Socialgraphic data

By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Traditionally, marketers have researched their customers’ demographics to have a clear idea of their age, gender, income, location, and other traits.

Marketers added psychographics to the mix, allowing them to take into account customer’s interests, values, and attitudes. A step up from the very general information that demographics provide, psychographics enable marketers to speak to customers in a way that resonates with them. Now, in the age of social media and behavioral ad targeting, we have to add another type of data to our arsenal: socialgraphics.

Socialgraphics capture the attitudes, characteristics, behavior, and, most important, motivations of customers online. Understanding an audience’s socialgraphics allows marketers to design internet marketing strategies that attract and retain customers in different online venues.

Socialgraphics helps move your message

The new world of digital marketing requires the kind of research that user experience teams routinely do, but marketers have not always accessed.  Yet, it’s critical information for companies looking to deeply engage consumers and really motivate them to take the online actions crucial to the brand.

Demographics and pyschographics may have been enough when marketers were focused simply on online advertising — finding the right keywords to target an audience was enough.

But in the complex digital world of social media, content marketing, email, reviews, etc., marketers need to find ways to get online users to take specific actions, what I call social actions, such as sharing the organization’s content, recommending it to others, opening emails, writing reviews, etc. To motivate users to take action, you first have to understand what motivates them. That requires a much deeper level of knowledge about user’s psyches.

Levels of socialgraphics

To be most effective, marketers need to understand the socialgraphics of their audience at a minimum of two levels:

Audience segmentation.  If your demographic segment is “college-educated working mothers of elementary-aged children,” you need to understand the general socialgraphics of this segment, too.

Platform segmentation.  An audience segment may behave differently or have varying motivations in different online communities. For example, working mothers may look for emotional support and practical suggestions for balancing work and life in one forum, but be focused on career growth and networking with other professional mothers in another forum. It’s important to understand the user’s motivations within different communities in order to share the right content and engagement opportunities in each community.

The hunt for socialgraphic data

It is possible to find available data to leverage, but chances are, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and dig deep and make your own observations through focus groups or simply immersing yourself in different groups and platforms to understand what is going on there.  Some of the socialgraphic data to focus on are:

  • Internet use data—Where do these users congregate online? What sites do they use? What online media do they consume? What times do they use different websites and media? How internet savvy are they?
  • Mobile use data—Similarly, what are this segment’s mobile usage traits? Smartphone or not? What activities do they do on their phones? What times are they active?
  • Goals and motivations—For different venues, what is the audience segment’s interest or goal in participating? What need does the community fill for this user? What does the user hope to gain?
  • Behavior—How does this audience behave online, particularly in different venues? Do they create content or just consume it? Are they frequent sharers or posters? How do their patterns of creating, commenting, or sharing differ and what triggers the differences?
  • Emotional and pyschological needs–What emotional needs does a given community fill? What emotional needs is the user filling by participating online? How does the user want to be perceived online or in different communities?

Socialgraphics as competitive advantage

At this point, it appears that few companies do the kind of research necessary to understand user’s socialgraphics. In fact, in a November 2011 McKinsey report surveying marketers, 38% of respondents said that their company had basic demographic data on each customer. But only 18% reported having psychographic data, such as interests or attitudes. It’s probably safe to conclude that even less had socialgraphic data.

In a noisy online world increasingly cluttered with content, understanding your customers this deeply may be the only way to create a point of differentiation for your brand in the long-term.

Does this make sense to you?  Are you starting to think about customer online behaviors in your strategies?

Neicole Crepeau a blogger at Coherent Social Media and the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. She works at Coherent Interactive on social media, website design, mobile apps, & marketing. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec

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