Market Segmentation In the Context of Social Media: The Self-Segmenting Groups of Users

Market segmentation is probably one of the more common concepts marketers deal with in their profession. Market segmentation is essentially a process of subdividing a large homogenous market into clearly identifiable segments having similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics. The outcome of this initiative is to tailor a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment identified as a result of the market segmentation process.

Markets are segmented because few companies have the required resources to supply the needs of the total market. Unless the total market is small in size and highly concentrated geographically, serving the entire market may prove a daunting task. Most markets find it more manageable if the total demand for the market is broken down into segments and organisations choose those market segments, which it is best resourced to handle. The four bases upon which a typical consumer market is segmented includes behavioural, demographic, psychographic and geographical variables.

However, has social media platforms and their ability to engage with individuals interactively and in real-time made the practice of market segmentation redundant? The answer is certainly, no! The bases of segmenting a market fundamentally remains the same. However, social media has certainly brought a new dimension for marketers to seriously consider when developing market segmentation profiles on their customers.

Market Segmentation in the Age of Social Media

Market segmentation in the social media space is essentially about the social media platforms your customers use. The days where the markets were predominantly segmented based on demographic and geographic variables is fast approaching an end in the social media world. That is not to say that marketers will not be using demographic and geographic variables when segmenting markets in social media platforms. Demographic and geographic variables will still stay relevant to marketers in the social media age. However, the importance given to these two bases will start to erode with time.

Social media platforms are essentially made up of groups of users brought together through common interests such as sports, travel, hobbies, health, career, etc. In other words, social media platforms effectively consist of self-segmenting groups of users defined by segmentation bases such as psychographics. In brief, psychographics is about classifying people by their personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.

A closer look at the major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Myspace and others will reveal that the users of these platforms are essentially attracted to these platforms on the basis of the psychographic offerings associated with these platforms (Evan, et.al. 2012). For example, users join interest groups based on politics, art, food, travel, culture and music, and they often link their Facebook account to other websites. These same variables can easily be mapped to other platforms such as YouTube and LinkedIn. Amazon.com has long been at the forefront in understanding the best way to segment the online consumer. They have introduced innovations like “recommended products” and “users like me also bought” as a way of applying psychographics and behavioral bases for segmenting the market when designing offers for their customers.  It’s algorithms have learned to understand its users, and identify the products that interest them. And now, there are a number of tools in social media platforms that any business can use to leverage psychographics.

Hence, segmenting the market by demographics and geographic variables such as age, gender, profession and income and assuming that this would translate into success is not a great way to relate to your social media audiences.

Some industry practitioners have said that one should execute a marketing campaign on all social media platforms. But the truth is that not all of your customers will be on the same platform. Neither will they necessarily be on every platform. So marketers could spend an extraordinary amount of time  and resource building a Youtube campaign that delivers absolutely nothing because your customers are not found on Youtube.

Testing the various social media platforms is a good way to determine where exactly your prospects are located. However, until marketers have a thorough understanding of the user psychographics profile of the various social media platforms, they’ll never really know the best mix of social media platforms to run a campaign that delivers the intended marketing results. So do not hesitate to spend some time to more precisely segment the market for the products and services you’ll like to offer in the social media space. The time you’ve spent doing this will certainly not be in vain. On the contrary, it will likely provide you with a higher chance of executing a campaign on relevant platforms that will more likely produce the intended marketing results.

Welcome to the age of segmentation the social media way. Modern segmentation is heavily steeped in the ever-changing world of social media. Today’s customers are social-media savvy. The increasing importance of social media will compel marketers to rethink their reliance on demographic and geographic market segmentation approaches, dig deeper and consider myriad other factors including psychographics variables. The old way of segmenting markets simply won’t cut it. For companies who want to catch the global social media wave, getting a clear and highly detailed picture of their markets and more realistically segmenting them will be an on-going challenge. The trick is to  comprehensively understand the self-segmenting groups of users defined by their psychographic identity on the various social media platforms they participate.

References

Evans, D.C., Robertson, N., Lively, T., & Jacobson, L., Llamas-Cendon, M., Isaza, H., Rosenbalm, S., & Voigt, J. (2012). Facebook’s 8 fundamental hooks and 6 basic user types: A psychographic segmentation. The Four Peaks Review, 2, 36-54.

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Social Media Marketing Audit – Platform Operations: So You’re on Facebook?

I once met a small business owner who was keen on promoting his newly formed business, a café. He solicited a few suggestions from me and I was more than happy to provide some advise. I thought social media would be an excellent platform from which to begin with and I mentioned the idea of a few key platforms and suggested a few audits prior to engaging in social media. The audit would have given me a better picture of the state of readiness of his business to adopt social media platforms as its main marketing communications initiative.  However, to my surprise the café owner told me that their teenage daughter was going to do what I offered to do. I laughed, walked away, and never looked back. Just three months later I passed that same café and noticed it was closed on a weekday. I walked to the business next door to enquire about the café and sure enough they went under!

Social media for business is not a pastime. Yes, your son in College knows how to make a Twitter account, but so does my 6 year old nephew. Will either of these work great for your business? No!

Prior to engaging in social media including in Facebook, organisations will have to develop strategic blueprint that can guide their strategic initiatives in developing their organisation and brand. The social media audit is certainly an excellent tool to provide marketers with a snapshot of the current state of readiness of an organisation in using a social media platform in building brands. In this section, we’ll have a look some of the audit issues that might be of interest to marketers when assessing an organisation’s/ brand’s use of Facebook. 

1.    Assess the presence of the organisation/ brand on Facebook:

Is there an official or unofficial presence? Has it been thought through? Of course having a mere presence is not generally enough. To fully leverage the social revolution organisations need to maximise their presence with excellent, fully branded landing pages in Facebook and determine on how best to position the product in front of social visitors.

2.  Look for staff involvement with Facebook:

Many companies will have a poor presence while their staff have an active personal profile on Facebook. A review of staff involvement in Facebook might provide the organisation with a list of candidates best suited to advocate the organisation’s brand on the Facebook platform.

3. The profile of the organisation’s/ brand’s fan base on Facebook:

There is a need to analyse the demographics of fans that follow an organisation/ brand on facebook. This provides an idea if or not the communications initiatives pursued by the organisation/ brand reaches its intended target market/ audience.

4. Look to see how well the organisations/ brands  use Fan Pages:

Fan Pages provide powerful tools for developing a brand presence. While the amount of friends you have on the profile page is limited and capped at 5,000, Fan Page can have an infinite number of fans. This is probably one of the most important reason to use a Fan Page and not the profile page. Why would any organisation ever want to limit the amount of fans their brand can have?

5.  Integration to company or brand website:

How is Facebook being used to drive traffic to the main web presence? Most organisations, especially small business owners are aware that Facebook is a valuable tool for establishing a brand’s personality and engaging with customers. However, many administrators fall short of the next step of using their Facebook Page to drive traffic back to their main business hub – their organizational corporate website. One indication that the organisation is on the right track includes put the website in front and center with a custom tab that either directs visitors to the corporate website  showcasing the site right there in Facebook.

6.  Record numbers of fans:

Make a note of the current numbers of fans. The larger the number of fan base the more the chances of customers or prospects engaging with the brand. This contributes to customer equity and ultimately to brand equity.

7. The Frequency and Recency of  the organisation’s Facebook updated:

Make a note of the date when an update was made to the page (Recency) and the number of times in a day, week or Month the page was updated (frequency). This indicates a healthy engagement level between the brand owners and the target audience.

8. Specific Facebook apps or automation:

List any evidence of the use of apps by the organisation/ brand. Is the right combination of apps being adopted? Apps are now available by industry verticals.

 

Love to hear form my readers of any other issues from a marketing perspective that is worth looking at in completing a social media marketing audit on Facebook.

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Social Media Marketing Audit

In the clutter of today’s social marketing landscape, it can be rather overwhelming for organisations and brands transitioning from a culture of maintaining a sole presence in traditional media to developing a hybrid communication strategy by including social media in the marketing communications mix.

All too often companies fall into the Facebook/Twitter/blog bandwagon with a striking absence of proper research, strategy, and a lack of clearly defined objectives supporting the decision to establish a marketing presence in the social media space. As a marketer tasked with the responsibility to successfully make the critical transition for organisations and brands from mainstream media to establishing a strategic social media presence, you probably have more questions than answers, such as:

  • Yes, engaging in the social media space seems the way forward, but where do I begin?
  • What are our competitors doing?
  • If we’re going social, who in our organisation is going to be in the driver’s seat? Who are our internal ‘champions’?
  • Where do I find most of our customers or prospects in the social media landscape? Which social media platforms should I adopt? Which ones should I stay away from?
  • When we’ve found these customers and prospects in the social media space, how do I then engage with them?

If these are some of the questions that causes you to procrastinate in taking the next step to achieving a strategic presence in social media, then you’re not alone.

Marketers the world over are keen in adopting the right mix of social media platforms as part of their integrated marketing communications mix initiative in building the brands of tomorrow.

However, the above questions point to one pressing need. In order to overcome the procrastination organisations and brands will need to undertake a comprehensive social media audit.

Organisations and brands should conduct an initial, then annual social media audit to be successful in their endeavors to make that strategic leap into the social media space.

Just as brands conduct audits of inventory, employees, and budgets on an often annual basis, equal importance should be advocated to understanding the ever dynamic social media landscape and how the organisation and its brands will find that strategic fit in the social media space. Audits are key for identifying priorities, benchmarking previous efforts, and planning for future efforts; the same applies for social media. I’ve been reviewing social media strategy documents from a variety of large brands, and I’ve noticed the following issues to be necessary parts of a comprehensive social media audit:

  1. Digital Presence – The degree to which the organisation and/or the brand maintains a presence in the following digital spaces:
    • Website
    • Campaign microsites
    • Separate Blog or blogs
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Youtube
    • LinkedIn
    • Other social platforms (list)

Comment: The purpose here is to establish a benchmark for the work done so far in establishing a web and social media presence. An effective site, for example, should be supported by other channels. With over 350 social media platforms on offer in the clutter of the  social media landscape, it is worth focusing at this stage on only the major players.

 2. Goals for social media

    • Strengths and weaknesses of current web presence
    • Social media goals – e.g. brand awareness, brand engagement, purchase inducement, etc.
    • The organisations/ brands that could be used as a benchmarks in measuring social media/digital strategy success (Note: This may include companies from the current industry such as direct competitors including market leaders or orgnisations/brands from other industries)
    • The person(s) tasked with the responsibility for social media in the organisation?
    • The person(s) tasked with the responsibility for social media in the organisation?
    • Social media metrics – the measurements methods in place to gauge the social media initiatives in the organisation (Note: This may include measurements such as Interaction / Consumer Behaviour metric, activity metrics and Return/ Business Outcome metrics)
    • The tools that are in place to help with this measurement (Note: This may include software applications both paid or free, used in the generation of social media metrics)

3.  Organisation Culture and Policies for Social media 

  • The reactions of senior staff to tools like Twitter and Facebook
  • The degree to which an organisational culture exist that allows staff to access social media during the working day?
  • What is the policy in place to help the company deal with adverse comment and discussion on social media sites now?

Comments: These questions are all aimed at assessing the current state of social media readiness of the organization. Without the commitment from senior staff any attempts to improve the company’s digital strategy are likely to prove futile.

The answers to these questions will also indicate if or not social media marketing in the organization is merely about getting onboard the social media bandwagon by “having a Facebook account”.

An organization with a much more entrenched social media initiative or a sincere commitment to social media marketing is likely to have linked their social media platform presence to their integrated marketing communication strategy including, advertising, sales promotions, PR, email and current analytics activities. 

4. Understanding major competitors’ social media presence

Direct competitors’ social media presence across the major social media platforms need to be identified and reflected upon. Their presence on specific social media platforms need to be explained to determine if the social media strategy pursued is effective:

  1. Website
  2. Campaign microsites
  3. Separate Blog or blogs
  4. Facebook
  5. Twitter
  6. Youtube
  7. LinkedIn
  8. Other social platforms (list)

Comment: The social media platform mix selected by competitors will help establish benchmarks and goals for the organisation and its brand(s). The competitors’ presence in specific social media platforms could also serve to indicate that the target market relevant to the organisation/ brand is most likely to be found in these platforms. However, care must be taken to further identify and understand the demographic profiles of the followers of each major platform analysed.

Love to hear your tips, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid in the comments when it comes to developing and conducting a social media marketing audit.


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