April 8, 2010, 12:00 AM

Amazon remains king of online buzz, but the race is tightening

Consumers wrote 4.2 million posts in the social media realm about Amazon.com in March, 91% of them positive in tone, making Amazon the most talked-about web site, according to Zeta Interactive. But The Home Depot and Lowe’s are gaining ground.

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While Amazon.com Inc. continues to dominate online buzz, other retailers are catching up.

The Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Companies Inc. are giving Amazon.com and second-place finisher Wal-Mart Stores Inc. a run for their money, according to the March edition of the monthly Zeta Buzz Top 25 Retail Standings Index. That’s a measurement of online retail chatter conducted by digital marketing firm and social media monitoring service provider Zeta Interactive exclusively for Internet Retailer.

Although Amazon.com continued its reign at the top of the monthly buzz standings for the seventh consecutive month, the race is tightening up at the top for the first time since the Zeta Buzz retail rankings launched last summer. Less than 40 points separate Amazon’s March buzz score of 382.29 from third-place retailer Home Depot’s score of 348.97, compared to last month when 127 points separated the brands. Additionally, Amazon’s tonal rating, a measurement of the positive or negative tone of social media posts, dropped from 93% positive buzz in February to 91% in March.

“Never before has the battle for the customer’s preference and wallet been more intense. In March we saw significant tightening between the top brands in our buzz standings. It’s clear that consumers are becoming much more vocal in their advocacy and critique of these brands,” says Zeta Interactive CEO Al DiGuido. “For retailers this has created a greater demand for them to pay closer attention to their digital marketing strategies. It’s clear that the brands that are moving up on the Zeta Buzz report are executing digital programs that are driving larger communities of brand evangelists, thus generating the most buzz. Those that are not present or rank lower must take a closer look at their customer retention strategy very soon, before they drop even further down the list.”

Zeta Interactive tracks mentions of a retailer’s name across more than 100 million blogs and online communities and analyzes the tone of each reference. The online marketing firm creates the Zeta Buzz Ratings for retailers by multiplying volume of mentions times the percentage of positive tone and dividing by 10. Zeta says a minimum good score for larger retail brands during any given month would be 60 or above.

Following is the list of the top 25 retailers and consumer brand manufacturers ranked by online buzz, with the Zeta Buzz rating followed by the number of mentions and the percent of mentions that were positive in tone:

1. Amazon.com, 382.29, 4,201,000, 91%
2. Wal-Mart, 357.39, 3,971,000, 90%
3. Home Depot, 348.97, 3,921,000, 89%
4. Lowe’s, 314.64, 3,933,000, 80%
5. Target, 313.32, 3,730,000, 84%
6. Sears, 308.05, 3,582,000, 86%
7. Kmart, 296.71, 3,804,000, 78%
8. Overstock, 245.00, 2,663,000, 92%
9. Kohl’s, 217.82, 2,866,000, 76%
10. Best Buy, 196.91, 2,661,000, 74%
11. CVS, 185.35, 1,993,000, 93%
12. Old Navy, 184.84, 2,227,000, 83%
13. Nike, 172.61, 2,213,000, 78%
14. Borders, 154.08, 2,001,000, 77%
15. Macy’s, 136.98, 1,779,000, 77%
16. Dillards, 108.38, 1,338,000, 81%
17. Walgreens, 93.32, 1,111,000, 84%
18. Marshalls, 92.65, 1,103,000, 84%
19. Rite Aid, 91.59, 1,117,000, 82%
20. Toys ‘R’ Us, 82.42, 993,000, 83%
21. Staples, 80.24, 1,003,000, 80%
22. GameStop, 75.56, 889,000, 85%
23. Gap, 75.40, 887,000, 85%
24. Dick’s Sporting Goods, 74.17, 883,000
25. Barnes & Noble, 69.76, 872,000, 80%

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