Monday, January 29, 2007

Reflection on Jim Nail's Visit to Class (Cymfony)

On Friday our class had the opportunity to hear Jim Nail, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, from Cymfony. The students really enjoyed Jim's guest lecture last summer and so I was sure to invite him back again.

This time around I had him in to speak about monitoring and tracking WOM, which is one of the first class periods where we're going into detail about WOM program principles and measurement. Whether you're tracking WOM in whatever venues it occurs (face-to-face, phone, e-mail, blogs, chat rooms, usenet groups, discussion forums, online communities, etc.) it's important for organizations to understand the existing WOM that is already going on about them.

To set some context for the students, Jim started off with contrasting models of Influence 1.0 and Influence 2.0 to show the impact that social media is having on how we traditionally understand the influence process between organizations and audiences (in many ways, organizations are now becoming the audiences of what people say about them). He then discussed a number of examples of how social media tools give individuals and smaller groups an amplified voice and also how they interact with more traditional mainstream media sources.

There were a couple aspects that I found really beneficial for my students:

1. The goals companies having for monitoring and tracking social media. These include tracking buzz, issues/reputation management, competitive insight and consumer understanding, crisis detection and prevention, awareness of developing trends, and monitoring employee activity (the last one is a bit "Big Brother" and shows, to me, the control aspect that can still dominate some organizations).

2. The advantages and disadvantages of social media analysis versus more traditional market research techniques. He identified a number of challenges that more traditional survey research is now facing, including response bias, the ease with which people can avoid surveys, opinion fatigue resulting in lower response rates, and the danger of polling the same people again and again. The advantages he identified of social media analysis were that it was observational (unaffected by a researcher's presence), access to direct consumer language that is not filtered, and it was available in real-time. Even though his company's business model clearly favors social media analysis he did a nice job to talk about the advantages of more traditional quantitative and qualitative approaches, including ethnography, as forms of market research. He also identified a couple challenges that social media analysis faces -- representativeness and identifying speakers -- and how these challenges are confronted by companies like Cymfony, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Brandimensions and other players in this space.

At this point I'll let my students comment on what they took away from Jim's guest lecture. Students posed some good questions so maybe they can share what they asked and what Jim's response was.

To Jim, thanks so much for coming in again this year. I really appreciate the care you took in customizing a presentation just for the class and covering so much ground in such a short time!