blogs by keyword.
Let the research begin.
John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.
That is very true. For the last few years I have been heavily involved forums, whether hosting them myself or promoting my business on someone else’s. Forums, like blogs, are actually more incredible than people realize because of how niche they can be. They can contain your exact target market making it valuable for advertising and seeking product feedback. A lot of forums (like mine) offer advertising opportunities for people that want to post banner ads, text ad, or customized campaigns. For the price forums can be a super effective way to advertise. A lot less “clicks” are wasted because people who frequent the website are the customers you’re looking for.
I’ve been telling people for years about advertising on forums if it can work for their business.
What’s cool is that forums have really matured over time. They are more of a resource now than they were before. In the past a lot of forums only had negative messages, complaints, “trolls” as we call them. After all, when someone is unhappy they are going to try to tell anyone by posting it everywhere. Today forums can contain some really good information about the segment they serve.
As you can tell, I’m a believer!
Great comment. What forums do you participate in? What is the nature of your business?
Great advice from both of you! John, as a newbie to RSS and feed reading programs, how does one set them up? And, let’s say I have a wide-ranging set of interests, do I need to set up multiple programs or can one program handle multiple topics (such as nature photography, alternative transportation issues, Gold Rush history, etc.)
In a nutshell-
1. you first need to pick an RSS reader.
2. Next pick your channels or group feeds.
3. Then you can customize with your keywords.
4. Prune the stuff you don’t want.
Now you are business!
Here is a link to CNET that should help you get started.
Below are the links to some of my largest forums:
In addition, I have some projects we’re working on:
My background is in automotive aftermarket. I used to have a “speed shop” in Chino and I now run these hobbyist communities with many more in development. We have a small data center in LA where we host the network. For some of our sites our advertisers can expect 30,000 – 50,000 impressions (views) per day. We have an ad server that monitors all the activiry for each advertiser and emails them weekly reports if they choose. We also have “vendors” that use the forum to promote their business or post specials. Many of our vendors would not exist today without the forum. Infact, some of them at one time were members/end users who decided to start a business based on the community.
Very cool. I love speed!