From the early days of the internet, I can remember a cartoon (I think it was in a book from the popular “… for Dummies” series) in which a group of nuns were shown sitting on chairs in a small circle together, knitting. It was underlined with:
“Nuns that put their Powerbooks into self-knitted covers”
For some unspecified reason I have never forgotten this and I remember I found it very funny at the time. But what was a funny example of niche communities is still a reality. There are forums for every niche you can think of.
This was in the internet stone age and before the expression “Web 2.0″ was invented, let alone “Social Media”. People met in forums big and small and they did what they still do in their niches: discussing about what they love and what they hate, searching for help and talk about their preferred brands and products.
Today with all the shiny Facebooks and Twitters, forums seem to be out of fashion. Some still look as awful as they did 10-12 years ago. From my own past experience, most companies didn’t even know that these forums existed. Fastforward to the present day and, as monitoring software companies and service providers are popping out of the ground like mushrooms, they still don’t know about it! The reason for that is as simple as it can be; many of them do not have RSS-Feed.
I don’t know of any software that can find and import the conversations happening there, and they are important because in contrary to for example a Facebook Like, people must be highly involved. They must write and contribute to the discussion and it happens in most cases a clearly defined niche. That is where you find your most loyal fans, which are talking about your brand – in some cases for years. The following numbers should show why you can’t afford to ignore these communities any longer:
We are working for a, let’s say a big motorbike manufacturer. In Germany we are finding on average of 12.000 conversations per month about their brand and their models. Of these – and now the big surprise – only 3000 have an RSS-Feed which can be aggregated automaticly by a monitoring system. So if we would fully rely on the software, we would miss about three quarters of all conversations or, like in this case, 9000 conversations.
Admittedly this is an extreme example, but from other customers we know that there is always a large chunk which remains undiscovered if no manual research is done. Even if it’s only 10%, we would miss conversations, suggestions, questions, complaints etc. This is important and highly valuable data for customer service, marketing, PR, R&D and other departments from the most loyal, most involved fans.
For that reason we never rely only on what a monitoring software is delivering. We also do manual searches to find the forums which do not provide an RSS-Feed and read, analyze and cluster the data every day. Only this gives the customer the full picture and allows them to engage wherever and whenever needed.