I was asked the following question before sitting down and writing this post: “Who is the target audience in this industry?”

For me, the answer is simple: it’s students.

The next question, however, prompted deeper thought: “How would you define the target?”

In the traditional sense, this would involve using the four core elements of market segmentation:

  • Demographics;
  • Geographics;
  • Psychographics; and
  • Behaviour.

Now, when I look across the courses that I am teaching this semester (approximately 200 students), here are my observations in terms of market segmentation and the target audience:


  • Age range: 18 to 64.
  • 65% females, 35% males.
  • Single, married, divorced, widowed.
  • No children, 1 child, 2 children, 3 children or more.


  • Approximately within 100 km of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (for on-campus courses).
  • Anywhere in Canada (for virtual online courses).
  • Healthy mix of urban and suburban.


  • Lifestyles vary from “young and free” to single-parent of four.
  • Activities range from reading to motorcycles to recreational airplanes.
  • Interests include education, pursuing further studies, and exploring different career opportunities.


  • An integral connection between the individual and technology.
  • Engagement via technology, social media, visual cues, and direct response behaviour.

Taking the engagement piece one step further, I was asked to explore Forrester Research’s Groundswell Tool (Social Technographics). The Groundswell tool essentially consolidates individual consumer data sourced from a variety of social technologies. When I explored the tool in relation to students and education, the following themes were the first to appear:

  1. Building an Effective Digital Education Program;
  2. YouTube Adapts Its Product Strategy for Education;
  3. Game On: Education Product Strategists Embrace Gamification.

I also found out that the Social Technographics Profile of my target audience falls mostly under the category of: Joiners, Spectators, and Critics, which, when I reflect upon our discussions and classroom experiences, actually makes quite a bit of sense in terms of the dynamics, comments, and activities. One example of the profile is below.

Social Technographics Profile

Social Technographics Profile

It is interesting to link this to the COBRA typology (consumers’ online brand-related activities). Tying the insights from the social technographics profile with the new forms of consumer (student) engagement such as consuming, contributing, and creating content, we can see how the original findings in the Groundswell tool themed around digital education, youtube involvement strategy for education, and gamification tie directly into how businesses are strategically re-focusing on the best ways to engage the contemporary consumer.

It has to take place where consumers feel most empowered – and usually, as the research indicates, this means engaging with them via social technologies.


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