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In the past, when you had an important purchase decision to make, you might have asked a friend or two for their opinion. Now, with the advent of social media, you can turn to a quarter million people and get their opinion in the blink of an eye—as long as you have sophisticated tools like NetBase’s to automatically analyze all that chatter so quickly.

Here’s a personal example: When I bought my daughter a laptop a few months ago, I realized I should also sign up for a good online backup service. Since I’m not an IT wonk myself, I decided to use NetBase tools to help me make this purchase decision. Here’s how I did it.

Turning to Social Media for Buying Advice

First, to identify my choices, I set up “online backup” as a topic in Workbench. That surfaced the brands most commonly mentioned in connection with that term, which were Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, IBackup, IDrive, Mozy, SpiderOak and SugarSync. I also used Workbench to build positive and negative theme charts for the brands.

I then used Scorecard to create this Brand Passion Index (BPI).

After reviewing the BPI, the Positive and Negative theme charts I’d built in Workbench, and selected sound bites, I had reasons for or against going with the leading brands. Here are some observations about my decision-making process.

  • I initially considered signing up with IDrive because I remember it from a long time ago, but that’s not a good reason to choose it. Then I saw they have the worst position on the BPI and they were out.
  • Carbonite sounds familiar to me from all the advertising on NPR, so I was predisposed in their favor. They do have the largest share of buzz (biggest bubble on the BPI), but a common complaint is not having certain features, as you can see in this Negative pie chart. So they were out.

My next choice was IBackup, since it’s so well positioned on the BPI. But I realized that since its share of buzz is so low, its bubble is very small. That means its position might just be the beginner’s luck of a new entrant. Also out.

  • I noticed that Backblaze has better share of buzz than IBackup and is the only other brand in the Love quadrant. But I wanted to double check the main positive and negative opinions, so I looked at the theme charts and concluded the positives far outweigh the negatives for our situation.
  • Finally, I had to check out Mozy because it has such a big share of buzz. The main dislike was pretty significant though: Mozy gets rid of unlimited option. My daughter won’t have a lot of data on her laptop, so that’s not a deal-breaker for us. But Mozy is sort of undifferentiated in its position on the BPI—it’s in a cluster, and the cluster isn’t as well positioned as Backblaze. So Mozy was out.

The Final Decision: Backblaze

With the help of NetBase tools in evaluating my options, I ended up deciding Backblaze was the best fit for us. I’ve already used it for one full restore, which went smoothly. At this point I’d say I love Backblaze and am very glad I signed up for their service. Thank you to the quarter million or so people out there who helped me make this decision ;-)

The larger point of my personal experience is this: In the past, consumers would ask a few friends about an important purchase decision and companies would convene focus groups and do surveys to gather consumer opinions. But now consumers are turning to social media for advice on what to buy, and companies are turning to social media for advice on what to make. So it will be a very interesting new C2B world when companies and consumers are on the same page—literally looking at the same source of data to figure out what they want and what they need.