PR-Squared's Social Media Tactics Series: Reaching the Spectators

ForresterBack in April 2007, Charlene Li of Forrester Research published a paper on “Social Technographics.”  In the paper, Forrester defined consumers by their levels of participation in Social Media channels.  The rungs of this stepladder-of-participation ranged from “Creators” (e.g., bloggers, video uploaders, etc.) to “Inactives” (this somnambulent sector represents over 50% of Internet users!). 

One step up from the Inactives were the “Spectators.” 

According to Li, Spectators may read blogs, watch YouTube videos, etc., but they don’t go so far as to join social networking sites.  They seem to be indiscriminate consumers, in the sense that they recognize some value from peer-generated content.

A good deal of modern marketers’ efforts tend to target Creators, in the hopes that their content (and ensuing buzz) will reach their true audience, the Spectators.  Creators are viewed as the influencers of the Spectators.  That’s often true. 

But …

How do you reach the Spectators when there are no relevant or interested Creators to reach out to, i.e., in a “neglected” market?

For example:  The Baby Boomers are now reaching retirement age.  That means that the WWII generation is now entering its twilight. And that means that plenty of Boomers are going to be “stuck” caring for their own children as well as their elder parents, with increasing frequency.  According to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, between 2007 and 2015, the number of Americans ages 85 and older is expected to increase by 40 percent, and by 2020, 12 million older Americans will need long-term health care.

IStock_000003335817XSmallThe people most affected by these trends are already desperate for solace and counsel, and their numbers will only grow.  But, most are Spectators.  Where can they go?  The thriving community at a site like Eons is tiny compared to the larger need; besides, Spectators don’t join socnets. 

While there are some good resources available online, virtually all are currently static, “1.0” sites that will only be found via a typical Google search.  Even where message boards are available, they tend to be scattershot, redundant, and/or the “authority” of the moderators is questionable. 

Meanwhile, the blogosphere appears to be very quiet on these issues.  (Why?  Cuz the folks facing these challenges are Spectators!  They are looking for content, not creating it.)

There is a major opportunity for a large healthcare provider, insurance agency, nursing home syndicate, etc., to create compelling, interactive, ongoing content that addresses this need.  Imagine the Thought Leadership potential for a brand that gets this right, just as the challenge is bearing down on an entire generation?

That doesn’t mean “create a new social network.”  Again: the Spectators don’t join social networks!

So how do you reach the Spectators?

  • Find out where the Spectators are getting their information (and solace) today.
  • Evaluate the quality of available content, resources, and interactivity.  Can you do better?
  • Conduct an SEO Analysis – what keywords are being used most often?  Where do those links lead?  What kinds of questions are being asked, and how do you assess the quality of the answers (via Google and in those few relevant landing sites)?
  • Start developing superior content and place it where Spectators are already congregating (singly and in groups). 
    • For example: how about a YouTube page filled with 90–second “helpful tips” videos, on issues such as, “talking to your kids about ‘why Grandma is moving in,’” and, “how to convince your elderly parent that it’s time to hand over the car keys.” 
    • YouTube is a GOOG property and ranks high in the algorithms, so a Spectator’s desperate search for answers on “Assisted Living,” “Home Healthcare,” etc., could quickly lead them to a branded YouTube channel.  
  • Further syndicate the content by offering it to the online versions of mainstream media sites (in this case,, etc.); to any bloggers who do start tackling the eldercare issues; and via Social Media Releases.
  • Start a blog that showcases these content assets.  Become the advocate, the expert.  Provide the best-of-the-web (pictures, advice, stories, links) so that the Spectators who find the blog know that they need look no further for both content and a relevant, supportive community.

I’ve dreamed up a pretty specific example here, but I think the principles are sound in any niche where you need to influence the Spectators.  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences…

Posted on: February 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm By Todd Defren
One Response to “PR-Squared's Social Media Tactics Series: Reaching the Spectators”


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