Research firm measures online buzz with Opinion Tracker

LONDON - Research firm Delib has launched a tool to track the conversations taking place between internet users on social networking websites. It is currently being used to measure the buzz around London's Mayoral election.

Opinion Tracker can monitor conversations on social networks and video sharing websites and then analyse what people are thinking about specific issues such as the Mayoral elections, Climate Change or the reputation of a brand.

The technology behind the Opinion Tracker uses spider programs similar to the robots and crawlers used by popular search engines to scan the web for specific clusters of keywords on blogs and other areas where internet users interact.

The data collected by the spiders is aggregated, and then sampled and processed by a team of analysts at Delib, to provide end analysis and metrics.

The metrics collated by Opinion Tracker are organised into different categories, including "buzz", the level of noise created by internet users; "mood", where public sentiment lies; and "what's hot", a summary of the main topics inciting chat among internet users.

"Live conversations" provides examples of what users are saying online.

Chris Quigley, managing partner at Delib, said "With the increased usage of social media by the general public, its now possible to find out what people are saying and thinking without running a straight opinion poll or focus group.

"Using a service like Opinion Tracker can help organisations keep an eye on what's being said about them across the social internet and the levels of buzz they're generating."

The new service has already been deployed to gauge opinions on London's Mayoral election, with some surprising results.

The Opinion Tracker has given Conservative candidate Boris Johnson the biggest "buzz" factor, with a "buzz" metric of 84.4, followed by the Labour Party incumbent Ken Livingstone on 60.1.

Liberal Democrat outsider Brian Paddick generated a "buzz" factor of 7.2, while Green Party candidate Sian Berry scored 2.7.

However, the general "mood" towards the candidates suggests rank outsider Paddick is failing to convert his popularity into column inches, with the public mood being most positive towards the Lib Dem nominee with a mood metric of 26.3.

Livingstone drew a mood metric of -15, while Berry and Johnson fared worse with -27.3 and -29.4 respectively.

Quigley said the Opinion Tracker has also unearthed a new internet trend linked to the mayoral elections, so-called "Tube-stepping", which is described as the user-generated equivalent to "door-stepping".

The phenomenon involves members of the public recording their questions to candidates on camera and posting the results on video-sharing websites such as YouTube.

Quigley said: "Monitoring levels of online opinion and buzz should be of particular interest to organisations given that recent Pew Institute research for the music industry showed that levels of online buzz were directly linked to levels of album sales."

Delib is a sister agency to viral agency Rubber Republic. Its clients include the European Parliament, Central Office of Information and more than 100 local councils across the UK.