A long time ago, in marketing lands far away (nearby too), we took great delight in classifying our customers, past, present, and future, by groups. That effort, a/k/a segmentation, could take any number of forms – demographic, geo-demographic, behavioral, lifetime value, occasional, or by the products developed by research firms.
For a while, that type of identification worked fairly well, leading those of us who specialize in change and behavioral matters to adopt those methods for our messages. Our thinking: If we could segment into measurable subsets of colleagues who were a) easy to reach and b) would respond consistently to our messaging, we could ensure awareness, at least, if not action. [Of course, the premise worked best if your colleagues numbered in the thousands.] With social media, listservs morphed into social communities, formed on dozens of specifications. Ergo, those employees fascinated by CSR would rsvp to specific community activities, whereas those intent on becoming cross-functional team “volunteers” to study/solve a business problem would raise their hands.
It don’t work so good these days. First, many fit into a variety of groups: Like a hyper-involved philanthropist (a single dad) who also leads an R&D team and travels like a banshee. Or a work-life balance advocate who works virtually as a sales professional, yet wants to contribute her two-cents’ worth to corporate affinity groups. Even a marketing assistant (and women’s rights fan) who helps with team-building and conferences, yet has a passion for values-driven causes.
Second is the question: What am I missing if I sign up for X but not Y? There’s an innate something in us curious beings that always wonders if we might miss a community notice for, say, Habitat for Humanity volunteers – if we’re not in that forum. Those working on a business metrics project might lose out when, for instance, an accounting forum mentions some of the latest and greatest.
Finally, consider today’s commandment to change and reinvent ourselves – continually, inside and outside the corporation. We won’t always be categorized as a procurement analyst. As an MBA-LLD in the pharma world. As a sustainability guru in animal health and welfare. What happens, then, to the already classified mega- and mini-mes?