Those who "Like" are not alike at all in how or why they engage with brands in social media. Aimia, the worldwide loyalty management consultancy, has unveiled what it calls an "industry-first segmentation model" that reveals six distinct social media personas, based upon the behavioral drivers of trust and control. The company has detailed those personas in a research brief called "Staring at the Sun: Identifying, Understanding and Influencing Social Media Users." The brief argues that no single social media channel can deliver a complete picture of customer behavior.
To be fair, marketers have heard similar ideas before. Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point described "mavens," a small percentage who influence a majority. Aimia calls them "sparks," and marketers would call them "influencers." But Aimia argues that social media marketers lump clicks, tweets and Likes together, valuing quantity over quality. In short, they do not treat those interactions as serious leads.
"Racing to rack up the most 'likes,' retweets, followers and recommendations…is the wrong approach. Marketers must define success not by social media activity, but rather by customer value and engagement," said Doug Rozen, lead author of the report and Senior Vice President, Communications, Design & Emerging Technologies at Aimia.
The company’s website put it more sternly: "Social media has enjoyed an exciting adolescence; it’s now time to grow up."
Differences In Motivation And Intent
"Marketers often struggle to understand the true motivations and purchase intent behind customers' social media activity. Proper segmentation allows marketers to appropriately identify, understand and influence customers through social channels," said Rozen.
The report maps the current landscape of social media usage, and outlines the differences between types of social media participation via six proprietary social media "personas" comprising the entire U.S. adult population aged 18 or older:
- No Shows (41% of US population) – least involved with social media, if at all; infrequently engage in online commerce.
- Newcomers (15%) – passive users of a single social media network, primarily to enhance offline relationships
- Onlookers (16%) – observe others via social channels on a regular basis, but share almost no personal information
- Cliquers (6%) – active users of one network; influential among their small group of friends and family
- Mix-n-Minglers (19%) - those who regularly share and interact with a diverse group of connections via social media
- Sparks (3%) – most active and deeply engaged users of social media; will serve as enthusiastic online ambassadors for their favorite brands
Aimia mapped these personas against social brand-related activities: Engagement in online commerce; the viewing and creation of online video; participation in flash sales or daily deals; writing of product and service reviews; interaction with brands, games, forums and blogs; and "checks in" to locations.
Among the findings: the more passive "Onlookers" are just as interested in flash sales and daily deals as the two most active personas, "Mix-n-Minglers" and "Sparks." In addition, "Cliquers" are just as likely as "Sparks" to play brand-sponsored games online.
Trust and Control
Aimia's segmentation is constructed on a framework of behavior based on trust and control, which it calls “the two primary emotional drivers of social media participation.”
Trust is driven by consumers' ability to navigate social media, how much they trust friends and networks with personal information, and how much trust they place in the social networks themselves. Control correlates to the amount of information that consumers are willing to share, the number of connections they make, and the reputation they build online.
"Control equals exposure, and trust equals participation,” said Rozen. “The more control a consumer perceives over their social media activity, the more likely they are to engage with a wider variety of social media networks. The more trust a consumer places in social media networks and their connections, the more likely they are to actively participate.”
The research, conducted in late 2011, consisted of a series of weeklong ethnographic research panels conducted by Aimia, with the findings substantiated with Forrester, Mintel and GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence, as well as Aimia's own study “Born This Way: The US Millenial Loyalty Survey.”