Large companies are slowly starting to install upgraded Web 2.0 analytics tools that can gather and scrutinize data from their growing numbers of second-generation online applications.
For years, enterprises have used traditional Web-analytics tools to simply measure page views and keep track of traffic on corporate Web sites.
Now, with the spread of corporate-sponsored Web 2.0 applications like blogs, chat rooms and online communities, forward-thinking IT managers are starting to install tools that can measure and analyze activities there.
Some executives say that data from these sites could be used to significantly improve customer relations and even measure the so-called "buzz" surrounding a company's brands.
Kimberly-Clark Corp. first created an online community -- Scott Common Sense -- for users and potential users of its Scott personal care products in 2004. Earlier this year, the consumer products company began taking steps to analyze the data compiled by the Web 2.0 application.
The community has evolved to offer information such as personal finance tips and healthy living advice and enables members to interact with one another. This year, the company added information about Scott products for the first time.
Kimberly-Clark launched its effort to analyze the Web 2.0 data with the installation of a beta version of a new marketing warehouse from Portland, Ore.-based WebTrends Inc.
The WebTrends Marketing Warehouse operates as an enterprise-scale hub for online and offline data storage and analysis and can integrate the Web data other corporate information sources, applications and systems, said Dirk Hoerter, team leader for relationship marketing at Irving, Texas-based Kimberly-Clark.
One key early finding: The more a user participates in the community, the more loyal he is to the company's products, Hoerter noted.
Kimberly-Clark is now using the warehouse to link data compiled on its community site with customer profile information, helping it find its most loyal customers and what type of content they view or which tools they use. Thus, the company can serve up the content most sought by its users, Hoerter added.
Over the long term, Kimberly-Clark hopes to use the analytics tool to determine what products segments of users might be interested in at specific times. For example, the Web analysis could show the company when groups of users with children going through the toilet training process are ready to move from Huggies diapers to Pull Ups - both Kimberly-Clark brands.
Kimberly-Clark will likely add more online communities, and the ability to analyze their data, for its other corporate brands.
The WebTrends warehouse became generally available late last month.
John Lovett, a senior analyst at New York-based JupiterResearch, a unit of Forrester Research Inc., said that companies like Kimberly-Clark can't afford to ignore information that may be spreading through the Web 2.0 landscape of company-hosted blogs and social networks .
"The rise of user-generated content has really forced brands to [seek a way] to monitor what consumers are saying about them across all the pages of the Web," Lovett said. "The ability to measure those comments and what is happening with the brand has become an important part of ensuring the integrity of the brand."
Lovett did say that while his research shows that 88% of companies with revenue greater than US$50 million use Web analytics tools, he believes that most are still simply collecting data as more new tools start becoming available.