I’m wrapping up my report on “How companies should organize for social media” in a few weeks, and collaborating on a report with Zach Hofer-Shall (a digital device aficionado) on a “Comprehensive community checklist” and am going to start work on a research report exploring the social behaviors of Generation X, and how brands are reaching them using social media. (see my body of research)
I’m probably the youngest of the Gen X generation (people define the age groups differently, but the behavioral traits and beliefs are perhaps the most telling) and we’ve a unique way of growing up with Transformers, GIJoe, My Little Pony, Reading Rainbow, Regan’s Just Say No, and of course Michael Jackson (when he was black). We also grew up with technology: Nintendo games and “↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A”, boomboxes, Sony Walkmen and of course MTV and VH1 –or, at least that’s all that comes to my mind during my growing up experience.
Fast forward to 2009, we’re establishing ourselves in the workplace, becoming the successful professionals as we enter the early or mid-career phase of our lives. Yet with maturity comes the big “R” of responsibility: family, kids, the access to disposable income. As this generation, my generation, moves into the prime light, brands are also recognizing the importance to reach us, so I’m seeking your help to submit information.
Seeking Case Studies of How Brands Reach Gen X Using Social Media
I’m seeking examples from brands or agencies that have case studies of how brands have reached Generation X (my Generation) by using social media. This doesn’t have to be a formal PDF, but it’s most helpful if you include URLs or screenshots, a problem definition, a goal, and then measurable quantitative results. I’m seeking these within the next two weeks so by June 15th will be the last day to email me at jowyang at forrester.com.
For Discussion: How Would Gen X Behave If We Grew Up With Social Media
Oh, and to kick off a conversation, how would Gen Xers behave if we had the internet when we grew up, rather than in just the last decade and half? From turntables, cable tv, to compact discs, we mainly grew up as consumers of technology and media –not creators. We grew up with technology as consumer products, yet in many cases, these devices were not connected, not networked, and not tied together through the internet or wireless technology (we were often ‘nodes’ not networked). Do you think Gen Xers would use it differently than Gen Y? Would we be as willing to share all parts of our personal and social lives as some of our younger counterparts? You can learn more about how different generations around the globe access social technologies using our social technographics profile tool, love to hear your thoughts.
You’ve heard of demographics (who people are) and psychographics (what they care about) but now, you must be aware of technographics (how people use technologies)
Forrester is known for it’s success with our consumer social technographics, how buyers use social media in their lives. Just this Monday, we released information on the B2B side, technology buyers and folks often within the enterprise lead by Oliver Young, and Laura Ramos (read their take)
Some highlights from this research (start by looking at the right two columns):
91% of these technology decision-makers were Spectators — the highest number I’ve ever seen in a Social Technographics Profile. This means you can count on the fact that your buyers are reading blogs, watching user generated video, and participating in other social media. Note that 69% of them said they were using this technology for business purposes.
Only 5% are non-participants (Inactives).
55% of these decision-makers were in social networks (Joiners) — despite as mature businesspeople and not college students, you’d think they’d be participating a lot less.
43% are creating media (blogs, uploading videos or articles, etc.) and 58% are Critics, reacting to content they see in social formats. Again the numbers are very high compared to other groups we’ve surveyed, and again the level of participation for business purposes is also very high
He points out that inactives (people that cannot be reached through social technologies) has reduced from 44% to 25%. This means that three fourths of the US online users is touched by social technologies. Also note that more people who consume this content has increased from 48% to 69%.
Do note that to be accurate in your marketing, like you have specific personas for your marketing efforts, you’ll need the same technographic profiles for those personas. Age, culture, professional, and other factors all play into each technographic ladder.
In this post, I’m going to make some observations from my network, but my only caveat is, this is not representative of the whole tech industry. First, we should ask some questions about what I’m seeing:
Does the Social Media Space tend to skew Democratic?
I’ve noticed for some time that the web industry tends to skew very liberal and democratic, you certainly see elements of this within Digg, for example, I did an advanced query of dugg (voted) stories that got on the front page, (title only) and McCain has 42 pages (many stories are negative), and “Obama” has 65 pages (mixed bag of content).
Does sentiment tell us much?
Yet frequency isn’t telling, and sentiment is. Last night, I asked the community around me in Friendfeed to list out three keywords what come to mind in this association test for both parties. You can read the Republican, and Democratic responses –nearly opposite.
Why does the social space (or at least my network) tend to skew so left? It could be a number of factors from age, willingness to adopt change, or that the ideology of the very social web in it’s essence could be core to liberal beliefs. In fact, if you read a book on blogging or social media marketing, you could quickly transplant the words “company” for “government” and the book would still read very logically.
Is it because there may be many Republicans in Silicon Valley?
Yet despite this lean from the left within my social media network, I do remember during the last election that a great deal of republican votes came from the Silicon Valley. I remember my friends who worked at NASA, Boeing, Lockheed, that were strongly encouraged by their management to vote Republican, as it would increase the eventual spending in the aerospace and hi-tech sector. Many of these companies have large headquarters in the Mountain View area, with thousands of companies supporting this eco-system, in fact read this 2004 article from the last election which profiles ‘sheepish republicans’ in Silicon Valley, it’s an interesting mix here in the valley as while folks make swing left in ideology, many are very wealthy.
Is it adoption of Obama and McCain Social Media?
Not all is lost by the Republicans in this space, this article by Techpresident (Which is indexing and commenting on the the digital marketing efforts of each candidate) suggests that even though Obama may have a grass roots lead within social media and dedicated staff (including Facebook co-founder), McCain’s supporters could master the tide by creating an API and encouraging the movement to create their own applications.
So what is it that fuels the social media space to appear to be more active for the Democrats vs the Republicans? Let’s focus on data:
Some Answers May Lie with the Technographics of Voters (see above graphic) In Josh’s analysis, he points out that the tendency to Join (be in a social network) between Obama supporters and McCain supporters is nearly a margin of 13%, which isn’t a lot but given that across the board Obama members are more particiaotpry in soical technographics than McCain supporters they’re more able to energize their base. Perhaps the most telling is the Spectator behavior, which indicates which support group is more likely to consume citizen created content. Nearly tho-thirds of Obama, (59%) consume social content, and less than half of McCain (44%) supporters will consume social content, a margin that straddles the half way mark.
Data about overall existing behaviors of users (technographics) are perhaps a key indicator that demonstrates why one party may have an advantage in social marketing.
I’m here in SF at the F8 developer conference sponsored by Facebook. While the primary thrust of F8 Facebook announcements was for developers, I mentally translate what this means for web strategists at brands at Fortune 5000s.
One key announcement is Facebook Connect which allows for authentication on 3rd party websites. Then users can visit third party sites, login with their Facebook ID, connect with their friends and update their Facebook newspage –all without visiting Facebook.com
[Facebook Connect will allow corporate websites to allow users to authenticate, interact, and share with their Facebook network --all without leaving the corporate website]
Essentially, the Facebook experience extends further into the web –beyond their walled garden.
Facebook Connect allows users to authenticate using their Facebook ID
Similair to OpenId (which coincidently was adopted by competitor MySpace) third party developers can allow website visitors to login to their website using their Facebook ID. This “Passport” system (much like what Microsoft tried to do) will let members leave comments on third party sites –as well as identify their friends on these sites.
Facebook Connect Will Allow third party sites to update Facebook Newspage
Facebook Connect allows applications, devices, websites to allow third party sites to embed a small piece of code on your site. Then, as users come to your site, (assuming they are Facebook users) could login to Facebook from your site and choose to share activities that would be shared on their newsfeed on Facebook.
Example via Techcrunch: “Mike Philips from Citysearch is taking the stage. He says they are launching a new site, where sharing information is a big piece. They are integrating with Facebook Connect. When a user looks for a hotel, restaurant, etc., Citysearch already has lots of reviews and data, but not a way to link up reviews from friends.”
[Boring, static corporate websites can now become social]
Recommendations for Brands
Interestingly, I talked to some Facebook employees, and they weren’t even looking as far as I was, (which means I’m doing my job well) so this prediction is something to still watch.
Brands should watch how this impacts the few launch partners first, let them sort out the bugs, and put this on the roadmap. Brands that have websites that have social actions (such as buying a product, rating, ranking, or leaving comments) should keep this in mind, as they can now extend the actions to Facebook streams.
Brands that are already trying to reach the Facebook audience (white collar workers and college students) should plan on experimenting with Facebook Connect as it can bring additional social functionality to corporate websites. First, start with use behavior: Use this interactive chart, the behavior is a cross between “Joining” (a social network) and “critic” (commenting, voting, rating) content. In this case, joining is a prerequisite for being a critic, so the actual participation level will be less.
Your logins could become less relevant if Facebook adoption continues to take off in particular markets, for example, brands that are already trying to reach this segment should be ready to adopt Facebook Connect. I ran this Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO Living Social, who agreed this is a big change.
Although it’s Sunday, I’m up early reviewing the data that Andres R, (one of our consultants) and I will be presenting to a client. It’s my first official project that I’m delivering and it’s a real learning experience. I’ve been in heaven lately, swimming in lots of social media data from our massive surveys we deploy, and in this case, we ‘cut’ data from the database to help a client understand the Technographics of the people they are trying to reach.
Being new to this process at Forrester, the research is similar to user experience research I used to conduct. We conducted stakeholder interviews to understand the business goals and drivers, worked with our data team to match the client provided persona and demographic information with our own data, and then conducted analysis.
While I certainly can’t give away any of the details, it’s very clear that two of the three personas that client is trying to reach has heavy use of social media, and the third doesn’t. Furthermore we segment the persona down to the Technographics, to understand how they use each social tool (from blogs, social networks, bookmarks, rating sites, etc) and to then share with client.
Armed with detailed knowledge about how their personas use social media, they are better equipped to move forward with their plans. It’s very clear, based on the data, which tools would work well for the particular personas, and which ones would not. It’s important to understand the people that you’re going to reach before deploying tools. Put people before tools.
I wish I had this data when I was launching social media at Hitachi, sadly, I focused on tools first, rather than first focusing on how people used technology.
Forrester has a lot of data, I learned in new hire training that we deploy the most surveys second to the US Census. On it’s own, data doesn’t mean anything, so we have made the information (when it comes to social media adoption) easier to understand using technographics.
Colleagues Josh and Charlene are sharing Forrester Research survey data on the Groundswell site. You can now find out the Technographic data by different major countries, segment by age, and gender using a flash engine –at no cost.
How to access Forrester Technographic Data:
First, understand that Social Technographics classifies people according to how they use social technologies, read these 8 slides.
Next, go to the profile tool, and experiment with many of the drop downs and toggles.
Then, you can determine which social media tools to use, based upon understand those you are trying to reach. It’s always dangerous to build your house starting with a hammer (tools), first, figure out who you’re building it for, then build a plan.
Data comes from the following surveys:
US: Forrester’s North American Social Technographics Online Survey, Q2 2007, 10,010 respondents.
Europe: Forrester’s European Technographics Benchmark Survey, Q2 2007, 24,808 respondents.
Asia Pacific: Forrester’s Asia Pacific Technographics Survey, Q1 2007, 6,530 respondents.