How to Create Buzz – Listen First

In our previous post, How to Create Buzz in your Community, we continued our series with a discussion on buzz; what is it and how to create it.  In this post, we take a look at why listening first is the key to fostering buzz.

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Listen First

Like lots of things related to social media, the creation of buzz begins by listening. Proper listening can help you get in on emerging trends at the beginning, allowing you to be on the wave, not under it. Listening for buzz is different from running surveys, a technique you may be familiar with.

When you run a survey, you adopt various rigid methodologies about samples, and questions, and statistical analysis. For decades, traditional marketing has depending heavily on asking people what they think via surveys.

There’s one big problem with surveys, however: People lie on them. And not only just on sensitive topics such as religion, politics, or sex. Survey experts are very familiar with how people’s need to please the survey taker or to appear to be part of the norm causes bias in traditional surveys.

So don’t think you’re going to track buzz by putting a survey on your site.

It’s best to listen to people when they’re just talking, as among friends on Facebook or via comments on blog posts. These conversations are more likely to represent the unvarnished thoughts of those involved than a stuffy, artificial survey. Of course, this is not to say there aren’t plenty of surveys flying around on Facebook and elsewhere. And who knows if people are really being more honest on a social media survey, when their guard is down?

Regardless, part of your social media listening program should be to track hot topics, and try to identify new trends and buzz.

One of the reasons that the traditional marketing and advertising community isn’t sold on online listen­ing, according to Ed Keller,[1] author of the book The Influentials[2] and principal of the research firm Keller Fay Group, is that the offline and online worlds do not yet track exactly. In fact, according to Keller, offline discussion makes up around 90 percent of word-of-mouth for brands. In a recent study of the 100 brands most talked about online, only two of the top 10 and half of the top 50 most-talked-about online were also most-talked-about offline.

In about a third of cases, offline- and online-buzz volume correlates strongly for a brand, he said. In another third, online and offline buzz have a negative correlation. In another third, there’s no clear relationship. In other words, on average, there’s little correlation between online and offline buzz.

This lack of correlation is, we believe, primarily due to the relative youth of social computing, and the fact that those online are not perfectly demographically identical to those offline.

However, there is evidence that some groups actually trust online buzz more than they do advertising.

An April 2010 Sophia Mind[3] study of Latin woman in the US, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil summarized by eMarketer[4] showed that Hispanic female social network users rely on social sites for purchase decision-making. In the US, about 20 percent of Hispanic women said they made social network comments about purchase experiences all the time, and, 24 percent of US respondents let their friends and connections know when an experience was positive, compared with just 11 percent who only complained.

Most importantly, bad comments were more likely to negatively influence purchases than brand messages or advertising were to help them. A fifth of Facebook users gave up on a purchase after seeing a negative remark on a social site. Compare this negative effect with the positive effect of promotional messages: According to the study, just 18 percent chose to make a purchase based on company messages on the same site.

Buzz is powerful, and for some groups it has a significant effect on online behavior. The effect of buzz on commercial behavior may indicate similar effects on behaviors your organization may be trying to encourage. No matter what the positive effect may be, you certainly want to avoid negative buzz.

How to Create Buzz – Listen First is the 77th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 232. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

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Next up: Buzz and Buzz Killers

[1] AdAge’s article ARF: Consumer Opinions Online Still Seen as Curse, Not Gift:

[2] Keller’s book The Influentials:

[3] Sophia Mind:

[4] eMarketer’s Most Hispanic Women Trust Online Buzz More than Ads:

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