Today, our guest post comes from Peter Gold, the CEO of Veraquest. His broad range of research experience lends itself particularly well to the world of omnibus research where clients tend to have an extremely diverse set of needs. Peter’s background as a practice leader has enabled him to develop a business model that is rich in client-centric benefits while simultaneously being very cost-effective. Peter earned a BSBA from the University of Florida and holds an MBA from Boston College. His company, VeraQuest is a Sponsor at this year’s The Market Research Event.
Stating the obvious these days, the social media personalities of your key audiences have become as critical to marketing and sales as standard demographics are. As discussed in many a blog post (including one of ours entitled Game Changer from May 5th, 2011), there has been a lot of research to date that describes how often adults use social media, but we here at VeraQuest are equally interested in the how.
Recently, we conducted a study to begin to uncover the kinds of personalities and interactions people have in the social media-universe. Our inspiration was a white paper written by one of our partners, the Council of Public Relations Firms. The paper served as the springboard for designing our questionnaire, though different than the Council, we aimed to segment the social media world into 5 broad ‘ but mutually exclusive ‘ categories.
Where do you fall on the continuum below from Architect to Bystander? [Please note that we have taken some creative license with the specific activities included in each definition.]
- ‘The Architects (about 21% of online adults): You land in this group if you are on the Internet constantly, routinely drafting original content by either posting your own blog entries or commenting or critiquing others. We guess that your home page opens up to Facebook; you update your status every time your cat successfully takes her medicine; and you post photos of your vacations before you even unpack. This group is more heavily female and so by extension more likely to be homemakers and have kids under 18 in the household. The Architects also tend to be younger ages 18-40 (especially Gen Yers ages 18-29) so not surprisingly they are also more likely to be students and have household incomes under $25K. Also interesting, this group has a higher percentage of Hispanic adults, those who have not yet attended college, and those who are unemployed. So it appears the defining feature here may be that the Architects as a group tend to have more time on their hands.
- ‘The Creators (about 24% of online adults): You are a member of this group if you love but are not daily-obsessed with the online world (like the Architects are). You are comfortable creating your own original content and posting it on the Internet, but you don’t necessarily do so every day, only if you are truly inspired or if the mood strikes you. Perhaps you’ve already commented about how that guy on American Idol was totally robbed of his one shot at super-stardom; or perhaps you wrote in to your local online news-mag to complain about environmental waste. This group is also younger (ages 18-39), however not quite as young as the Architects, and appears to have more students and single adults than the three other groups do. However, different than the Architects, the Creators are more likely to have a college degree.
- ‘The Correspondents (About 19% of online adults): You know who you are because you don’t put up any original content of your own on the web, but you willingly (happily?) forward to anyone you have ever met that hilarious joke about ‘the big 6-0′ ‘ or ‘ the youtube video of the guy sinking the amazing basketball dunks ‘ or ‘ the detailed info about the charity race in town. And you store anything you find on the web that seems even somewhat appealing because you never know, you just might want to use it some day. This group is more likely to be female and older (ages 50+), and therefore unsurprisingly, less likely to have kids under 18 in the household. Also of note, the Correspondents are more likely to have graduated from college, to have incomes exceeding $100K and to be married.
- ‘The Spectators (About 14% of online adults): You know this is you if you signed up for Facebook eons ago but the photos of your now-pre-teen kids still show them wearing floaties in the swimming pool and getting off the bus on their first day of kindergarten. You are happy to view content on the Web but it’s not your style to regularly post any of your own or even to forward someone else’s. You would never dare to comment on another person’s blog or wall or status, perhaps because you are too busy or perhaps because you fear being criticized right back. The Spectators are more heavily male than the other groups are and also more likely to be in an older age bracket (i.e., 50+). As such, they are less likely to have kids under 18 in the household and more likely to be retired. Like the Correspondents, they are more likely to have graduated college and to be married.
- ‘The Bystanders (About 22% of online adults): You fit into this group if social media isn’t your main or even secondary way of staying in contact with the outside world. You spend some time online but Facebook is alien to you; you say Twittering; and you still get your news from an actual newspaper. This group is more likely to be ages 50+, and by extension be retired and not have kids under 18 in the household. Also of note, this group has a higher percentage of adults who have not attended college, are African-American and/or have incomes less than $25K. The Bystanders are also less likely to live in the Northeast.
However, what we find most interesting about this continuum is not the demographic but the psychographic profiles of these categories. As online adults become more active in the social media-sphere and move along from Bystanders to Architects, they appear to have a more positive attitude about the impact social media has had on the world. And personally, they are much more likely to say they are well-informed about the world and current events; express general happiness about their life; and feel strongly connected to their community.