Two years on, Forrester Research’s POST template for developing a social media strategy still works extremely well

It’s almost two full years now since my post here on the subject Simple Template for Social Media Strategy and still, month in, month out, it keeps coming up as the most visited post on this site.

Time for an update.

A lot of that December 2007 post was about a podcast show I was developing. That’s not what I want to focus on here. The update is more about the strategic approach and accompanying tool provided by Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research, as set out in his post at that time, The POST Method: a systematic approach to social strategy.

At the time of that earlier post I concentrated on the basic structure of the POST system. The acronym stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology, explained as follows:

People: assess your customer’s social computing behaviors

Objectives: decide what you want to accomplish

Strategy: plan for how relationships with customers will change

Technology: decide what social technologies to use

I’ve drawn on this approach many times since, most recently in a workshop I co-presented a couple of months ago.

It works. What’s more, it can prompt the user to take account of a range of previously unconsidered aspects of introducing social media in business or in various organizations.

The approach is central to the book Groundswell, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li and I can testify that the book, with its detailed explanations and case studies, still rewards reading and re-reading, a couple of years down the track from when it was first published.

What takes the application of the POST technique from something really interesting to something quite captivating, and something I did not cover in my 2007 post, is the Consumer Profile Tool, which is on the Groundswell site and, courtesy of Forrester and using the code supplied on the Groundswell blog site, can be embedded your own sites.

The consumer profile tool uses the categories of the consumer, as provided by Forrester and the tool utilizes Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data:

  • Creators
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives

Forrester Consumer Profile tool
You can change the country, the age groups, the gender and have the tool deliver statistically-based graphs to show you the usage patterns of the various groups you want to know about.

I had studied the Forrester “ladder” back when I first read Groundswell, but I got a much better understanding of its significance and its power as a strategy building resource, thanks to an illuminating presentation by Forrester Senior Analyst Steven Noble, at a Social Media Club gathering in Sydney a few months ago. I am indebted to Steven for his very clear explanation of how the framework is applied and insight into the underpinning statistical base.

In the example in the screenshot above, with the age range of 45-54, specifying the US but not specifying gender, I might use that data to start thinking about a project I am actually working on now, focused on the Baby Boomer generation. Yes, the age range for that group is wider, but this picture can help me start to formulate some ideas, which can then be tested.

One of the best things I have found about using the Consumer Profile tool is that it helps, sometimes dramatically, to cut through the preconceptions any of us can develop about who, in different age groups or in gender classifications, use different social media tools. Then, as is illustrated by case studies in the Groundswell book, we can start to think and plan more effectively about which tools might be more or less appropriate for a specific company’s customers and prospects, in particular countries.

For more granularity of data than the free online tool provides, it is necessary to contact Forrester Research. But without wanting to do Forrester out of any business, I have already found the tool in its free version tremendously useful in helping business people get much clearer about where their customers and prospects fit in the social media adoption and usage jigsaw.

So there it is. My promise to myself, to update the most visited blog post on the site, fulfilled.

Have you used the Forrester Consumer Profile tool? Have you found it helpful? I hope you will share your experience.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).