The Social Technographic Profile

Hello everyone, last week I touched on an article outlining the advantages and obstacles that come with using social media to attract customers, partnerships, talent, etc. This week I want to look at tools available for those that want to take advantage of the opportunities of social media. I’ve been reading a book titled, Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. While I’m not completely through the book yet (I’ll keep you updated as to my opinions throughout), I wanted to share my thoughts on the Social Technographic Profile discussed. To help you guys along, let’s take a look at what the groundswell is defined as in the book,

A social trend in which people use technology to get things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.
– Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 9

Essentially it’s the online movement that often cannot be contained, but as I presented last week, it can be used as an opportunity. But to help utilize social media as an opportunity, the authors note a tool called the Social Technographics Profile (STP). This tool provides users a way to group people based on activities within the groundswell in which they participate.

The social technographics profile is a tool to allow people in business to examine and then create strategies based on the groundswell tendencies of any group of people, anywhere.
– Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg.41

Groups within the groundswell differ in many different categories. People can interact differently based on geographic locations – social media activities in South Korea may differ from activities in Canada. Activities can differ based on consumer needs, as authors note shoppers at Target may be looking for something different than shoppers at Radioshack. The STP has grouped users into seven groups, let’s break them down and you can see where you may fit in within the profile.

  1. Creators – These are the users who actively create content online. Content can range from blogs, web pages, video creators, to music artists uploading a new song. These users can have a large impact especially on spectators, which will be discussed below.
  2. Conversationalists – Users who update their status, post tweets, and participate in back-and-forth discussions at least weekly.
  3. Critics – These users react to others online content. The group mainly consists of commenters on blogs, and those who participate in rating and review sites like Yelp or Rotten Tomatoes.
  4. Collectors – Collectors use social bookmarking services to save and collect URL’s and tags. Users participate in voting for sites on services like Digg.
  5. Joiners – These users participate in social networking sites and maintain profiles but provide little interaction and instead spend time visiting sites.
  6. Spectators – Spectators consumer what others create online. This group accounts for the largest percentage of online users in the U.S. These users read blogs, watch videos, read through comments and ratings posted, and follow along forum boards.
  7. Inactives – the non-participants. I know, shocking to think some people are completely untouched by social technologies but alas, it is true.
    (Bernoff & Li, 2011)

So while you may be able to strategize what social media platforms can help relate to your target market, the use of the STP can now identify where your target market sits within these seven groups. If you know your group is largely spectators, a company may want to provide comment boards or forums to allow participation. If as a company you rely on critics’ participation, creation of a rating service may be useful.

Recruiters needs clearly vary by where you work, and what the needs are for the company. But if you’re talent sourcing for a Canadian technology company looking for up-and-coming talent with fresh, entrepreneurial spirit you may be interested in young adults entering the workforce out of post-secondary schooling. Looking at a target market of ages 18-24 available in Canada, the STP profile looks like this:

Social Technographic Profile - Forrester, 2015
Social Technographic Profile – Forrester, 2015

Based on the results, we can see the participants are largely joiners and spectators. However, it’s also important that when compared with other age markets, ages 18-24 has the highest percentage of creators (which may be ideal candidates), and the lowest percentage of inactives, meaning that a very large percentage of your target market can be reached via online communication. Platforms such as Facebook and Youtube may be used to post updates and/or videos potential candidates can view and learn from. Placing importance on creating content online to reach the spectators can aid in bringing talent to your company. The authors of Groundswell note that the desire to connect, to create, to stay in touch, and to help each other – are universal (Bernoff & Li, p.49). These desires lead to the online movement that is now an opportunity for users and businesses alike.

So where do you fit in within the STP’s seven groups? Do you see the social technographics profile as a useful tool? Leave a comment below and let me know!


Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard.

Forrester Research Inc. (2012). What’s the social technographics profile of your customers? Empowered. Retrieved from here

Featured Image – Social technographic ladder (2015). Retrieved from here


2 thoughts on “The Social Technographic Profile

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