Friday, October 07, 2005

Online Strikes Back!

So far, presenters have gone back and forth about the importance of studying online VERSUS offline conversations, as well as studying both online AND offline conversations. The last three presentations have been about how to track and understand online conversations. We heard from firms that track online conversations for companies. Right now we're hearing from Kristine de Valck from HEC School of Management, Paris.

She asked what do people online in virtual communities talk about and how do they try to influence each other? Examples of VCs include eBay, iVillage,,, or corporate-sponsored ones like Heineken).

VCs were defined as "Affiliative groups whose online interactions are based upon a shared enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, a specific consumption activity" [missed citation for quote].

She provided some background about "Netspionage" -- monitoring the internet conversations for information.

Kristine does a nice job of discussing the pros and cons of online monitoring of conversations. The pros include it's naturally-occuring interaction, it's unobtrusive, publicly available, archived, inexpensive, etc. The drawbacks are that there is so much information so how does one begin. Durther, some claim that only about 10% of the interaction is truly informative for marketers. And researchers still have to deal with issues of reliability, validity, and generalizability.

She has a nice slide on different Methods of analysis: Web Mining, Signal Detection, Web Page Analysis,
Discourse Analysis, and Netnography (what she'll discuss; online ethnography). The foundational article for netnography is Netnography -- Robert V. Kozinets (2002) in Journal of Marketing Research, 39 (February), 61-72.

Great slide on the ethics of monitoring issues.

She conducted a case study of a Dutch virtual community about culinary matters.

One of the ways they attempt to influence one another is to call on authority. They also provide stories about deviating behavior. Other activities she describes include contextualizing as a way to explain their behavior and confessing secret passions (ironic given the how this information is publicly available!).

Her closing thought is that netnography is immersive, interesting, insightful, incomparable, and indispensable.