The folks within Forrester Research’s Groundswell team have done an amazing job of describing the “social technographic” profiles of Internet users, slotting users into categories such as Joiners, Spectators, etc. I frequently turn to their research as a reality check.
However, for my purposes in PR, even simpler definitions can often apply. I tend to think of our clients’ “target audiences” in terms of Passionates, Influencers and Ad-Hocs.
Passionates are people who care deeply about topics that are too niche to impact the mainstream zeitgeist. But within those areas of interest, they are acknowledged, respected, and taken seriously — even if their audiences are relatively small. These are often “the original bloggers.” Folks who care enough to create.
Influencers are people who have large groups of followers, across different online strata. They almost always started out as Passionates but have “crossed over” into a more mainstream role. They are the tastemakers. Sometimes they are part of the modern media but this is actually fairly rare. The authority that an Influencer gained (while still a Passionate) has eclipsed traditional media’s credibility.
Ad-Hocs are everyday folks. They deserve attention, too — though that is very hard to scale. By being patient and proactive with as many folks as possible, a brand marketer gains grassroots respect that is eventually noticed by bigger fish. (By contrast, when you only pay attention to a select group, that gets noticed, too. In a bad way.)
If you try to cross-reference these three user types against Forrester’s definitions, you realize that most all are Creators, Critics and Joiners. Some Ad-Hocs no doubt normally fall into the Spectator category but some event has caused them to make the leap into creation/criticism (otherwise, we’d never know about them).
It’s relatively simple, from a technological standpoint, to determine who is a Passionate, an Influencer or an Ad-Hoc.
First of all, 95% of the online population are Ad-Hocs. Jane & Joe Mouseclick. The Influencers, of course, are already well known. The Passionates are a li’l trickier to track down, but tools ranging from Technorati to Radian6, etc., can simplify the process. Just takes time and manpower. A worthwhile endeavor.
From a PROCESS standpoint — well, every case is different but we typically counsel clients to:
a) Pay attention to the Ad-Hocs immediately, ubiquitously, forever;
b) Seek out and engage the Passionates; then, when you’re ready,
c) Approach the Influencers.
The Ad-Hocs should be buzzing about you in a nice way to give you the street cred to say hello to the Passionates — who are particularly wary of marketers. Win them over and you’ll have staunch defenders online, as well as a better-defined path to the Influencer communities.
This greatly simplifies the approach, of course, but as a basic tenet of outreach it holds up well.
What do you think? Too darned simple? Got a better way to describe the approach? Got a better graphic you’ve been using? Lemme hear from you!
Posted on: May 13, 2009 at 9:15 am By Todd Defren