We spend a lot of time courting follower numbers, Edge Rank, and blog comments. We cozy up to retweet numbers, swoon over Klout scores, and generally glaze over when those "hit" numbers reach a tipping point. But, are these the numbers that really help us engage our followers? They do help define reach, influence to a degree, and certainly give us a good idea of how many people are looking at our stuff. But that's about it. When it comes to planning a strategy that will produce loyal fans that purchase, donate, recommend, interact, advocate and promote, they are limited.
I started reading the new and updated edition of Groundswell last week and was reminded how Forrester's Social Technographic profiles can pinpoint online user habits to help drive content strategy. If we can truly understand WHAT people are doing online, then we can understand how to craft content that engages them where they are. Knowing what certain demographic groups are doing online also helps us avoid content strategies that miss the mark. For instance, if the vast majority of your demographic is in the spectator group (people who read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch video, read forums, read tweets and read ratings), it wouldn't be a good idea to run a big campaign based on asking people to contribute to a community blog about your product. That group simply doesn't engage that way. Don't get suckered: Big numbers don't necessarily mean big engagement.
I can know how many Facebook fans I have, but do I know what their online habits are? Are they posting ratings of my product? Are they just visiting my site and consuming information? Are they tagging photos or leaving comments? Do they post updates on Twitter or just use Twitter as an information pipeline? Without knowing what they're doing online, my content strategy won't be as effective in reaching my objectives.
The authors of Groundswell devised an interesting planning process they call POST: People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. Using that process, I can:
- Find out where my people are and what they're doing online (People)
- Come up with goals. Do I want to sell, just connect, service my existing customers, enlist internal brand ambassadors, or recruit new donors? (Objectives)
- Devise strategies to reach those objectives with metrics that define success (Strategy)
- Figure out what tools I will pair with those strategies to reach success (Technology)
If you're not familiar with Forrester's research, you can see the Social Technographic profile in action online here: http://www.forrester.com/empowered/tool_consumer.html. Definitions of the seven online groups are explained here: http://www.forrester.com/empowered/ladder2010. Use the tool to punch in a sample demographic and see just what the national baseline is. As a follow-up, you can survey your own customer/fan base for more specific information about their online habits. Now, you've got some numbers that really mean something.
What numbers are you using to drive your social media strategy? Try plugging your fan demographic into the Forrester tool mentioned above. Did any of the results surprise you? What did you learn about them?