Social Technographics: the way ahead

I’m convinced that Social Technographics is the future when it comes to online marketing strategies. Not enough people understand what this is yet, but utilising it properly is essential if companies are to drive sales upwards in the Internet age. The best way to describe Social Technographics is as a methodology which looks not only at what determines participation on social networking websites, but also viral activity.

Here at Halpern Cowan, we have taken the Forrester Research methodology and applied it in a practical sense. Our aim has always been to improve online marketing strategies – allowing people to sell more from their websites – and our experiences show that Social Technographics can provide much added value to a brand. Naturally, this benefits our clients.

The Internet has taken power away from institutions and put it into communities. It has created an environment where people are comfortable with technology, using it both on a one-to-one basis, and also to communicate far more widely. Each month more and more people go online, reading – or creating – blogs, spending money, or visiting social networking sites.

Recent statistics reveal that 41% of youths visit a social network site daily, and that 92% of email users forward at least one web link every week. What a waste not to take advantage of all that activity!

But many organisations don’t take advantage. This may be because they don’t know how their customers use social technologies, or perhaps because they are inexperienced and don’t know what works, when or where. Some even have a more hidden fear – that just when they’ve mastered one technology, something new will come along and they’ll have to start again. They think, “why bother?” But they’re wrong, and missing out on opportunities.

Our strategy is first to profile the target audience for the product to be sold. Traditional marketing methods are not redundant, and should be used to find out who’s being sold to, and who’s buying. But after doing that, users should be grouped according to how they participate online, in social networks with user generated content, and normal websites. There is a whole world of online users out there – from what we call “creators” (who publish web pages or blogs) to spectators (who read them or listen to podcasts) and those in-between (like critics, who comment on blogs, but don’t generate them). All these people shouldn’t be ignored. In fact they should be specifically targeted and converted into customers and advocates of the product.

We work out how to target different types of Internet users, thinking about their online behaviour and buying lifecycle. We map out how users will participate – both now and in the future – finding out about their propensity to purchase, how they hear about things and how to get them interested. When we do this, we come up with a very effective way to generate online business.

But that’s not the end of it. It’s absolutely vital to understand what makes people want to move up to the next level of the Social Technographics ladder. We create a plan to keep the audience engaged, by using multiple participation points. These don’t need to be scary. First time “users” can be wheedled in by making it easy and fun – asking then when they first heard a popular song, for example – so they don’t even think about the fact that they’re taking part. Finding user generated content needs to be simple, and users should always be tempted to go to the website. That leaves you in control.

There’s a definite parallel between the new Social Technographics ladder and the traditional marketing lifecycle. Using them together gives you a very powerful tool.

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