Social Technographic Targets and Climbing the Ladder

There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers. – Anonymous 

The knowledge of who is online and using what social media platforms can help companies justify and utilise the proper social channels. To properly understand the online social world, businesses must first understand groundswell.


Groundswell is defined as “a fast increase in the amount of public support for something” (Groundswell, n.d.). In this case, the term refers to the global, ever-changing social media trend. According to the book, Groundswell, written by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, “Groundswell is a spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience, and get what they need from each other” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

groundswell_0So how can organisations and businesses utilise groundswell to their advantage? In chapter 3 of groundswell, the authors discuss the importance of the Social Technographic profile. This profile is a tool that allows individuals to examine trends and patterns of any group of people and then create strategies based on these tendencies (Li & Bernoff, 2011). To simplify the term, Social refers to collective activities and Technographic relates back to Forresters Research Methodology for surveying consumers (Li & Bernoff, 2011).


So why do businesses need this information?

Companies need market segmentation of their target audience to better understand what their consumers want/needs by aggregating them into groups (Crane, Kerin, Hartley, & Rudelius, 2014). Each segmentation consists similar traits or characteristics of individuals. The social media strategy must account for contrasting target audiences and how they differ. Companies like WestJet could utilise this research to create strategies based on the analysis of information provided.  Forresters Research narrows the search down to online users using an analogy of different steps on a ladder as seen in Table 1.

The Social Technographic Ladder

Table 1. The Social Technographic Ladder (2011)

The different steps represent different groups of social media consumers who are more involved in groundswell than the previous steps (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  The higher the


step requires more social media interaction. Starting from the bottom, we see that the first step is inactive users who do not participate in social media. The next rung is for people who view what other people post and create. The Joiners participate in creating and maintaining social media account profiles whereas the collectors are more active and utilise RSS feeds, voting and tags. The critics are people who like to participate in rating reviews, commenting, and contributing to online forums such as chat rooms or wiki edits. The conversationalists continually post updates to their status and finally, the top step is the creators who are active users who publish original content on blogs or web pages at least once a month.


This research helps in categorising internet users, determining where the desired targets are and strategize how to reaching them. Listed below, in Table 2, is Forrester’s social Technographic profile research tool that allows people to select their desired custom target and shows what percent is in the different stages of the ladder. The picture below is a simple example of Canadian users and where the majority are categorised from 2009.


Table 2. Social Technographic Research Tool (2009)


Side Note= Forrester has since removed the free Technographic profile tool from their website. Now, Forrester requires members to create an account and charges for their customised data content, consult and strategies (Forrester, n.d.).

Still Confused??? Don’t Worry.westjet1

To relate this back to the travel and tourism industry, companies like WestJet can compare different groups of people participating on different steps of the ladder. First, WestJet needs to determine who their target audience is. The website, Alexa, helps companies with the software needed to gain better marketing results by providing custom industry statistics (Alexa, 2017). Without an account, we can see who visits and gain a better understanding of their target audience who searches for them online. In Table 3. We can see that the majority of the WestJets audience is female with education and browsing from either home or at work (Alexa, 2017). Because WestJet is a Canadian airline, we can assume that the majority of the population searching for flights is Canadian.


Table 3. Alexa. (2017) Who visits







If the Forrester Technographic tool still existed for personal use, we would be able to type in the Gender and Country. The target age range would be easy enough to figure out by taking different characteristics and relating them to different generation profiles. For example, WestJet’s promotes loyalty programs, price conscious, customer value-pricing, customer service, and their corporate social responsibility. Generations that relate to these core values are Generation X and Millennial (gen y). More information could be gathered for a more detailed analysis, but for this example, the information collected would put WestJet’s target audience between the ages of approximately 18-50.

Here is an old photo in Table 4 of the partial demographic for WestJet, and we can get a limited understanding of Canadian users between the ages of 18-24.


Table 4. Social Technographic Profile (2009) Canadians 18-24


Table 4 suggests that the partial majority of WestJet’s internet users are Spectators (85%) and Joiners (83%). This means that their targets like to visit and actively maintain social networking sites and review what other consumers are posting on their blogs and websites.

WestJet is active on many social media platforms, as explained in the previous blog post, Social Media Madness and WestJet’s Response. They are active on all types (except for social and virtual worlds) resulting in greater exposure of the different social technographic categories. This interaction is great for providing information to the Joiners and Spectators which make up most of their target audience.

The main point of all this information about Social Technographic profiles is to develop a better understanding of an organisations social media target and where they are spending their time online. From there, companies can create stronger strategies and connect more effectively to their consumers.




Carter, B. (2016, August). Access. Retrieved from Millennial Loyalty Statistics: The Ultimate Collection:

Crane, F., Kerin, R., Hartley, S., & Rudelius, W. (2014). Marketing. In Marketing (eighth Canadian edition) (p. 230). Whitby, Ontario: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Forrester. (n.d.). Retrieved from Challenge Thinking. Lead Change.:

Groundswell. (n.d.). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster:

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell. Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. A businessWeek Bestseller.

Alexa. (2017). Who visits Retrieved from

The Social Technographics Ladder (2011). Forrester Research Inc. Retrieved from


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