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Friday, 8 March 2013

Why qualitative profiling of social media users is important

Twitter users are not representative of the general public. It would also be accurate to say that the profile of a regular Twitter user is very different from that of the regular Facebook user. Even in USA, one of the largest markets for the micro-blogging platform, only 13% of adults had ever used Twitter, while only 3% said that they regularly tweet or re-tweet news, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2012. Research further shows that the climate of opinion on Twitter varies a lot from that in mass media, and is not even internally consistent - the same Twitter audience can display conservatism on certain topics and liberality on others.

Rather than thinking of Twitter (and by extension, any social media platform) purely as a media vehicle to reach X number of consumers, it would help to think of it as a separate planet. A planet populated by a bunch of people with their own views, passions and life interests. A bunch of people who are not your brand customers, may not be at all interested in your brand, and have their own quirks of behaviour. In other words, treat them as a fresh consumer segment.

The beauty of social media is that it lets us reach out and engage beyond just our customers - with potential users, competition users, non-users and even detractors. Once we remove the filter of consumption of your brand or product  - then we are basically just talking to people.

In this context, it becomes very important for marketers and brand custodians to understand the qualitative profile, attitudes, life interests and beliefs of their social media users. This enables us to better define and create content that is likely to appeal to them. A more hit and miss approach based on what got most vs. least likes may miss the point and may not keep us ahead of the curve to stay relevant to our customers.

A simple qualitative profiling of your social media users, combining questioning with scanning their Facebook wall and feeds, can yield a very rich user understanding that fuels content creation. We think everyone needs to understand the users behind the numbers.