I was reminded on the danger of over-analytics when I visited a forum myself recently.
My favourite camera manufacturer is going to focus, punnily enough, on smaller cameras and put a hold on new R&D in their older, larger lens system. This has resulted in a hole shit storm of over reaction in forums. They are just shifting focus according to their management.
For consumer electronics, forums are still the place to gain detailed insight into consumer opinion. Facebook is often left wanting for involvement with the groups, as they just never seem to get a critical mass for even large consumer gadget pages. Twitter and the other web SMSs can help with gaining a barometer view of consumer opinion and help firefight crisises. Perhaps the annonymity of forums (most use a handel with a similarily obscure hot- or G-mail address apparently) leads consumers to speak more candidly.
With the former, the one forum, dpreview, has over 29 million posts, but once you get granular on brands or sub forums, and look at recent posts, then you realise that analytic tools can be misleading. Looking at fluxes in consumer hits on brand keywords can be somewhat misleading, when there is a strong undercurrent of discontent or potential for NPI ears to listen.
It is in other words, often better to identify the key forums and just have a junior marketeer keep an eye for trouble and summarise threads rather than go employ a company to show you some key word hit counts and what happened long before you needed to know it happened!
With Twitter too, so far the tools are pretty useless and manual labour to identify keywords, tweet structire, retweet rate and then sentiment are so far a better bet. Very soon though there will be good sentiment analytics, but they will need continual manual tweaking to catch sentiment in the abbreviated tweetspeak world.
The value of analytics has to be balanced with the value of just reading the stuff and tracking the lead influencers manually, especially in "issue management" as fire-fighting is often called in the ePR world now. Over time, brand tracking and sentiment rating is of value, but must be seen in context of the development of the media itself and always related in relative terms to competing brands and some other benchmark brand arena.