Google is Old, Yahoo is Young, but Lifestyle is better determiner of social media usage

http://www.freefoto.com/images/04/19/04_19_23_prev.jpgJoel Cere’s headline, “Poor Young People Use Yahoo; Rich Old People Use Google,” in response to recently released research from Hitwise leads back to an issue I promised Beth Kanter I’d ponder this last weekend: lifestyle versus age when examining how people use social media.   This issue arose after Beth informally polled a group of teens about their social media usage.  Not one of them used Twitter, yet all used text messaging (SMS).  I’ve gotten into the “age” issue before, in my post on email is for old fogies.

Nonprofit Focus: Social media is “place” not “promotion”

As nonprofit marketers, the focus is not how to get people to use certain web 2.0 media.  It’s about creating “customer” loyalty and communicating the value of what you do—to the right people at the right place.  And, in the old lingo of marketing (product, price, promotion, place), the right social media becomes “place”  rather than what we might think of as “promotion.”

Age, Influence Groups

Yes, age is one demographic we can’t overlook when trying to understand where to reach new volunteers, donors and advocates for nonprofits.  But as I noted on Beth’s blog, “influence groups” are an important determiner of consumer behavior: 

“I know my late adoption of Facebook (or MySpace) was influenced by who I saw using it: teens in my classes and how they were using it (for hooking up).

Really, we’re talking consumer behavior, and the myriad of reference groups that influence behavior. Friendship groups, work groups, virtual communities, advocacy groups—they all influence behavior.”

Even though maintaining friends is a fundamental drive for teens, they may still feel more grounded in face-to-face contact for those times when they want validation (although there is also a role for anonymity in expressing yourself). And, there may be an avoidance to Twitter, given the “watchdog” aspect (given the proliferation of “helicopter parents,” how do you say “no” to a parent who wants to “follow” you?).

Bigger Picture: Lifestyle

An individual’s pattern of living might be even more important to nonprofit marketers.  It also explains why some people over 50 seem to be heavy users of new technology when younger folks are not.  A Pearson marketing textbook I use by Armstrong and Kotler references Forrester Research Inc.’s framework for looking at consumer adoption of online technolgoy.  Forrester has a well-developed “Technographics©” series of research data that looks at how to segment consumers in a variety of ways.  In 2005, they developed 10 categories that segmented tech users including (this quote from text) :

  • Fast Forwards (biggest spenders on tech. Time-strapped, driven, top users).
  • New Age Nurturers (big spenders too, but more of a focus on home use, whether for education or entertainment)
  • Mouse Potatoes (those dedicated to interactive entertainment)
  • Techno-strivers (career advancement oriented use of technology)
  • Traditionalists (small-town folks, suspicious of technology beyond the basics)

Looking at the landscape of social media and users in these terms makes a lot of sense.  For nonprofits to build relationships, we need to be in the right place.  But where that is depends upon who we are trying to reach. 

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