Social media doesn't break the rules. Sure, there's a new subset of data and content being created. Brands are quickly finding that customer segmentation on social networks is an increasingly daunting, albeit fundamental, marketing concept. As new content is posted on social networks every second, defining these customer segments -- and identifying their members -- is a fluid concept. But new technologies and strategies are making the impossible possible.
While the concept of segmentation is not brand new, the advancement of customer social media strategies has been moving as fast as the media itself. For example, in 2009 Forrester Research surveyed more than 1,200 business technology decision-makers to create profiles of customers' interests and activities for targeted marketing. According to its research, high tech product buyers generally fit within one of six categories. Based on their level of interaction and social media behaviors, individuals are best defined as creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, or "inactives." These behaviors have exploded into more diverse and ultimately, specific behaviors.
Looking for the latest digital strategies for iconic branding? Attend the iMedia Brand Summit, Feb. 5-8. Request your invitation today
Reaching -- and meaningfully engaging -- social media customers requires a new strategy, not to mention a new approach. Traditional targeting techniques are too limited. Meaningful differences can be found in the way specific audience segments use technology and behave within social networks. Here are three admittedly large segments that marketers should keep an eye on and eventually, use segmenting technology to drill deeper:
Obviously, there will be a lot of customer segments within social media users that follow politicians. And this will become increasingly true as the political climate heats up ahead of next year's election. Brands can also find a lot of traction by identifying the needs, values, and product preferences of those different segments. The momentum for this uber-segment over the next year will be so intense that it's hard to predict how big it will get. The New York Times reported that Republicans, after a year of ignoring Twitter, are now incorporating Twitter in a big way into their campaigns. Meanwhile, Facebook has quietly built a Washington, D.C. office that includes hitters from the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations, including former Clinton secretary Joe Lockhart. Don't forget that Barack Obama is approaching 24 million "likes," making him the most popular politician on Facebook, and putting him above Miley Cyrus (17.1 million), 50 Cent (18.5 million), and the Beatles (23.7 million).
According to a recent Nielsen report, 53 percent of active adult social networkers follow a brand. Think about that. Twitter generates 250 million messages a day. Facebook has over 800 million users, at least half of which log on each and every day and often multiple times per day. Those same users interact with over 900 million pieces of content. A recent survey from Yahoo and BBDO took insights from more than 1,000 consumers and marketing professionals. The study found that there's a consistent mismatch between what marketers think consumers want from brands and what consumers actually say they want. Ninety-six percent of consumers want to know price, product attributes, and proof points from a brand.
Compare that to the 86 percent of marketers who think that this information matters to consumers. While 58 percent of consumers say they want to know about the history and quirky details of a brand, only 41 percent of marketers think consumers care about this type of information. Almost half (45 percent) of consumers are looking for interesting stories about the brand, but just 41 percent of marketers think consumers care about interesting stories. Does your company have a handle on what brand followers want?
Especially among users who access social media via mobile, couponing is accelerating at an incredible rate. According to comScore, one in three mobile social networkers received a coupon or deal, with about one in four (27.7 percent) clicking on an ad while on a social networking site. That's a 25 percent click-through rate. Recently, Whole Foods offered a social media coupon on LivingSocial that sold 115,000 per hour during its peak time. The current debate rages about whether continued aggressive couponing is good for the businesses that engage in them. But the response rates are just too high to be ignored by businesses, and consumers will continue to respond to them.
The overall concept of social segmentation is all about opportunity. Define segments for social behavior, and your brand stands a chance of getting key customer groups right in its strike zone. Ignore social segmentation and the social media explosion just might pass you by.
Dilip Venkatachari is the CEO and co-founder of Compass Labs.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.