Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Word-of-mouth study says the wrong thing

A letter to the editor!

Dear editor,

I would like to thank you for an interesting article on the impact of online word of mouth on airlines.

Certainly the various Google media studied will give you an idea about online sentiment towards various airlines.

However, social media analysis is much more than deriving an index from comments just in Google media.

To start with, there are myriad specialist airline (e.g. SkyTrax, FlyerTalk) and general travel (e.g. Thorn Tree, TripAdvisor) forums in addition to more comprehensive blog searchers (Technorati, BlogPulse), usenets and microblogging sites not to mention social network groups.

You need a comprehensive search system to estimate the total opinion universe on the airline in question and to locate references to airlines across all social media in multiple languages.

Secondly, to derive insight (as opposed to general impressions) you need human analysis to break down those references into opinions (check-in, on board experience, environmental policy etc) and sub-concepts (food and drink, flight attendants, seats etc) and a positive, negative or neutral value assigned to those opinions.

Further questions that need answering - who is expressing the opinion (customer, potential customer, journalist), what is the web traffic of that website, how often is it updated, how original is the content, how much interaction does the site permit?

I don't want to denigrate Kaizo's study. In fact, I hope it serves to raise awareness about the impact of word of mouth, However, I would not want your readers and other travel sector stakeholders to believe that monitoring and extracting insight from social media is a matter of Google searches.

This paper in the Market Research Assoication's Journal of Online Research goes into this subject in more detail.

Jon Moody, market engineering, Asomo Service

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