Network Data Mining

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Network Data Mining

As highlighted recently in the Washington Post,1 in the 20 years or so that computer engineers have been mining data, there have been many advances in wringing new insights out of databases. Nevertheless, the recent proliferation of social Web sites continues to pose an enormous problem for marketers trying to make use of it.

Within these social networks, people are talking among themselves about everything from the latest movie to the quality of children’s clothing; from the car with the best gas mileage to their favorite toothpaste. All this chatter is contained in a seemingly bottomless pit of blogs, YouTube videos, and MySpace postings.

What all of these people are saying can have a real effect on your business. According to a recent article in The New York Times,2 one influential blogger can help your brand more than any amount of conventional advertising or marketing can hope to do. At the same time, a negative review of your product in a chat room or a blog can reverse all of the positive associations your brand has built up through years of publicity and promotions.

For example, earlier this year, the quality of Dell Computer’s products and services was called into question by several bloggers. As popular sites piled onto the discussion, the computer maker came under fire and found itself on the defensive. In contrast, a broad popular appeal was enjoyed by Toyota when its Prius hybrid sedan was lauded on personal Web sites and blogs around the world.

Today, such consumer-generated content on the Web is completely disrupting the way marketing and advertising executives communicate with customers. And, because of technological developments, we now stand on the brink of a revolution in the way such data can be gathered and used. Marketing executives are eagerly working to find some way to harness the power of these popular sites and gain insight into what people are saying to each other.

Until recently, successful branding was a fairly cut and dried affair. Tried and true techniques were developed and proven by such corporate giants as Procter & Gamble, which established familiar brands such as Tide, Pampers, and Crest using conventional methods.

But that old model of marketing began coming unglued about a decade ago, when people discovered that anyone and everyone could become “an expert” simply by establishing a blog and voicing an opinion. This development has completely changed the game.

As consumers produce a deluge of content, marketers are finding it hard to determine what, if any, impact their more traditional efforts are having...

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