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Social Media

Social Media Maturity

Justin Fraser September 2011

The way people behave on social media tells us little about their age, life stage and everyday behaviour. Rather, it may simply reflect their level of exposure to, and comfort with, social media itself. This means that traditional expectations about the ways in which old and young express themselves, and interact with each other, may no longer apply.  Fifty-year-olds can act like 15-years-olds, and vice versa, on social media – making online behaviour an unreliable guide to an audience’s everyday life maturity. 

Companies and brands targeting their market on social media will therefore need to recognise not only that life maturity and social media maturity are not necessarily the same thing, but also that the lines between the two are frequently blurred.

For example, I would class my 15-year-old sister who ‘has become a fan of…’ almost everything on Facebook as having the same level of social media maturity as one of my 25-year-old friends who has also ‘become a fan of …’ everything on Facebook. But I also know 25-year-olds who use Facebook purely for stalking, rather than as an outlet for expression – a very different online behaviour.  Then there’s the ‘life mature’ social media user – someone over 50, say – for whom Facebook is an entirely new medium of interaction and expression. However keen and adventurous they may be, their online behaviour will be very different from that of the 20-year-old social media veteran who started off with ICQ, moved to MSN, Hi-5, Bebo, Facebook and Twitter, and is now moving into Google+.

Traditionally, marketers would have divided these five people into three segments — a teen, three 20-somethings, and a 50+. Online, however, the groups are much less well defined – the three 20-somethings have little in common, and the 50+ and the 15-year-old could well be using social media with similar motivations.

Understanding your social media target market is like taking everything you know about your traditional target market’s psychographic behaviour, chucking it in the air like a game of knuckle bones (now who is showing maturity?) and seeing how it lands – knowing you’re not going to catch who you thought.

Social media marketing is a relatively new concept to us all. It’s an example of another challenge that marketers will have to surmount before we are really able to fully understand that territory.  

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