August 8, 2008, 12:00 AM

Search engine enables marketers to eavesdrop on online forums has launched two features that allow marketers to routinely gauge what’s being said about them in online forums and measure the frequency of conversations.

As social media continues to grow, so, too, does its power. In total, social networks, online forums and blogs generate a gargantuan amount of new content every day. And consumers generating this content often are talking about brands., a free online forums search engine unveiled in January, has launched new functionality designed to help retailers and other companies get a handle on what people are saying in the Web 2.0 world of user-generated content and interactive sites.

Saved Search is a feature that enables a marketer to create regular searches of keywords she selects, such as brand names, to help get a qualitative view of what is being said. Buzz Graph offers a quantitative look, measuring the number of times a keyword is mentioned in online forums and displaying a graphical view by month.

“If today’s marketing is really about conversations and relationships, then good brand stewardship demands managers pay attention to the conversations happening in forums,” says director of product management Scott Germaise. “Keeping track of web pages and blogs is not enough. The real person-to-person communication is happening in online forums.”

28% of U.S. Internet users read online forums and 18% contribute content, according to Forrester Research Inc.’s 2007 Social Technographic Online Survey. By comparison, 25% of U.S. Internet users read blogs and 14% write comments on blogs, Forrester says.

“Online forums are an established and growing medium people have been using prior to blogs and social networks,” Germaise says. “Our goal is to help people find appropriate venues to participate in discussions by providing both a forum search and a directory resource.”

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