How to Map to the Social Media Engagement Profile of Your Customers


Forrester’s social technographics profile can help you analyze the social profile of your customer base. As authors Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li explained in the book Groundswell, people increasingly use technology to get what they need from each other, instead of relying on companies and businesses.

This is a social trend accelerated by technology.

Companies are more stretched than ever on staff that delivers products and services, as well as support for them. At the same time, due to the fragmentation of media and customer interests, marketing dollars are not going as far as they used to when broadcasting was considered the way to go.

The good news is that businesses can reach customers where they are, and take advantage of the very same tools to not only satisfy their requests, but to gain insights about their buying habits — something that in the past could be done only with expensive research.

The return on your investment of time and attention can pay measurable returns. In addition to customer support, you get to benefit in research through listening, and in marketing with feedback, product development through implementing changes based upon what you observe and learn, and sales through energizing your customers.

You can do that by assessing:

  • People — your customers’ social activities
  • Objectives — deciding what you want to accomplish
  • Strategy — planning how the relationship with your customers will change
  • Technology — deciding which tools to use

There is more. If you set aside inactives on the technographics profile, and focus your online activities towards the rest — spectators, joiners, collectors, critics, conversationalists, and creators — you will be able to map to the social media engagement profile of each group.

For this kind of discussion I will reference the work of experience architect Leigh Duncan-Durst at LivePath. Leigh takes the technographics profile definitions one step further and describes the categories a bit differently:

Scouting — these joiners are dipping their toes into social media. They are out there, but just testing some of the tools. They are learning from reading, and less from doing. Which is the reason why they may not engage with you online, but they will read what others are saying about you.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s a good idea to engage with customers online.

Active — may be collectors, critics or creators or a mix of those. These customers may being to form or join networks around a product or service they are passionate about beyond learning more – they want to have a voice and say. Find ways to listen, share and involve them.

Chances are your first encounter with them will be through a site like Get Satisfaction, a people-powered customer service tool we learned about just as it was launching.

Immersed — the mix is the same as with actives, the intensity and volume probably much greater. If your customers are highly active in social media, chances are they are contributors and actively engaged in discussions and their profile will be prominent on a number of networks and – most importantly – on Google search.

In fact, they may have a stronger presence on many tools than your business does. If they shared a story about your service, would it be a good one or a not so good?

Aside from being diligent in monitoring their conversations, you should hire or train people in your organization who can immerse in their environment. For example, a company that adds customer reviews to their site may increase sales and decrease returns.

Influential — they tend to be more the creator type. Those people who have aptitude and interest for initiating something new. Their expertise in a specific domain is often the reason why they have a very good reputation – and following – among their peers. They know how to apply these tools to achieve results and they will apply what they know to shape how they work, live and interact with brands.

As customers, they may want to be more involved with how your product or service is delivered. Chances are they will also lead conversations about what you need to improve. Some companies are taking customer service all the way to customers. For example, Nike allows people to build and order custom shoes on their site.

Think about the power of a group of customers and fans who post pictures of themselves wearing your company’s outfits. Where would you get more inspiration as a customer, from a carefully designed and shot catalog or from people just like them?

A word of advice to marketers who try to do too much with some of these online tools — staying focused on the customers helps you keep doing business with you easy. Because it’s not about you, it’s about them.


[written for Fast Company on 5/2009]