Loyalty management firm Aimia has published a new segmentation model that identifies six distinct social media personas into which consumers can be grouped, based upon the behavioural drivers of trust and control. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The model is detailed in a research brief entitled 'Staring at the Sun: Identifying, Understanding and Influencing Social Media Users', which argues that no single social media channel can deliver a complete picture of customer behaviour.

"Today's approach to social media measurement - that is, racing to rack up the most 'likes,' retweets, followers and recommendations - is the wrong approach," according to Doug Rozen, lead author of the report and SVP of communications, design & emerging technologies for Aimia. "Marketers must define success not by social media activity, but rather by customer value and engagement."

Many marketers still struggle to understand the true motivations and purchase intent behind their customers' social media activity, but proper social segmentation would allow them to more easily identify, understand and influence customers through social channels.

The report mapped the current landscape of social media usage, and outlined the differences between types of social media participation via six proprietary social media personas (based on the entire US adult population, aged 18 or older):

  1. No Shows (41% of US population)
    These are the least involved with social media, if at all; infrequently engage in online commerce.
  2. Newcomers (15%)
    These are passive users of a single social media network, primarily to enhance offline relationships.
  3. Onlookers (16%)
    These people observe others via social channels on a regular basis, but share almost no personal information.
  4. Cliquers (6%)
    These are active users of one network; influential among their small group of friends and family.
  5. Mix-n-Minglers (19%)
    These are people who regularly share and interact with a diverse group of connections via social media.
  6. Sparks (3%)
    These are the most active and deeply engaged users of social media; they will serve as enthusiastic online ambassadors for their favourite brands.

Aimia then mapped these personas against social brand-related activities: engagement in online commerce; the viewing and creation of online video; participation in flash sales or daily deals; writing of product and service reviews; interaction with brands, games, forums and blogs; and virtual check-ins to locations they visit. Interestingly, the more passive Onlookers are just as interested in flash sales and daily deals as the two most active personas (Mix-n-Minglers, and Sparks). In addition, Cliquers are just as likely as Sparks to play brand-sponsored games online.

Aimia's segmentation is constructed on a framework of behaviour based on the two primary emotional drivers of social media participation:

  1. Trust
    Trust is driven by consumers' ability to navigate social media, how much they trust friends and networks with personal information, and how much trust they place in the social networks themselves.
  2. Control
    Control correlates to the amount of information that consumers are willing to share, the number of connections they make, and the reputation they build online.

"Control equals exposure, and trust equals participation. The more control a consumer perceives over their social media activity, the more likely they are to engage with a wider variety of social media networks. The more trust a consumer places in social media networks and their connections, the more likely they are to actively participate," concluded Rozen.