Generation Virtual – marketers need to think “personas” not “demographics”

Last November, Gartner coined the term “Generation V” (Generation Virtual) — this came about because of the virtual environments ushered in with Web 2.0. These environments have bypassed traditional marketing capabilities and practices, such as customer identification, age-based demographic profiling and one-to-one targeted marketing campaigns. Gartner said that by 2015, “more money will be spent marketing and selling to multiple anonymous online ‘personas’ than marketing and selling offline. The wrench in marketer’s typical plans has been “Generation V.” Or the V-sters, as I like to call them.

After it blew marketers away by opening the pandora’s box of potential V-sters…how to reach them…how to profit from them…who’s who…what’s what…omg… Gartner dove deeper into this concept and broke out the four levels of engagement from V-sters: creators, contributors, opportunists and lurkers.

Marketing charts explains it all here:

The online behavior, attitudes and interests of people from all walks of life are blending together online, cutting across generations and traditional demographics and giving rise to a new online group called “Generation Virtual” (Generation V), according to research by Gartner, which coined the term.

Unlike previous generations, Generation V is not defined by age, gender, social class or geography. Instead, it is based on achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights.

Marketers will ultimately need a separate marketing strategy to reach this generation, according to Gartner.

Within the Generation V community, Gartner defines four levels of engagement – creators, contributors, opportunists, and lurkers – related to the extent to which customers engage with other customers and the level of engagement that businesses and other organizations must have to enable them:

Findings about these Generation V segments:

  • Up to 3% will be creators, providing original content. They can be advocates that promote products and services.
  • Between 3% and 10% will be contributors who add to the conversation, but don’t initiate it. They can recommend products and services as customers move through a buying process, looking for purchasing advice.
  • Between 10% and 20% will be opportunists, who can further contributions regarding purchasing decisions. Opportunists can add value to a conversation that’s taking place while walking through a considered purchase.
  • Approximately 80% will be lurkers, essentially spectators, who reap the rewards of online community input but absorb only what is being communicated. They can still implicitly contribute and indirectly validate value from the rest of the community. All users start out as lurkers.

To address the different needs of these groups, Gartner recommends that marketing organizations segment and support all four engagement levels in the community with appropriate technology and establish goals with plans for determining return on investment (ROI).

“Companies should plan to segment all four levels in the community – each has significant business value,” said Adam Sarner, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Differentiation exists between sectors and industries. Marketers with strong brands attract more creators. Certain industries, such as insurance, draw more lurkers.”

I think a lot of us can relate to these different levels of engagement. I was delighted to find that I am a bit of a Lurker, in a lot of situations. Check out Marketing Charts for more info. Pretty cool stuff, that completely applies to how we approach these audiences for PR, and how we recommend our client engage with the V-sters in different “virtual” settings.

Posted by Sharon