The Social Technographics Profile

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The BusinessWeek Bestseller, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, written by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, focuses on a movement called the groundswell. The groundswell refers to “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations”(Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 9). In the third chapter of Groundswell, authors Li and Bernoff discuss the concept of the social technographics profile. Social technographics can be defined by splitting the term in two. The “social” aspect refers to the people-to-people activities in the groundswell whereas the “technographics” aspect refers to Forrester Research’s methodology for surveying consumers (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Ultimately, the essence of social technographics is the process of grouping people together based on the online activities they participate in.

The Ladder

According to Li and Bernoff, there are seven groups that consumers can be classified in, which directly relates to their involvement in the groundswell. These seven groups are represented by a ladder whereby each step on the ladder signifies a group of consumers more involved in the groundswell over the previous step (Li & Bernoff, 2011,). As shown in the graphic below, the social technographics profile includes the following groups: Creators, Conversationalists, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives.

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How to Use

With an overview of social technographics in mind, let’s apply it to a real-world example: Aritzia. Aritzia is an innovative women’s fashion boutique that was established in Vancouver, BC, in 1984. According to a blog by marketer, Heiky Kwan, Artizia’s target audience is young women between the ages of 14 and 30 who have disposable income, live in major cities, are style conscious, intelligent, and are social (Kwan, 2012). Despite being a Canadian company, Aritzia has brick-and-mortar locations across North American.

To establish Aritzia’s social technographics profile, let’s utilize the information outlined in the graphic below.* Figure 3-4 shows the social technographics profile of young adult online Americans, ages eighteen to twenty-seven. Since this information is very similar to Aritzia’s target audience, we can use it to create recommendations in regards to an appropriate social strategy for Aritzia.

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*Please note: The above graphic is out of date. I will be quoting stats from the revised 2010 version of the graphic. 

It is evident from the graphic that young women are very likely to be Joiners, with 84% participating in social networks, which is much higher than the average adult (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Women also over-index on Conversationalists with 58% participation (not shown in above graph) and on Spectators with 79% participation (Li & Bernoff, 2011). From this information, Aritzia can surmise that their target audience participates in or maintains profiles on social networking sites. They also like to participate in frequent back-and-forth dialogues at least weekly. And as Spectators, they like to consume what others create online.

To use the groundswell to its advantage, Aritzia should be very active on several social media platforms, provide avenues to facilitate conversations between their customers, and finally, produce engaging content that their target audience can consume (blog articles, videos, photographs, etc.).

In closing, by using the social technographics profile, brands can discover how their target audience is participating in the groundswell, which in turn, can assist in building an effective social strategy.


Kwan, H. (2012, March 21). Aritzia-A Positioning Exercise. My Daily Tidbits. Retrieved from

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.



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