The Business of Netnography

I haven’t blogged very much on netnography, or on practical, workbench marketing very much so far. That’s all about to change, as I start blogging about the doing of marketing and how I see it changing, particularly with the introduction of methods of online community marketing research.

In the last few months, I’ve been hearing increasingly from individuals and companies who are both interested in using netnography to increase their access to consumer insight, and those who are actually using it. It’s not a big part of the market research business yet, but it is growing very rapidly.

Netnography, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a marketing and consumer research method that uses the information that is publicly available in online spaces in order to gain insights into consumers that are useful for research or practical purposes. The term is a portmanteau which combines the anthropological method of ethnography with the “Net” site of online community and cyberculture. But it is moving beyond its initial contexts and broadening its base.

Ever since I introduced netnography to the market research field in 1996, I have been developing and broadening the method. I developed it initially for bulletin boards, but I recently broadened it to include blogging, and am working on adapting it to the study of mobile, gaming, social networking sites, and virtual worlds. Each “realm” has its own characteristics that require customization, and I’m always looking for partners in this work (corporations, fellow scholars, Ph.D. students). I’ve been fortunate to have a few new Ph.D. student join me recently to continue and broaden this work.

In terms of practical impact, the method is beginning to spread. Not only are there a number of great academic articles being published using netnography, but a number of market research firms and companies are deploying the method.

One firm I’ve had the good fortune of being in contact with is Accelovation, an exciting new startup out of San Francisco run by MIT/Sloan MBA Grad Michael Osofsky. Yesterday, Michael published this very interesting and well-informed piece on netnography on imediacommection that you might be interested in. This version of netnography uses automated tools to help with data collection. You might also be interested in Michael’s excellent blog, in particular this entry where he talk about my work, and where he calls me (in very stately fashion I might add) “The Father of Netnography”).

At ACR in Memphis last week, I had the good fortune to meet and spend some time with two professors (Johannes Gebauer and Johann Fueller) from Munich who are also selling netnography services to businesses in Germany, though their very interesting marketing research company “Hyve.” You can read about what they offer and call “Netnographic Insights” in this entry from their web-site.

Is there anyone else out there doing netnography?

I know that there are a lot of companies doing related types of data gathering using online communities, companies like BuzzMetrics and Cymfony. I’m going to start overviewing these firms and their offerings, and would love to hear from companies and people who are doing related work so we can share ideas and so I can profile you on my blog. I’ve taught the method to hundreds of MBA students over the years, so I’d be surprised if the method hasn’t diffused quite a bit into industry. Someone recently told me that General Mills is using the methods internally.

I’m going to start blogging more on this topic of netnography, which is probably the single most influential area that I work in. So look forward to hearing more about Michael Osofsky and Johannes Gebauer soon. And to lots more from me on the elaboration and development of netnography, the method of online anthropology.

One Response

  1. Jeff Podoshen November 5, 2007

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