“Solar Panels” or “Solar Power”? A glimpse into online conversations on solar

By Eric Raymond

Companies in the solar industry wrestle for position and identity, trumpeting their latest innovation, funding or legislation. Blogs, forums and social media have spread the word far and wide, allowing these conversations to flourish across the web. With all of the channels and platforms for solar companies, lobbyists and “thought leaders” to participate in the discussion, how can solar companies make good decisions on where to share their voice?

Edelman Digital recently undertook an analysis of online conversations in the U.S. around the solar industry that shed some light on where these discussions are taking place. We have assembled a few insights that might be relevant to those in the industry.

The vast majority of conversations around the solar industry are happening on blogs. If your company is not already building relationships and interacting with the right bloggers, now might be a good time to get started. Edelman has recently announced BlogLevel, a tool that allows close examination of influential blogs and current discussion topics. This is a great place to guide and refine your understanding of the influential solar blogs and conversations. Additionally, TweetLevel, the companion tool for Twitter, revealed that ink jet printing was a hot topic of conversation recently, driven heavily by a story in Science Daily. Both of these tools are currently in private beta, but will be open to the public on July 14th. Another key area that solar industry companies may want to consider participating in is professional groups. For business-to-business focused solar companies, there are a handful of groups on LinkedIn with over 20,000 members each, entirely focused on discussions about the solar industry.

Additionally, how companies talk about solar is important for connecting with customers through marketing and SEO and SEM considerations. Of all coverage we analyzed in this survey, 99% of the content mentioned solar panels. That may seem like common sense, but a much smaller percentage, mentioned solar power, solar cell, photovoltaic and other terms that are known and used throughout the industry. For blogs, that amounted to 24,000 mentions of “solar panel” over a three-month period.  In that same period, the next runner up “solar power,” received only 6,800 mentions.

Finally, while it would be ill-advised to take this section of research and apply it to a whole industry,  knowing where, when and how to talk to consumers and industry can go a long way in overcoming some the challenges facing the industry, including some of those recently touched on in this recent USA Today story.