Corporate Eye

Are You Talking to the Right People about Your Brand Online?

ladderEvery company is trying to jump on the social media marketing bandwagon having finally realized that if your brand isn’t a topic of conversation on the social Web, then you’re missing a big opportunity to build brand awareness, recognition, purchases, and loyalty.  But are you talking to the right people about your brand online?  That’s the truly important question that you need to constantly monitor and re-evaluate to ensure your social media efforts aren’t for naught.

One of the first steps I always tell my social media marketing clients who are just getting started on the social Web is to take some time finding your best customers and prospects online.  Where are they already spending time on the social Web?  Once you find them, join the conversation and start hanging out with them just as you would if you were trying to build relationships and network in person.  Once you get on their radar screens and develop relationships with them, you can start pulling them over to your branded destination for more conversations.  They won’t seek you out or follow you until they know you and know what kind of value you bring to the online conversation.

There is a second part to finding people to talk to and build relationships with on the social Web that is often overlooked.  You also need to consider the roles each person that you connect with online plays in the larger online community.  Their roles should affect how you communicate with them.  I like the breakdown of social media personalities from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell to help understand online behaviors and how they can impact your communications strategy.  In their book, they identify the Social Technographics Ladder, which is broken down into six categories of people based on how they participate on the social Web as follows:

  1. Inactives: At the bottom of the ladder are inactives who do not participate on the social Web at all, meaning they don’t create or consume content of any kind.
  2. Spectators: Spectators consume content.  They read blogs, watch shared videos, listen to podcasts, and so on, but they don’t participate in an active way.  In other words, they are passive social Web participants.
  3. Joiners: Joiners have profiles on social networking sites but aren’t particularly active in using those profiles once they create them.
  4. Collectors: Collectors participate on the social Web by consuming content and adding modest additions to content created by other people.  For example, they read blog content by subscribing to RSS feeds and they participate in online polls and voting.
  5. Critics: Critics consume and create, but they do so in a reactionary way.  In other words, they comment on other people’s blogs, contribute to forums, edit wiki articles, and post reviews of services, all of which are fairly reactionary methods of participation.
  6. Creators: Creators are at the top of the social Web participation ladder.  They are the true content creators who write their own blogs, create their own Web sites, publish their own online videos, create podcasts, and so on.

When you look at the six behavioral personalities defined above, you can better understand how the roles people play online makes them more receptive to different types of messaging.  For example, Critics and Creators are the most powerful online influencers.  They are the most vocal online audience and they can help you spread your messages.  The information and conversation that you engage them with should be very different than your interactions with Spectators or Joiners.

People from every group could be customers and can learn about your brand from the social Web (even Inactives could indirectly hear about your brand offline from someone who heard about it via the social Web).  However, just as you modify your messages when you network and build relationships with people in person, you must do the same on the social Web.  In other words, do your research and know who the influencers are.  Only then can you effectively interact with them and other groups on the social Web.

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.