Conversationalists Flood the Social Scene

Does the week go by and the only activity you've had on Twitter is clicking the "retweet" button a few times? You're not alone. According to research conducted by Forrester's senior vice president of idea development Josh Bernoff, those that retweet or comment on another's status on Facebook, are a growing breed. Bernoff, in fact, has reconfigured the Forrester Social Technographics report this year to include such "conversationalists" -- a group of individuals who retweet, comment, and build upon other conversations.

Bernoff has separated the categories of consumers into a social ladder. At the top are the most active, at the bottom are the least active. Here's the breakdown of U.S adults, based on monthly participation:

Creators: 24 percent.

  • Publish a blog.
  • Publish Web pages.
  • Upload video.
  • Upload audio.
  • Write stories and post them.

Conversationalists: 33 percent.

  • Update status on a social networking site.
  • Post or retweet on Twitter.
  • Comment on another's status or another's comment.

Critics: 37 percent.

  • Post ratings and reviews on products or services.
  • Comment on another blog.
  • Contribute to online forums.
  • Contribute or edit wikis.

Collectors: 20 percent.

  • Use RSS feeds.
  • Vote for Web sites.
  • Add tags to pages or photos.

Joiners: 59 percent.

  • Maintain a profile on a social networking site
  • Visit social sites

Spectators: 70 percent.

  • Read blogs.
  • Listen to podcasts.
  • Watch video from other users.
  • Read online forums.
  • Read customer ratings/reviews.
  • Read tweets.

Inactives: 17 percent.

  • Conduct in no activity.

Forrester has begun using the Social Technographics in working with clients. Bernoff says in order to effectively put the insights to use, marketers must first examine social behaviors of their target market. "The behaviors your customers engage in tell you what sorts of applications are possible -- for example, whether marketing through social networks will reach Joiner customers or whether they are likely to participate in the discussion forums that Critics will patronize," he writes. 

Most importantly, marketers must remember to put value creation at the top of the list of priorities. "The objectives, strategy, and technology stages ... are where you move from what customers are doing now to creating an application that is valuable to your marketing long term," Bernoff writes. 

Another recent social report , assembled by former Forrester analysts and current Altimeter Group partners Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang, touched on many of the same points and offered similar recommendations for reaching online social participants. In "Understand Your Customers' Social Behaviors" Li and Owyang recommend what they call "socialgrapics" to connect marketers with customers. Socialgraphics encourage marketers to ask the following questions:

  1. Where are your customers online?
  2. What are your customers' social behaviors online?
  3. What social information or people do your customers rely on?
  4. What is your customer's social influence? Who trusts them?
  5. How do your customers use social technologies in the context of your product?

Although using different category names than Forrester's Bernoff, Altimeter Group parses out online participants into the following groups, beginning with the most active and ending with the least active. Much like the Forrester report, the Socialgraphics study defines each of the categories but it also provides actionable ways to engage the varying types on online consumers:

Curators: Recognize their power in communities. Use their influence to help your brand, build your community, and give you advice. 

Producers: To engage, build a platform for them to actively participate. Let them lead the discussion and provide public recognition to top contributors. 

Commenters: Allow every Web page to have commenting features. Develop a community policy, and foster and open and friendly environment. It may be helpful to turn to a community platform provider such as Jive, Lithium, or Mzinga for assistance. 

Sharers: Enable visitors to "share this" and send out content to friends and followers. Make sharing on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as easy as one click.

Watchers: Understand what content your customers are reading and watching. Make your content relevant and keep it engaging. 

Altimeter offers the following recommendations for moving forward with Socialgraphics:

  1. Understand the socialgraphics of your customers by conducting surveys or obtaining secondary research.
  2. Get data from multiple sources.
  3. Seek "Open Research" that is shared among the industry.
  4. Couple your existing profiles or personas of customers, create an engagement pyramid for each persona.
  5. Identify your social goals your organization will take. 

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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