Whether it’s a company blog, a Facebook fan page, a busy Twitter account or a group on LinkedIn, social marketing gives businesses new ways to engage with customers. Personal blogs created by everyone from avid runners to concerned citizens routinely comment on products or services. There’s also a growing number of forums that offer advice, pose questions and trade everything from recipes to the names of schools. Yahoo, Handbag.com and publications like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire all offer their digital audiences a chance to launch their own topics and discussions on their in-house forums. With all this going on, it’s easy to picture the challenge of just listening to your customers, never mind talking to them or acting on their feedback. One of the benefits of Social Media is that it allows businesses of all types to get closer to their customers – wherever they may be. It makes sense to spend some time thinking about how different groups use social media.

Forrester’s new online tool can help you begin to profile your customers. Their research suggests six types of social media users.

  • Creators – They write blogs, post photos and post videos and music.
  • Critics – This group responds to content by making comments, writing reviews and posting answers in forums.
  • Collectors – Their goal is to organise content through RSS feeds or Tools like Digg
  • Joiners –These are the people using networks like Facebook or Linked-In
  • Spectators –They read blogs, view photos and watch videos
  • Inactives – Not involved with any social technology

It’s clear that different user groups go about using social media in different ways. A 25-year-old man in Canada has a very different profile than a woman of 42 in the UK. Understanding that profile will help marketers start to formulate a strategy to target different groups. Should you Facebook or blog, Twitter or develop a presence on forums? The answers aren’t obvious, but the Forrester tool is a good place to start.