In my class of Qualitative Research, we were assigned an interview task to conduct an interview with someone, who we do not know well, about his or her personal usage of social networking websites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. For students, like me, in Marketing major, we need to interview the person from a marketing point of view.
Being an active social media user, I of course posted a message in my Facebook status looking for someone to interview for my assignment. Quickly, my friend in Facebook connected me with his friend who is an owner of an IT consulting firm, so I accomplished my assignment easily and satisfactorily.
It was a very interesting moment when every student of the class met yesterday and reported out their interview result. The purpose this exercise is to learn conducting interview for our future qualitative research. There were frustrations, disappointment, and satisfaction (like my case) among our five students. Not to mention our learning for improvements from this simple assignment, I found there are at least four entirely different social media users identified among a case of mere five interviews .
1. Mature user
My interviewee is a mature user. He uses every social media tool: Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare, etc., and knows the boundaries and limits. He also understands the power of social media and leverages its power to market his own business. He has many family members in his Facebook friend’s list and he uses Facebook to update them with any important status as a way to keep his family members informed. He selectively likes fan pages, only when he feels the fan pages can bring him useful information. He also uses those Facebook Ads when he is in the market looking for something, such as getting some fishing tools for his fishing hobby. He also uses LinkedIn, but as a tool to open the door for his professional network. He still believes that nothing can replace face to face meetings and handshakes. He also uses Foursqure. As a matter of fact, he enjoys those promotions by checking in Foursquare. Being an active social media user, he also started being the social media champion for his own business, and uses social media to get referrals from his friends. However, he knows very well the limitation for personal usage of social media, which means no crazy comments or outrageous photos which will damage his image. Marketers will love this type of mature social media user. They are not afraid of social media; they know what they are looking for and at the same time enjoy the benefits brought by social media.
2. Selective user
Selective users will only use heavily one type of media which is a benefit for their professional image or career. They have a Facebook account but barely use it at all. They do not feel updating status in Facebook is a good way to connect with their friends. They consider Facebook as a youngster’s toy and actually despise it in some way. They feel using Facebook-type social media is wasting their time. However, they do not hesitate to invest significant amount of time in professional social media sites such as LinkedIn. They use LinkedIn to build their professional network. They check their connection’s connection and expand their network through connections. They invest their time and efforts in LinkedIn groups by joining group discussions, as a way to build their professional reputation. They also use LinkedIn to connect with HR and use it to identify talents. This type of users is normally at a higher position in an organization or seeking the opportunities to build their professional business or career network. Their goal of using social media is to enhance their professional image not their personal image. Selective users can be quite difficult to target by consumer goods marketers because the marketers can hardly know what their true personal flavors are in terms of goods and services. But they can be great customers for business to business marketers.
3. Social user
I will say that social users are the majority of social media users. Social Users use social media because it’s convenient to connect with their friends, not necessarily their family members. They use social media also because their friends are using it. They spend significant time every day on social media websites to chat with their friends, to look around their friend’s status, and to comment on the status. They might post every single photo showing their day to day life even though some of them might not be considered as “safe” from a professional image point of view. But they show their true personality in social media so marketers can easily target them as their potential customers. However, they might not be the best consumers to the marketer. They might shop around, costing a lot of Ad expense of the marketers, but not necessary convert to a real purchase in the end.
4. Withdrawn user
Marketers will have no way to connect the withdrawn users through social media. They might have had a social media account in the past, but some incident happened to them in which they were perhaps embarrassed or hurt by other user on these social media sites. As a result, they totally withdrew themselves from social media, especially Facebook, closed their account and never tried social media again. Their negative attitude towards social media might stay with them forever. Marketers will not be able to find those users through social media so they will need to use traditional marketing channels to reach those former users.
Without further researching if there is a similar theory existing in the market, which by the way is absolutely not recommended for any academic research but forgivable for my quick blog writeup, I summarize this analysis purely out of the discussion from my class interview assignment. I am very surprised to see that we can easily identify four types of social media users out of five interviews. I believe a solid deep research will further develop and establish a profound social media user profile. The users with different profile use social media in different ways with diverse social or professional behaviors, and react or interact with social media marketing approach at different levels. For social media marketers, there will be a huge marketing opportunity by utilizing social media user profile, to establish their social media marketing strategy applicable to their products and services, and to allocate their marketing efforts and resources wisely for different users. By then social media marketing will not be an abstract concept anymore.
(P.S. thanks again to Zac for his proof reading and improvement suggestion for the blog. )