We firmly believe that the first step in building a successful social program is to understand your audience’s social behaviors and preferences.

Since 2007, Forrester’s Social Technographics® ladder has helped marketers understand how social their audiences are, and in which social behaviors those audiences engage. But social media adoption has matured, and today the vast majority of online users engage with social tools. For marketers, the question is no longer whether their customers use social media, but rather how best to use social media to interact with those customers.

So we decided it was time to develop a new framework to help marketers analyze people’s evolving social behaviors and benefit from this evolution. Today, Forrester is introducing a new model — called the Social Technographics Score — that:

  • Focuses on commercial social behaviors. Many surveys reveal the social behaviors in which audiences engage but make no distinction between peoples’ social interactions with friends and their social interactions with companies. In contrast, our new Social Technographics Score is based on how audiences interact with and talk about companies, brands, and products.
  • Helps marketers choose among social strategies. Most models for evaluating audiences’ social usage tell marketers about their customers’ behaviors but don’t tell marketers what to do in response to those behaviors. In contrast, our new Social Technographics Score measures where in the customer life cycle audiences are most likely to use social tools.

How can the Social Technographics Score help you plan a successful social strategy? It works in two stages:

  • The overall score tells you whether social is important to your marketing plan. This number — from 0 to 100 — tells you not just how actively your audience uses social tools but also how important those tools are within their customer life cycle and how willingly they engage with brands in social media. If your audience scores high — if they fit into our ‘Social Stars’ category — it’s time to make social a centerpiece of your marketing efforts. If your audience scores in the middle range — if they’re ‘Social Savvies’ or ‘Social Snackers’ — social should serve as support tools within your marketing plans. And if your audience scores low — ‘Social Skippers’ — you should put as few resources into social media as possible: Other channels will prove much more likely to drive marketing success.
  • The discover, explore and engage factors tell you where social is important to your plan. Once you’ve decided how heavily social will feature in your marketing plan, you’ll still need to know what types of social interactions your audiences are looking for. If your audience’s discover factor is highest, you have their permission to use social reach strategies like word-of-mouth marketing; if their explore factor is highest, that’s an invitation to pursue social depth strategies like adding communities and ratings to your site; and if their engage factor is highest, you’re welcome to use social relationship strategies like branded Facebook and Twitter accounts. (For more information on how we define social reach and depth and relationship strategies, see our video.)

So how does this work in practice? Well, here’s the Social Technographics Score for US online adults:

The Forrester Social Technographics Score

As you can see, US online adults receive an overall score of 29. That means the average online American fits into our ‘Social Snackers’ category — they don’t shy away from social interactions with brands and companies, but neither do they frequently seek out such interactions. Marketers targeting this audience should treat social tools as a secondary, rather than a primary, part of their marketing plan.

And what kind of social strategies should you use when targeting this audience? You can see that US online adults score highest for the explore factor — meaning they’re most likely to seek out social tools when they’re exploring products and considering their purchases. Any social programs specifically designed to help prospects explore (such as putting ratings and reviews on your own web site) would be effective for this audience.

Of course, that’s just the general online population in the US. When we study different audiences, we see large variations in both audiences’ overall scores and how their discover, explore, and engage factors rank. Forrester can provide Social Technographics Scores for hundreds of different audiences in almost two dozen countries around the world — drop us a line to find out how.