By Garland Pollard
JERSEY CITY – Twing is grabbing Google’s low hanging fruit.
That’s sort of a saucy way to describe the message-board search engine Twing.com. While Google and the rest search up vast amounts of news, web pages and the like, Twing is all about allowing users to search the Internet’s fragmented online communities, user groups, bulletin boards and message boards.
“People have not been paying attention to this,” says Scott Germaise, Twing’ s director of product management, as he talks about the way that information is spread across user forums. Twing, based in Jersey City, N.J., launched in January 2008, specifically to help its users make sense of this explosion of content.
Message boards are an unglamorous area that has sometimes been forgotten by search engines, yet about 28 percent of Internet users regularly read online forums and participate, more than blogs, according to stats from Forrester’s North American Social Technographics Online Survey, Q2, 2007.
Forums pre-dated web
Bulletin board systems, or BBSs, were popular in the era of 300-baud Hayes modems. They catered to niche communities, and as they moved online (and new ones were created) they became easy and cheap ways for like-minded folk to share information.
Today, certain items from major message boards like the foodie-oriented Chowhound show up in web searches, but mostly, the sort of information that is posted on message boards is really insider, and typically mixed in with repetitive data. This means that it is not the sort of page that is practical to mainstream Google readers. In fact, if some of the pages showed up on searches, they might not make a lot of sense. Twing takes a methodical approach to ferreting it out.
“There is some serious architecture to this,” says Germaise, who says the algorithms are “optimized for understanding consumers who use forums.”
In the old days, when companies wanted to monitor brands, they would hire clipping services. Today, many p.r. agencies and brand managers rely on simple Google news searches. If they do just that, they are missing a second level of information out there in niche online communities. These consumers are useful not just because they buy, but because they influence others.
Twing is not just useful to see if there are mentions of your brand name. Instead, Twing’s Buzz Graphs allow you to save and graph the trends, themes and subjects, and compare them to other brands. On Twing, you can actually plot the usage of a keyword, and then match it against other keywords over a particular period of time.
We tried a few Buzz Graphs:
- At right, Florida (in the green) compared to Las Vegas, over the last year. We are not sure what the search results mean, but looking at the graph helps us begin to ask the right questions if we are thinking about how each is marketed.
- As a test, we compared Hummer and Jeep for the last 3 months. What do we know about the two brands? We know that the Hummer brand (green) has been under consideration of being sold or dropped by General Motors because of its low sales and gas guzzling ways. Jeep (the brown line), however, is in the lead-up to its fall selling season. The graphs match reality perfectly. Hummer is stagnant, and Jeep is getting some mentions.
- We also compared Holiday Inn and Hilton. Hilton (green line) is obviously a more valuable word, though we guess the fame of a certain publicity friendly heiress confuses the search term a bit.
The site does not show whether the mentions are positive or not, and we guess that in these days, except if you are a Wall Street Brokerage, bad press is better than no press. Germaise hopes brand marketers can figure out new ways to use the data. The big question everyone should ask?
“What are the things that are not obvious?” says Germaise.