Understanding the individuality of how consumers approach social networking is crucial for marketers trying to take the Web 2.0 plunge, according to a new report.
Posted Apr 23, 2007
A teenager comes home from school and updates his MySpace profile while searching for last night's Lost clips on YouTube. It may be tempting to picture this scenario or something similar when considering a typical Web 2.0 consumer. Online social networkers, however, cannot easily be typified, according to a new report from Forrester Research. The study, "Social Technographics," says that companies most often struggle with social networking marketing initiatives because of a lack of understanding around which of their customers are using these technologies and how they are doing so.
"Unless your customers are really laggards, I think everybody needs to be getting in here to one extent or another" of companies' efforts surrounding social networking, says Josh Bernoff, vice president at Forrester. Social networking, the report finds, is also becoming more prevalent in adult computer use. About one third of the 12-to-21 crowd manages a blog and writes on it weekly, while 22 percent of adults actively read blogs. Additionally, 41 percent of youths visit a social networking site each day, while 19 percent of adults are members of such Web sites.
Although youths are more active than adults in this regard, Forrester argues that grouping customers under the demographical umbrella of youth or adult, social networking uses or nonsocial networking user, is not sufficient. "What you need to do as a marketer is understand the social technographic profiles of your customers," Bernoff says. "It's not a case of they're active or inactive [in social networks]."
The report separates users into six categories of social networkers: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives. The report explains that overlap may or may not exist between the categories. At the top, creators (those who publish Web pages, upload videos, or create a blog) comprise 13 percent of consumers. Critics (19 percent of consumers) post ratings and comment on blogs. Collectors (15 percent of consumers) tag Web pages and use RSS feeds. Nineteen percent of consumers, the joiners, only use social networking sites. Spectators, at 33 percent of consumers, read blogs, listen to podcasts and watch user-generated videos. Just over half (52 percent) are inactives, not touched by social networking at all.
In order for companies to be successful in social networking marketing initiatives they must understand how their customers interact with social media. Forrester recommends creating multiple participation points that cater to the different levels of use your various customers are willing to engage in. Bernoff says that the number of inactives will continue to decrease as social networking becomes more popular and gains wider acceptance. On the other hand, he explains that never will 100 percent of consumers become creators.
Bernoff says a full effort is necessary to understand the degree to which your customers will use social media and to go forth with marketing initiatives in this realm. "It's worthless unless [companies] actively participate. It's the bandwidth of the brains of the marketing people that's the scarce resource."
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