Four Steps To The Social Consumer

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 12, 2012

Back in 2009, Forrester developed a framework called the Social Technographics Ladder.  This focused on seven groups primarily based on their activity within social networks. This ladder still holds up, but I tend to simplify it to the four stages of social activity I believe would mean something for marketers:

The Connector – Those highly connected to many social networks both personally and professionally, yet who may/may not have influence within the various categories.

The Advocate – Those who are more than connectors -- they have loyalty to specific brands and categories.

The Influencer – Those who are connected, are advocates of certain brands/categories, and also yield influence within their networks in which, for example, they work or purchase.   They are only as valuable as their ability to activate their networks.

The Evangelist – Those who are extremely passionate about a brand /category/cause, to the point that they use their own means to promote and build on the brand/category experience. 

I used to use a company like Shutterfly  to illustrate the difference in these categories. The connector would be the family member (the father, for example) who uploads and shares photos, connects family and friends to the photo site, and is active in connecting their networks with that brand experience.  

The advocate is the family member (the grandmother, for example) who has had a brand experience like receiving a photo book or coffee mug with photos of her grandchildren, loved it, and will talk about it to friends, showing the photo books whenever possible. She is an advocate of the experience more so than a pure brand loyalist. 

The influencer is the person who will share a promotion and attempt to influence others to participate in the brand when some monetary value exchange happens.  This person extends her brand loyalty to influence one or more networks  -- like the aunt who saw some photos, wanted to buy additional ones, and thought it was such a good deal that she shared it with her friends. 

The evangelist could be a teacher who collected photos from her class and produced a program around the photo-sharing event, like a photo book, and gets parents involved to sponsor the event.  Or she could be a photographer who builds a business from the photo-sharing experience.  

Why are these distinctions important? For years, we have assessed customer loyalty, we’ve even begun to score social influencers, and yet not many have extended social scoring past an influencer model.   There is so much more happening in the social landscape today.

Our goal as marketers is to optimize experiences and the point of intermediation where purchase decisions are made, and do so as efficiently as possible.  Marketing has evolved, but social listening only solves part of the problem.   Next-generation CRM will allow high-value customer mixes to take into account channel proxies (applied COM by channel) and social values.  You will spend more to connect early lifecycle with highly connected audiences.  You will build first experiences into brand advocacy experiences.  You will foster this advocacy to create consistency with influencers, and you will isolate the few evangelists you have to build extended experiences with your brand.  

Why is this important for an Email Insider Column?   As messaging strategies take into account the adaptation of the mobile device, and the transient consumer, social tendencies that are actionable will be key to optimizing  programs in motion.   You will want to invest and be creative for each knowing full well that a connector has the same brand value across many brands.  An advocate is likely only an advocate within the buying experience.  The influencer is an advocate who actually has an impact her network’s buying decisions,  and focus should be on activating her networks.  And the social evangelist is the best example of customer loyalty, but only if you are able to provide a platform for them to be creative with your brand experiences.

Our world of adapting programs for the new consumer with new motivations, new buying considerations, and ultimately limitless options, will reconstitute how we define success in customer-to-customer marketing.


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