There are blogs that have evolved into sophisticated media outlets that many companies pay attention to. But user-generated opinion content, once fragmented and hard to track, may be the next frontier for PR monitoring.
Opinion-focused sites can serve as preliminary market research tools to learn about various perspectives around an issue, item, or brand. For instance, UK-based Friction. TV is a platform for users to post videos of themselves pontificating on topics that range from buying a PC to the price of tea.
"It's especially compelling for cause-related marketers, political groups, NGOs, and advocacy groups who need to mobilize support and drive their message - unfiltered and unmediated - to their communities," says Claudia Carasso, EVP at Cohn & Wolfe, the site's AOR.
Nielsen's new social networking site, "Hey! Nielsen," also courts users by giving them a platform to voice opinions. It positions itself as a site for pop-culture junkies to make a name for themselves by trading opinions on current buzz.
"It is relevant to anyone with an interest in knowing what the public's passions are around popular culture and media," says Karen Watson, SVP of communications at Nielsen and executive sponsor for the new site.
Relevant Mind does not post original content, but collects user comments that already exist on the Web. By aggregating comments, PR pros can keep track of important - but sometimes peripheral - online conversations that can be tricky to monitor. Its search engine organizes online discussions and ranks them based on relevance. It currently only tracks bicycle and golfing products, but plans to expand its search capacity to other product and service areas, says Relevant Mind CEO Aaron Mann.
CoComment takes monitoring comments to another level by tracking all conversations related to a particular subject online.
Heddi Cundle, chief communicator at Tanjable PR, the site's AOR, says, "This is hugely important for post-campaign assessments by brands and is an alter- native to a focus group."
Comment sections can be as influential as blogs, but harder to track. You can use Web tools to monitor or search for comments on a certain brand or item
Sites relying on user-generated content often draw users by giving them a platform to become "experts"Opinion-focused sites can offer insight into the public's reaction to an idea, issue, product, or brand