Internet buzz will often reveal whether your message is hitting its mark. It’s also ripe with issues not often surveyed in traditional focus groups. John Cummings, VP of the media division at BrandIntel, a Toronto-based company that analyzes online consumer-generated content for networks, prodcos, distributors and film studios, says that while many networks go to great expense to establish the premise of a new show with their audience, BrandIntel’s data may show the general public isn’t getting the concept. If that happens, it’s back to the drawing board to come up with a different style of creative marketing plan to help the show’s concept truly click with people.
Once that has happened, consumer behavior and opinions can again be monitored by analyzing online discussion. It’s there, he notes, that ‘people tend to express what they will or will not do as it relates to a particular action with regards to a show: ‘I will watch. I won’t watch. I hate this. I love it, and I can’t wait to tell all my friends.” Cummings advises that you not restrict your research to strictly fan or television sites. In fact, some of the best feedback can be found in demographically relevant, related sites. For instance, one of the bigger sources for TV talk – especially from a woman’s standpoint – is the Weight Watchers website. While women may originally go there for recipes and diet tips, Cummings notes that many find a support community and come back to talk about more general topics. ‘If you look at discussions on the site,’ he says, ‘you’ll find everything from kids to home remedies on colds to ‘Oh, by the way, did you see Desperate Housewives last night? Wasn’t that a great episode?”
Online buzz is a reflection of the word-of-mouth discussion happening in grocery stores, by water coolers, and between friends, says Cummings. That means a hit like American Idol will have proportionate discussion levels that relate to their scalable size and ratings. This correlation is part of a bigger cycle, because not only do shows doing well on TV create more online buzz, but Cummings says shows that get more buzz online likely get better ratings. ‘We can’t guarantee ‘This much buzz equals this many ratings’ per se, but we believe word-of-mouth is a critical component in creating a general audience,’ he says. It’s also critical in understanding audience opinions and behaviors as they relate to a show, which is why reality tv producers and broadcasters hoping to monitor online buzz will be glad when BrandIntel starts covering the genre in May. The company aims to measure ‘consumer intent to view’ for primetime network reality shows, and will provide data on percentage of positive versus negative sentiment, the acceptors of shows (what are they supporting), rejectors (why they are rejecting it), and recommenders (are they recommending that people watch or boycott?)