ARF Show Reveals Trends

ARF Logo.gifI spent two days this week at the ARF Conference hanging around the exhibit halls to learn about new research products, catch up with friends and look for potential partners.  Although I was able to make headway on each of these fronts, the volume and variety was disappointing.  I’m sure the economy impacted the attendance and exhibitors alike.  Whatever the reason, its not the ARF show of a few years ago.

Two years ago, “communities” and “panels” were all the rage with every other booth at each trade show manned by “community organizers” (sorry I couldn’t resist that one) and panel developers.  That trend has diminished considerably. 

This year, the trend seemed to be biologic testing and social media.  The biologic testing included technologies that have been developing for several years, such as eye tracking, in addition to neurologic technologies that, frankly, I don’t understand. 

From a qualitative perspective, I was interested in the social media companies.  There were two companies I talked with that do analytics from keyword searches on social media (facebook, myspace, etc.) and user developed content (blogs, bulletin boards, etc.).  The two companies I talked with were Converseon ( and Radian6 (  The analytics themselves were interesting and helpful to understand the “buzz” an advertising or PR campaign might generate.  It can also be useful in pinpointing problems so they can be solved before they become widespread.  Longitudinal tracking of such data might also highlight trends before they actually hit the mainstream.

These social media tracking companies can also deliver the quotes that contain the keywords and allow the client access to the actual person who posted that quote via Twitter, a blog or a social media outlet.  This seems to have a tremendous use for qualitative.  Wouldn’t it be great to find people who are disgruntled about a product and invite them to participate in some sort of online research to delve deeper into the experience to understand more about their concerns (or maybe their excitement over the product)?  This seems to be the tip of the iceberg.  What else can be done? 

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