Social Consumers

According to Tuten (2021) on page 60: 

  • 92% of social media users have posted their real name to the profiles they use
  • 91% have posted a selfie
  • 82% have posted their birth date
  • 71% have posted the name of the school they currently attend
  • 71% have posted the name of the town in which they live
  • 53% have posted their email address
  • 20% have posted their mobile phone number
  • 16% have allowed sites to auto-post their location

This information is significant because it contributes to how marketers develop their social media strategies. Marketers target specific segments, or groups divided by their common characteristics, whose needs they believe the brand is capable of satisfying in exchange for meeting organizational objectives. They use several variables as the basis of segmenting markets, such as demographic, geographic, psychographic, behavioral, and benefits sought. Social media marketers need to understand the behavior of consumer segments in order to devise an effective social media strategy, where they can develop profiles to make better and more specific campaign choices.

While this may seem like a complex process, it’s actually super simple. Tuten (2021) described demographic segmentation as when marketers utilize common characteristics such as age, gender, income, ethnic background, educational attainment, family life cycle, and occupation (p. 42). When it comes to social media marketing, demographic segmentation helps marketers choose the right channels. For example, Pinterest and Instagram have a larger percentage of female users than male, while Reddit has a larger percentage of male users than female. Similarly, Facebook has a larger base of older users than younger users, while TikTok and Snapchat have a larger base of younger users than older users.

Geographic segmentation refers to “segmenting markets by region, country, market size, market density, or climate” (Tuten, 2021, p. 42). Take North Face, for example. They can expect to sell more parkas to people living in winter climates than in tropical climates. As technology has evolved, GPS technology, a satellite system that provides real-time location and time information, has expanded to social media platforms and enabled new ways to advertise. If you Google restaurants near me, Google will advertise the closest restaurants to your real-time location using GPS technology. Geofencing allows marketers to draw a virtual line around a defined geographic space, so when a consumer walks into that area, their phone can be targeted with ads and offers. Snapchat uses geofencing to offer their geofilters, visual overlays that can relay where and when a Snap was taken.

While they sound very similar, psychographic segmentation is based on thoughts and ideas and behavioral segmentation is based on actions. For example, Nike uses psychographic segmentation to target individuals who enjoy sports. With their motto “Just Do It,” they create a feeling of motivation and determination that transcends their product. In an example of behavioral segmentation, Nike seeks to build brand loyalty. By providing customers with quality products, innovation, and social currency, the customers are loyal to that company and will buy their products. Nike then reaps rewards through sales and market shares.

Finally, benefit segmentation is one of the biggest aspects when it comes to marketing. What problems do you solve for your audience? Tuten (2021) offered the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) theory as a way of understanding benefit segmentation. She stated “to create a product or service that customers want to buy, marketers must understand the outcomes prospective customers are seeking” (p. 45). Basically, marketers need to understand the job the customer needs the product to perform. Social media is a very useful tool when it comes to identifying what customers want. For example, McDonald’s identified the demand for its “All Day Breakfast” menu after over 80,000 tweets specifically mentioned the need for breakfast options throughout the day (p. 45).

McDonald's Announces All Day Breakfast Beginning October 6 - Fast Food Geek

Why do we need to understand these segmentation bases? All of the previous information is put together to create a buyer persona, also known as a target audience or an ideal client. Your buyer persona is “a snapshot of your ideal customer that tells a story using the information you used for segmentation” (Tuten, 2021, p. 47). With this, marketers are better able to identify, understand, acquire, engage, and retain the target audience.

Marketers also build a buyer persona from social identities, a concept Tuten (2021) defined as “the part of our self-concept that results from our perceived membership in a group” (p. 48). In simpler terms, we all have an image of ourselves through our social media. We think of ourselves as members of some groups but not others and at any point in time, what we’re doing and where we are brings one of our groups front of mind. We also belong to many groups. Our online activities and the information we post on social media document and express our social identity.

How do marketers use this information to build a buyer persona? As you participate online, you leave behind a footprint, or social data. The footprint becomes a source of big social data, “data generated from technology-mediated social interactions and actions online, which can be collected and analyzed” (p. 49). Hello, data mining. When marketers use this information, the buyer persona they create of you is their view of your social identity. They then use social data to identify new leads, convert prospects to customers, resolve service issues, and more.

Create and Use Buyer Personas to Drive Sales : Wordtracker

All of this talk of marketers using your information brings up a concern for privacy. Social privacy refers to concerns about disclosing personal information to others, while institutional privacy relates to the use of data by the institution providing the service and third parties. Tuten (2021) described an interesting phenomenon known as the privacy paradox (p. 59). The extent to which a social media user worries about privacy and the risks related to the collection and unauthorized use of personal data is known as privacy salience; however, privacy salience doesn’t necessarily explain whether users take steps to protect their identity. Therefore, the privacy paradox is created. One explanation of this contradiction views privacy concerns as a combination of intuitive concern and considered concern. Tuten clarified “intuitive concern is an emotional gut reaction to a possible privacy invasion, while considered concern involves identifying possible privacy risks, estimating the potential costs of privacy invasions, and deciding whether any benefits offset those costs” (p. 59). Users may be concerned about their privacy, but feel like the benefits of social media outweigh the costs of their information being stolen.

Despite concerns for privacy, there are multiple motives for why consumers still continue to participate in social media. The affinity impulse is used when social media is used to keep in touch with family, past friends, and new friends. When people contribute to social communities for this reason, Tuten claimed “they do so to form friendships and feel a sense of belonging” (p. 56). The affinity impulse is related to a person’s desire for social capital, a concept that refers to the resources created by the building and maintaining of relationships in social networks.

The personality utility impulse is when consumers use social media for information seeking, incentive seeking, entertainment seeking, or convenience seeking. Contact comfort and immediacy impulse is the sense of relief we feel from knowing others in our network are accessible and that the contact can happen without delay. Social media users even seek contact comfort and immediacy from brands, with a study finding nearly 40% of respondents believed brands were very likely to engage with them on social networks and 25% expected a response within an hour of leaving a comment on a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page (Tuten, 2021, p. 57). In another study, participants named timeliness, speed of response, and sense of connection among the attributes they associate with the most successful brands using social media. Something to keep in mind for the aspiring social media managers out there!

Some participate in social media media as a way to make the world a better place and pay it forward. These individuals are motivated by altruistic impulse. This value has been played out in the immediate altruistic responses (IAR) of consumers to aid calls during crises such as the earthquake reliefs for Haiti or Japan. Social media makes it easier to contribute to victims in the form of a cash donation or a service to the community. This value has also been shown in altruistic punishment, where consumers seek to draw attention to a company or person whose behavior is unacceptable to the social community. However, “if the underlying motive of an altruistic action is to affirm a relationship, publicly build one’s image, or shame others, altruism is not the social media motive at play,” but is instead an affinity impulse (Tuten, 2021, p. 57).

Curiosity impulse is when people use social media to gain new knowledge and stimulate intellectual interests. Online, we can satisfy our curiosity by following people on social platforms and visiting their profiles. Whether that’s seeing what old classmates are up to or when Kim Kardashian is dropping her new clothing line, we’re motivated by curiosity.

Finally, there’s the validation impulse. Social media focus intently on the individual and allows you to share as many or as few of your opinions and activities as you like. You can post selfies, see who saw your stories, and how many people liked your post. In other words, the validation impulse is used to feed your own ego. Tuten argued that this motive, especially related to developing a desirable image, is the dominant driver of social media activities.

What motivates you in your social media participation? Are you worried about privacy? Leave a reply down below with what you learned from this post!

Jordan Price

Price Media



Tuten, T. L. (2021). Social Media Marketing (4th ed.). London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.

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