Control and Trust Drive Levels of Motivation and Participation in Social Media

Aimia (TSX: AIM), a global leader in loyalty management, today unveiled an industry-first segmentation model that reveals six distinct social media personas, based upon the behavioral drivers of trust and control. The model is detailed in a new Aimia research brief, Staring at the Sun: Identifying, Understanding and Influencing Social Media Users. The report argues that no single social media channel can deliver a complete picture of customer behavior.

Infographic: Aimia's Social Media Personas

“Today’s approach to social media measurement – racing to rack up the most ‘likes,’ retweets, followers and recommendations – is the wrong approach. Marketers must define success not by social media activity, but rather by customer value and engagement,” said Doug Rozen, lead author of the report and Senior Vice President, Communications, Design & Emerging Technologies at Aimia.

“Marketers often struggle to understand the true motivations and purchase intent behind customers’ social media activity. Proper segmentation allows marketers to appropriately identify, understand and influence customers through social channels,” continued Rozen.

The report maps the current landscape of social media usage, and outlines the differences between types of social media participation via six proprietary social media “personas” comprising the entire U.S. adult population ages 18 or older:

  • No Shows (41% of US population) – least involved with social media, if at all; infrequently engage in online commerce.
  • Newcomers (15%) – passive users of a single social media network, primarily to enhance offline relationships
  • Onlookers (16%) – observe others via social channels on a regular basis, but share almost no personal information
  • Cliquers (6%) – active users of one network; influential among their small group of friends and family
  • Mix-n-Minglers (19%) - those who regularly share and interact with a diverse group of connections via social media
  • Sparks (3%) – most active and deeply engaged users of social media; will serve as enthusiastic online ambassadors for their favorite brands

Aimia then mapped these personas against social brand-related activities: Engagement in online commerce; the viewing and creation of online video; participation in flash sales or daily deals; writing of product and service reviews; interaction with brands, games, forums and blogs; and “checks in” to locations. Among the findings: the more passive “Onlookers” are just as interested in flash sales and daily deals as the two most active personas, “Mix-n-Minglers” and “Sparks.” In addition, “Cliquers” are just as likely as “Sparks” to play brand-sponsored games online.

Aimia’s segmentation is constructed on a framework of behavior based on the two primary emotional drivers of social media participation: Trust and Control. Trust is driven by consumers’ ability to navigate social media, how much they trust friends and networks with personal information, and how much trust they place in the social networks themselves. Control correlates to the amount of information that consumers are willing to share, the number of connections they make, and the reputation they build online.

“Control equals exposure, and trust equals participation. The more control a consumer perceives over their social media activity, the more likely they are to engage with a wider variety of social media networks. The more trust a consumer places in social media networks and their connections, the more likely they are to actively participate,” said Rozen.

The research, conducted in late 2011, consisted of a series of weeklong ethnographic research panels conducted by Aimia, with the findings substantiated with Forrester, Mintel and GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence, as well as Aimia’s own study Born This Way: The US Millenial Loyalty Survey. Authors include Rozen, Mona Askalani, Director of Social Marketing and Tom Senn, Director of Research and Customer Insights.

Staring at the Sun represents the inaugural edition of an ongoing Aimia focus on the intersection of social media marketing and loyalty management. To view the complete report and related infographic, please visit

About Aimia
Aimia Inc. (“Aimia”) is a global leader in loyalty management. Aimia’s unique capabilities include proven expertise in delivering proprietary loyalty services, launching and managing coalition loyalty programs, creating value through loyalty analytics and driving innovation in the emerging digital and mobile spaces. Aimia owns and operates Aeroplan, Canada’s premier coalition loyalty program and Nectar, the United Kingdom’s largest coalition loyalty program. In addition, Aimia has majority equity positions in Air Miles Middle East and Nectar Italia as well as a minority position in Club Premier, Mexico’s leading coalition loyalty program and Cardlytics, a US-based private company operating in merchant-funded transaction-driven marketing for electronic banking.

Aimia is a Canadian public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: AIM) and has over 3,400 employees in more than 20 countries around the world. For more information about Aimia, please visit

Follow us on Twitter:!/aimiainc.

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