If someone had stuffed me into the trunk of a car and driven to a remote location in the  Sierras, I could not have been more out of touch with the outside world than I was for a good chunk of the last week. As I mentioned earlier, I had two major projects to do on a short deadline, with barely enough time to finish them. Practically all other priorities went out the window, including (sadly) blogging and podcasting.

One of the projects covered exactly the same topic as a recent post, "Beware of the naked man," about differences in social media behavior across different demographic segments. The client wanted us to profile the same roles in different industries. Where did they go in Social Media Land, and what were they doing there?

The results from this study put these differences in stark detail. I can't talk about the specific roles and professions from this research project, but I can give an unrelated (and fairly obvious) example. If you were to look at doctors and college seniors, you'd see major differences, not only in where they go (forums, social networking sites, etc.), but what they do while they're at this locations. In this kind of research, we combine the social media behavior profiles (official name: Social Technographics) constructed from surveys with follow-on research about the specific locations and activities. Doing this kind of research is no small amount of work, which is why I was pretty busy this week.

These demographic differences are often the culprit behind Social Media Disappointment Synrdome (SMDS). Sufferers of SMDS have created some company-sponsored social media outlet, such as a CEO blog or technical forum,  and then waited for people to show up…and waited…and waited…Of course, the source of SMDS, in many of these cases, is the lack of motivation for anyone to participate in these social media.

All of which shows why our social media methodologies–the larger POST strategy for the entire company, and the PLOT approach designed for inbound activities–make the technology an enabling detail, not the starting point of the strategy. Social media don't connect people; people connect people. Social media are just a powerful technology for making these connections. The contours and content of a particular social media outlet must be appropriate for the type of connections these people want to create.

Forrester colleague Oliver Young recently noted how the term Web 2.0 has quickly fallen out of fashion. That's probably a good thing, since Web 2.0 has more of a technological connotation than social media does. A small semantic difference—one phrase starts with Web, and the other with social—reflects a profound insight into who's using these new technologies, and why.

[Cross-posted at The Heretech.]