What’s all the online social buzz about?

What’s all the online social buzz about?

There’s no such thing as idle chatter. Not in online communications, anyway. So, it’s only expected that agencies are as keen on sparking brand conversation online, as on monitoring such buzz on social websites. After all, it is on these digital hang-outs that consumers freely express their opinions of a brand, which can widely influence their peer group.

Marketing communications conglomerate Interpublic Group (IPG) recently forged a partnership with social buzz tracking service Radian6 Technologies Inc. in the US. IPG’s agencies and PR companies will have access to Radian6’s dashboard tool and, via various charts and graphs, can zero in on key influencers and track brand-related conversations on social-media sites. They expect to glean vital insights by being part of the conversation. Again, WPP Group has stake in social networking service Visibile Technologies Inc.

Social tracking is about monitoring RoI—a double-edged sword that cuts to return on investment or how an advertiser’s hefty media spends are reaching and persuading their target audience; and to returns on influence which scrutinizes if media spends are enhancing a brand’s reputation and influence.

With Visible Technologies, WPP’s various agencies will be able to monitor the online reputations of the brands of their clients, and know what consumers think about them, and write about them on blogs, social networks, review sites and search engines. Visible has a Web dashboard called TruCast, which allows advertisers to sift through such social media content by topic, and accordingly decide if and how to respond to it.

Advertisers know that their ads on social sites may often appear cheek by jowl with questionable content and rub off negatively on their own brand image. They also know that they cannot afford to be reactive in today’s flash-quick digital world where the consumer is co-creator of content; that it’s better to pick up consumers’ online venting about their brands earlier in the dialogue chain, and proactively deal with issues before the sparks turn into an online anti-brand bush fire.

Social sites, themselves, are adding new ad models and frills to monetize user conversations, such as allowing advertisers their own brand pages on their sites. Facebook’s new ad model allows direct consumer connect with brands; users can star in brand ads, which could be forwarded to their friends, relatives and their peer group.

Such innovations will catalyse more brand-related buzz online, which advertisers have no choice but to closely monitor without impinging on consumers’ privacy. That is proving tricky for all.

Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your feedback is welcome at advalue@livemint.com