Social media has permeated the mainstream media and the general public at large. No longer is Twitter just for the early adopters, it’s now open to their mothers, brothers and even their second cousins twice removed. Millions are posting on Facebook, saving recipes on Pinterest, and engaging with a wide variety of other niche social platforms.
But this doesn’t mean you can treat all people within the social media audience the same.
Most users utilize these sites completely differently from one another, and thus marketers should not engage with a consistent user who “likes” and comments the same way they would with somebody who only tweets once a year.
To help us better navigate and classify our social media audience, Forrester has developed a Social Technographics Ladder that places every social consumer into seven distinct niches that are as follows:
- Creators – These are the people at the top of the proverbial ladder. They make the content that other people consume through blog posts, videos, music and images. Without them there would be no social media because they provide the means that everybody else can share. This group is technically savvy and creative as the name would indicate.
- Conversationalists – These people constantly update their statuses on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. As their name suggests, they drive the conversation that’s taking place in the social sphere. These are the kind of people that the creators want to get to know as they can spread their content far and wide.
- Critics – This group is another staple of the social sphere as they comment on Facebook posts and write reviews on sites like Google Places. To some degree, they serve as editors of the social space by vetting the content pushed out by the creators with their own opinions and judgments. Their contributions keep the creators honest and help ensure the accuracy of the web.
- Collectors – These people use RSS feeds to aggregate the best content on the Internet. They vote for content on sites like Reddit and Digg. In a way they play a similar role to the critics in that they vet the web for the top content, but they play a more passive role in the process since they consume lots of content but do not actively interact with it.
- Joiners – The joiners maintain a social profile on sites such as Facebook and MySpace, but that’s about it. Perhaps they can be engaged with a particularly interesting piece of content, but they mainly take a passive approach to social media.
- Spectators – As the name suggests, these people read blogs, tweets, forums and reviews along with watching videos but are even more passive than the joiners. For marketing purposes, these people are still important because they possibly make up a good percentage of the public and can be influenced by what they see online.
- Inactives – These people do not create or consume social content of any kind. These people likely include older people who are not comfortable with the technology, but this number is shrinking fast.
Now of course, some people belong to multiple groups. Creators can also be conversationalists as well as collectors. However, people that start lower on the totem pole won’t typically associate themselves amongst the more active groups … not yet anyway.
Forrester has created a nifty tool based on proprietary survey data that shows “the percentage of the selected demographic that are in each Social Technographics group.” The data can be segmented by age, country and gender. This can be a valuable tool to discover how you should be trying to appeal to people in your niche. If you have a high number of creators, you want to create linkworthy content. If they are conversationalists, you want more comment bait and so on and so forth.
As you might expect in the age 55+ group, the numbers are down across the board among all niches with spectators making up the biggest group by far. Although it isn’t in direct proportion all the way down the age groups, engagement generally increases as age decreases. For example, in the 18-24 female group in the US, 86 and 85 percent are joiners and spectators, respectively, while 48 percent in this group are creators. In addition, 93 percent of the males in this group are spectators and 44 percent are creators.
It’s vitally important for you as a company to understand your audience and then create content that will engage them appropriately. I recommend using this tool to really drill down and discover the kind of targeted content that would drive the best results for your business. Social media in 2012 is all about knowing your audience and creating shareable content, and thinking about your followers in terms of social technographics can help you do just that.
Have you ever used social technographics in your content planning? Tell us in the comments below.