Netnography, a guide to insight discovery and marketing benefits

The term netnography identifies an etnographic-based qualitative research method, which enables the researcher to dig into consumers’ conversations that spontaneously emerge from the internet, in order to acquire meaningful information to turn into effective solutions.

The netnographic analysis has become more and more important to support marketing efforts in a Web 2.0 environment (where users talk, buy, evaluate and discuss prices, brands, products and services). The internet is now the place chosen by consumers to show their identity and ethics; not only a mass communication tool but also a “mass consumption” environment.

We are going to talk about how it is possible to effectively extract online conversation from the undiscriminated Internet ocean and to turn them into coherent, useful and strategic information.
To accomplish that, it is needed a scientific approach capable to enhance those hidden information inside the online buzz in actual economic value.

 Netnography is a neologism combining Internet and Etnography, created in 2010 by sociologist and marketer Robert Kozinets, one of the most eminent person in the field. Kozinets developed this research method within the fields of tribal marketing and consumer culture theory, that configures Netnography as a quali-quantitative research method, essential to study the online consumer culture, both for sociological and marketing purpose. In Europe, the reference point is the Centre for Digital Etnographic Studies, co-directed by researchers Adam Ardvisson and Alex Giordano.

The Netnographyc analysis is based on the use of  ”naturalistic, non-intrusive observation techniques” to grasp the meanings at the core of consumers’ consumption experiences. The aim is to highlight the commercial insights, essential to direct companies’ business and marketing strategies.

Netnography is a very powerful tool in the hands of modern marketers, because thanks to its ability to piece together environments and online consumption culture, it allows creatives and marketing strategists to translate the insights from the analysis of consumers’ online conversations into solutions to launch, direct and strengthen one’s business. There are, in fact, many strategic assets for which the use of netnography could result in a competitive advantage: Brand Reputation, Product Innovation, Communication Design, Customer Satisfaction, Crowdsourcing, Societing, Trend Watching.

In conclusion, the thick exchange of  commercial information (digital WOM) represents an immaterial asset that carries a real economic value, both for consumers and firms. On the consumers side, wom reduces the risk. It is an risk-free experience taken from other people we trust, because, despite classic advertising, their experiences are considered to be authentic, because not aimed to sell something. On the firms side, the continuous online “chatting” of consumers represents a strategic source for two important resources: “information” and “reputation”. Thanks to its ability to extract, enhance and capitalize these two fundamental resources, the Netnography is destined to become more and more important in developing marketing strategies, and will certainly be one of the most important topics od 2012.