Players in the tire industry need to pay attention to consumer-generated media on the Internet, because the issues being discussed there may answer some important questions about their businesses.
CGM comprises online content created and shared by consumers about products, brands and services from just about every conceivable market. The consumers use their own experiences with these products and services and archive their comments online so other users, competitors, media representatives, regulators and analysts can access them.
Sue MacDonald of Nielsen Buzzmetrics, a CGM research and measurement firm, said data from her company puts the number of online discussion board or forum postings at more than 1.5 billion, with an estimated 40 percent of consumers creating CGM text in 2006.
MacDonald and Nielsen Buzzmetrics colleague Bill Stephenson talked about CGM issues during presentations at ITEC 2006, held Sept. 12-14 in Akron.
According to the recent results of a study on the subject, 57 million Americans read blogs-basically online diaries, Stephenson said. Sixty-seven percent of bloggers say one reason they blog is to document their experiences and share them with others, and 64 percent say a reason they do it is to share practical knowledge with others.
The popularity and usefulness of CGM online sites-which include discussion groups, forums, opinion sites and blogs-are driven by several factors, Stephenson said.
Consumers want to make informed purchase decisions, and research has shown they value the collective opinion of consumers with relevant experience more than advertisements or salespeople, he said. They also want to see if others are having similar problems with a product, and validate product claims via the opinions of other consumers.
But company and shop owners can learn much themselves from CGM Web sites. Some of the sites ideally suited for tire-related discussions and information include FastMachines, Autoblog, Laughing Squid, Jalopnik, Adjab and Adrants, MacDonald said.
Via resources like these, business owners and consumers alike can discover the top quality issues with a product, how customers with product problems have been treated, if products have delivered as promised, how competitors' products perform and the transaction prices for those products, Stephenson said.
Getting the right information can spur strategy decisions or changes for companies looking to connect with customers. CGM can help businesses refine product launches, boost quality and engineering with real-time opinions, bolster customer service, locate and target niche markets, learn more about supplier networks based on consumer experiences, and optimize marketing and advertising dollars, promotions and sponsorships, MacDonald said.
The information gained also can answer questions the company may have about the brands under which it sells its products, she said. These include key questions concerning a brand's ``pulse,'' future issues and trends, safety or quality issues, and the impact of what is being said about the brand, MacDonald said.
When companies decide to respond or react to consumers, and many do set up their own communications sites to react to feedback, they should remember that it's not to be a tool for advertising or sales, Stephenson said. Rather, the approach is designed to be about ``listening to, respecting, clarifying and deepening the conversation with customers and consumers,'' he said.