Many of us have had our bosses or clients tell us at some point that we need to find better ways to engage people on the internet. This mandate is incredibly vague, and truthfully, who exactly are the people online? For many of our bosses, these “online people” are one group – a collective set of engaged nerds that seem to give the company headaches through their blogs or their annoying tweets. But savvy web communicators know that the web community is just as diverse as traditional communities, and how you reach out to the “online people” needs to vary based on who they are and how they choose to engage. It’s not just about creating a blog, posting a podcast, or building a Facebook profile and assuming the “online people” will come.
Identifying or categorizing the different types of internet users is difficult though. One model I have come across that I find helpful is Forrester’s Social Technographics. This model categorizes web users based on their participation in cyberspace. I find this a great way to think about your target audiences because it helps you understand what actions you might expect them to take – if any at all. In their latest Social Technographics model, Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li have 7 categories of users: creators, conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives.
I like to keep this framework in mind when creating communications campaigns. It reminds me that I need to tailor my efforts to the different audiences – and it also allows me to manage my boss’ expectations on who can be reached online and what actions they might take.
By this point, I definitely think all organizations should have jumped into the social media world, but to have any impact in it takes more than just being present. It requires knowing your online audience and creating materials and strategies that speak to the way they interact. Definitely keep the Social Technographics model in mind!