Everyone is talking about harnessing the power of social networks to further brand messages. But the key element in successfully using social media is not identifying the social network’s tools of communication, but rather understanding how people use the network.All social networks, be it facebook, myspace, youtube or twitter, are built upon the population’s contributions and interactions. If there is no one watching or participating, there is no interaction or content generation and hence no value to the site.
There are very different levels of interaction with social media. Knowing these five distinct levels of participation will help you determine where your target audience is located in the social media space.
- Non-Active Users Group: A population of your target audience that might not know or have visited any social networking sites. For example: The user might not know Youtube is a website to broadcast himself, that myspace.com is a place to share the latest gossip, thoughts, personal photos, and status with friends, or on the most basic level, he might not even know what blog (web-log) means.
- Visitors Group: A group that knows some social networking sites or blogs, but hasn’t really interacted with them in any significant way, except watching videos or reading a blog randomly. An example would be a visitor who viewed several viral videos on Youtube or read a few articles on your blog randomly but hasn’t registered. For marketers, much of their target audience is located at this ladder.
- Participants Group: Those who are registered on some social networking sites but still stick with the basics of these platforms– i.e. user is registered on Facebook, has filled out his profile and uploaded some personal photos of yesterdays’ party, but that’s it.
- Active Users Group: Those who actively participate on one or more social networking sites by being active members of networks– i.e. user might have commented on some videos on Youtube.com, has written on friends’ walls, and participated frequently in discussions on some blogs and forums.
- Content Providers Group: This would be the highest wrung of the ladder of social network users that a social media campaign would cater to aggressively. This population actively participates on social networking sites by providing content and exploiting their networks fully, i.e. he/she might have a personal blog, be it on wordpress/blogger or its independent domain; created or moderated some Google/Facebook Groups, and started a channel for his/her own videos on Youtube.com to share with people.
Once you have identified which of these levels your target market is at, you can move on to the next step which is identifying which social networking sites your target audience, competitors, and complementary businesses are using. If you manage to target your tactical social marketing campaign properly, social media can prove to be a powerful PR tool.