We know that what Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff wrote in Groundswell a couple of years ago is true: people do use technology to tap into each other and get things done. The addition of this new overlapping group confirms something to me that I've suspected for a while - conversation is a technology, a framework to create the conditions for something to happen.
More than any other grouping or label in Forrester Social Technographics Ladder, it signals availability and intention to connect.
Are conversationalists connectors?
Let's take a look.
The prevailing demographic is female, at 56%, they're well off financially, slightly above average, in fact, and they're more likely than others to have college degrees. According to Forrester, conversationalists are by and large younger that the average online adult.*
I'm not looking to prove or disprove at this point, but to raise the question. You won't know the answer, until you cross reference this information with your experience, participation, and data from other sources, including personas.
This is important because as you explore the definitions provided with the ladder, you may want to think about it as you profile and segment your customer base. If necessary, you might find it more useful to start a new list or lists that aggregate and tags this information.
Behavior to outcome
There's a nice discussion over at Social Media Explorer about definitions and terminology. Jason beat me to the punch on getting the word out on the update. Which is great, because now we (you do, too) have more insights into what the categories may mean and why they were grouped that way.
I don't have a view as to what's behind the report, or the conversations Bernoff and his team had to cull the information and data that back it up. However, I'd like to encourage you to think with me about a likely process you might take to associate behavior with outcome as you segment your customer base while relying on the information in the report.
When it comes to online behavior for the category, keeping in mind they overlap:
- 17% Inactives -- are who you reach by word of mouth from the actives. So it's not like you don't need to worry about them. You need to think about what kind of online marketing transfers over to them and influences their behavior. This is the kind of thinking that affects decision on phone support and event, for example. Print media is going, what else have you got? Does email work in this category?
- 70% Spectators -- they may love learning and being in the know as they read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos created by others, read online forums, tweets, and customer reviews. They ride other people's waves and I bet they get to the point where they are collectors and may become critics, if their buttons get pushed. Customer service can be such a button. It may take that kind of circumstance, but watch out, a spectator knows a lot and has a broad reach. They're most likely to be watching what others do, and follow
- 59% Joiners -- visit social networking sites and maintain a profile. How often are they online, though? Do they disseminate identities in lots of places and stick to none? Do you join many activities? I bet you do and carry through only a few select. What I'd think about here is what is most likely to engage this group and where? Do joiners follow people or causes?
- 20% Collectors -- they use RSS feeds, vote for Web sites online, add tags to Web pages or photos and overall contribute to selecting and categorizing information online. Are these the best people you could involve and enroll to collaborate in curating content? We keep hearing about co-creation, but creators are often more focused on original content to be co-opted
- 37% Critics -- rate product/service and post reviews, comment on other people's blogs, contribute to online forums, contribute to and edit articles in a wiki. I noticed many got hang up with the term critic. Critical thinkers are critical to exchanges, online and off line. Imagine what it would be if people just parroted each other. They are fused on getting their ideas out in public spaces. Do they listen well?
- 33% Conversationalists -- they update their status on a social networking site weekly, and they post on Twitter with about the same frequency. Ask yourself "so what"? Are conversationalists also spectators, joiners, and critics, or just creators? They have broad knowledge and are in lots of places (reach), would it be fair to infer they might also do a lot of connecting? Is that how they climb the social ladder?
- 24% Creators -- are at the top of the ladder as publishers of blogs, sites, developers of videos, and audio files. They're opinionated and opinion makers and, hopefully, exercise healthy doses of critical thinking. This group may be trending upward as the roster of entrepreneurs and free agents grows. Is this trend why cloud is not a technology term anymore, nor it is an online fun concept (word cloud), but a service delivery mechanism to support the growing number of small businesses? How do you communicate with this group?
Demographic data is important
Some things to think about, especially as we approach the 2010 Census. In Free Agent Nation, Dan Pink, who is very knowledgeable about census data, in case you didn't know, documents how the Government had not done as good a job counting free agents among the 280 million people enumerated.
So he set out to count them as grouped in three different categories - 16.5 million soloists, 3.5 million temps, and 13 million microbusinesses. He estimated group size using official figures, private studies, and academic research. Around 2001, the date in which the book published, there were 33 million free agents - about 1 in 4 American workers.
How many are there today? Do they buy services? How do they make their purchases? Why? We talked about generation why as well - fewer people and potential customers between the ages 45-25. Does that skew the numbers? You bet!
It's easy to infer data and generalize or jump to conclusions. I'd rather you opened up to possibilities.
How do you communicate with your customers based upon what you learn from different sources? Does a typical IT manager behave the same way in solving problems whether he's 45 or 35, a creator vs. a conversationalist? Ok, somehow, I suspect we marketers are making all the chatter for now. How many in relative numbers?
I'm sure you have opinions. Weigh in!
[Disclosure: I received Introduction to The New Social Technographics report as part of Forrester media outreach program. This post is based upon the quality of the material - and not due to how I obtained it.]
* North American Technographics Empowerment Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US) fielded in November 2009 of 10,112 US individuals ages 18, to 88.
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