The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.
Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:
What did we find this year? In 2016, the average US online adult receives an overall score of 40 and fits into our Social Savvies category. Social Savvies consider social tools a part of their everyday lives. On average, US online adults score highly for explore and discover— they use social tools to discover new products and also to explore them when they’re considering their purchases. Compared to last year, US consumers are slightly more social media savvy in 2016: The Social Technographics Score for the average US online adult has increased from 37 in 2015 to 40 in 2016.
Forrester’s POST methodology for social marketing success dictates four steps:
Often, marketers lead with T, but they need to start with P. The $64,000 question about People is not whether customers use social media, but rather if they want to engage with brands on social media at all, and if so, how. That’s right, the first and most important question is not whether your competitors are on social media or if the latest social network has the coolest ad format; it’s what your customers want from your brand. Marketers need to know this to guide how (or if) they add social to their overall marketing strategy.
There’s little doubt that we are living in a “selfie” culture. The once-mundane activities of exercising at the gym, driving to work, or simply making coffee are now social spectacles that win attention and, in some cases, profit. This impulse to share daily tasks begs us to rethink the meaning of “personal” – and now consumers have even begun to expose sensitive information like their financial behaviors.
Today's channels that bridge social connections are increasingly playing into consumers’ personal financial management tactics. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data shows that the number of US online adults logging into their financial accounts through social media has more than tripled in the past two years. In fact, more consumers are turning to both social channels and their cameras to forge closer interactions with financial services providers overall:
An agency head told me how he was on a call between the European head of marketing for a US brand and that brand’s board of directors. The chairman asked the marketing honcho, “How is the European market?” The marketer answered, “There isn’t one.” Awkward silence. “That is, there is no European market. There is a French market. A German market. A British one. And so on. I can tell you about those.”
In no other sphere of marketing are these national differences magnified more than in social media. Social media is, by its nature, participatory and thus takes on the form, tone, and color of its users. Social media in Germany is German social media. In France, French social media.
Then brands enter the picture. That social media strategy hatched in Dallas or Dublin, with a sum earmarked for translations, will not cut it.
Three reasons cookie-cutter strategies will fail in Europe:
Europeans as a broad group are less likely to engage with brands on social media than, say, in the United States or metro Hong Kong.
Europeans’ usage differ significantly country to country; Italians usage is not comparable to German usage.
Each market boasts strong local players that excel at the intricacies of their market’s social media usage.
Creators sit at the top of Forrester’s Social Technographics® ladder: They are the consumers who write blogs and articles, upload self-created video and music, post photos, and maintain their own web pages. More than any other group, Creators are shaping the face of consumer content online. We recently published a report called “Exploring The Social Technographics® Ladder: Creators.” It shows that Creators are great advocates for the brands they like, and that they have, on average, many more friends and followers to share their opinions with than any other group.
However, what was really intriguing is how much they value feedback from companies and brands. Even more importantly, more Creators expect companies to respond to positive posts about products/services than to negative ones.
This is contrary to popular belief. In fact, there’s plenty of advice out there on what you should do in a crisis or how to respond to someone who’s posted a complaint. There’s not much advice on how to handle positive feedback, but in fact, it’s one of the best ways to trigger (and motivate) your brand advocates.
Last month George Colony, CEO of Forrester, talked about a “Social Thunderstorm” at the LeWeb conference in Paris. He argued that social is running out of hours and running out of people. What does that mean? Well, the second one is easy: The vast majority of consumers around the world who have access to a computer use social media. And the first one? George goes on to say that Americans are spending more time on social media than volunteering, praying, talking on the phone, emailing, or even exercising.
With so many people spending so much time on social media, it is crucial for companies to understand how their customers use social media. We just released our newest report, Social Media Adoption In 2011, which reveals the latest trends.
The report illustrates how consumers are using social media by applying our Social Technographics® global classification system. The graphic below illustrates this framework. We classify consumers into seven groups based on online activities, and consumers can fall into several different groups. Only Inactives are an exclusive group.
Since 2007, Forrester has been advising companies about how to use its POST— people, objectives, strategy, technology — methodology to develop social media strategies that help them engage with their audiences via social media. Since then, social media uptake has grown enormously, and brands now have a multitude of social platforms from which to choose. Before you decide which platforms to go with, do you actually know where your audience is in the social media world?
Even today, when social media usage is close to mainstream in the US, different target groups still show different behaviors. For example, when you want to target moms, you have to understand what makes them tick online.
Forrester’s Technographics data shows that the majority (71%) of US female Internet users are Joiners and Spectators. They maintain their profiles on social networking sites and actively consume shared content online. This shows that it is important for brands to have a website, a blog, videos on YouTube, and a social network presence. It is also important for brands to update the information on their website or social network profile regularly and make it both informative and entertaining.
This week, Forrester released the 'new and improved' Social Technographics. Over two years ago we introduced Social Technographics, a way to analyze your market's social technology behavior. In these years we've seen that with the rapid pace of technology adoption, the rungs on the ladder have shown steady growth, with some (like Joiners) growing faster than others (like Creators). In these years we have helped clients understand the social media uptake of their customers with data for 13 countries, and for various segments and brands. But, in the past year we did feel we missed out on something: Twitter.
As you can see from the graphic, we added a new rung, "Conversationalists". Conversationalists reflects two changes. First, it includes people who update their social network status to converse (both in Facebook as twitter). And second, we include only people who update at least weekly, since anything less than this isn't much of a conversation.