Friday, September 29, 2006

Alpha User vs Target Reader

There's a new flash term being bandied about for marketeers to get excited about and editorial gurus to focus on: The Alpha User.

The alpha user isn't (necessarily) an early adopter. In fact an early adopter may be a bit techno geeky and engrossed in their own latest toys to play the role of alpha user.

If you're an early adopter, don't feel bad - you've still got a role to play - but it may not be as the alpha user.

The alpha user is someone who will have many light relationships - ie they 'know' loads of people, probably very chatty, socially skilled with lots of social aquaintances. Because they are so good at this stuff they spread information very quickly.

They are among the sharpest in their community when it comes to the latest communication methods, too - even more critical in the digital world.

In the past we've had 'influentials', 'carriers' and 'evangelists' to go after. In the digital space (and this is an argument first made in Ahonen, Kasper and Melkko's 3G Marketing in 2004) it's possible to identify the one key 'connector' in each virtual community.

They apply the same kind of theories used to trace the spread of disease to find this Alpha User. Identifying the alpha users in social networking hubs (eg who is the MySpace lynchpin in the bike world?) is meant to be the best way to go properly viral.

Finding them in your own digital space could prove critical in achieving support for a new business proposition - or simply new functionality on your website.

How is the alpha user different from our much-relied on Target Reader?

Is it simply that an Alpha User emerges and is a real person, while a Target Reader is created by us in a smoke filled room - and never actually existed at all?

Or do they have two distinct and different purposes anyway? Please share your thoughts below, anonymously if you prefer:

BTW: If you like to 'see' this kind of stuff, I reckon demonstrates this in a very graphical way. Have a play.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?