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August 23, 2012
Want to Make a Splash on Social Media? Target 'Word' People
Social media appeals to select personality types. Heavy social media users tend to be “Word” people; individuals who articulate their feelings freely and who get pleasure in expressing themselves publicly, according to new research by my friend and colleague Linda McIssac.
Linda, President of Xyte, Inc. developed and perfected a 16-cell Cognographics profile methodology for understanding how individual brains process information. Beyond the usual demographics or even psycho-demographic profiles, the Xyte categories sort people and segments based on the way they think. The methodology surfaces 80–95% of subconscious thought, which drives behavior. By understanding thinking styles, marketers can predict (with statistically valid certainty) how individuals will respond to messages and ads.
People, even those of the same age, income, education, and social class, are all wired differently. Innate preferences, which determine thinking process decision-making style, motivations, cultural sensibilities and information processing and retention, tend to remain fairly constant and predictable over time. They determine how each person will react to talent, media channels, humor, storytelling, offers, and just about everything else.
According to Xyte Insights, clusters of people like different social media platforms and use different types of technology based on their individual brain-processing styles, which can signal how, what, and why they choose the social platforms they do. Using this insight, we can better produce and target content for each platform based on the proven interests and preferences of the heaviest users. To test the theory, Linda studied the social media behavior of 3000 individuals classified in the Xyte database during February 2012.
She discovered that “Word” people — roughly 39.5 million Americans with similar brain processing patterns — dominate social media. Word people are abstract thinkers who use words easily to express their emotions, which factor heavily in their decision-making. They respond much more to emotive language and appeals, make gut decisions frequently, are quick witted, and respond extremely well to humor, wit, wordplay, puns, and clever turns of phrase. Empathetic Word people need the interaction, input,  and validation of others. They need to be seen and heard.
As you might imagine, they tend to be lawyers, writers, actors, and a large majority of advertising and marketing professionals, so much so that in crafting social media content and strategies, we run the real risk of talking to ourselves rather than our intended audiences.
They are not big shoppers, but go along with friends for fun. They tend not to plan shopping trips and favor quality over price. But they look for incentives and deals as much as the next guy and they use social media to keep track of the latest products, technologies, and trends.
As extroverts, they love the company of others and choose activities based on surrounding themselves with others. They are light TV viewers but revel in talking about their short list of favorite shows. They are among the dwindling cohort of newspaper and magazine readers and are frequent moviegoers.
Subsets of the Word row — Perceive and Verbal profiles — are most likely to have 500 or more friends on their chosen social platform. Totally wired, they are constantly online, posting, sharing, liking, and commenting way more than anyone else. Social networking is their number one online activity, followed closely by visiting friends’ social network pages.
Forty percent visit social media websites multiple times each day. Being on social networks is their principle creative and connective outlet. Their top preferences (in rank order) are Facebook, Google, YouTube, blogs, Forums, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Seventy-four percent are very or somewhat apt to “like” a brand, a person, or a posting because “like” connects directly to their emotional core.
And yet Word people prefer Google and its perceived precision in delivering search results significantly over Yahoo. Interestingly, they are among the residual users of MySpace, probably because it provides an unstructured outlet for personal verbal and graphic creativity. On Twitter, they are above average users but prefer to retweet or comment on a tweet from a friend rather than post an original tweet. Twenty-four percent read and respond to blogs, microblogs, and forums daily.
These verbal consumers are very comfortable expressing feelings about brands. They are more likely to promote or criticize a brand or product in social media and are likely to pile on when their friends are praising or dissing a brand. If you are looking for advocates or eager to stimulate viral content distribution, find, befriend, and activate Word people.
For a copy of the presentation Linda made to the ARF, email her directly here

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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