Forrester Research first published in their fascinating book Groundswell this identification of the five groups of online users. There is a fantastic slide show illustrating their proprietary Social Technographics Ladder here.
Using the Forrester Research data, combined with information from social media statistics , the social media world can be divided as follows:
Online users can be divided into five categories: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives. They overlap, and the illustration above explains that consumers must participate in at least one of these activities monthly to be classified in a category.
There are an estimated 272m online users world-wide.
Only 13% are Creators. That means that 90% of the information on social media sites is generated by only 10% of the people. They create the content.
Critics post on other blogs or write product reviews, but generally don’t create their own content for others to follow or critique. They comprise 19% of online social media users. Those of you with blogs know who your critics are. They are stakeholders. They are engaged, and they care. Importantly, 40% of critics are also creators!
15% of social media users are Collectors. Collectors collect information on the web and organize it for themselves or others, using tags and RSS feeds. They are 60/40 male/female. I’d argue that collectors are not stakeholders yet. They have some vested interest in your content for their own personal collection.
Joiners join groups such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace. They are stepping into the social engagement world by joining a group first. They comprise 19% of those online.
Spectators don’t participate in social media, but consume it. They comprise 33% of the online world. They’ll watch a YouTube video or podcast, or look at SlideShare shows, but won’t tag them, collect them or add to them.
Inactives are the largest group, at 52% of online users. Inactives don’t use social technologies in any way. They use email, look at web sites, and use the internet “traditionally.” I’d consider them a “web 1.0” user. Can they become a web 2.0 consumer? Yes, but that’s another post!
Now, what should we do with this research? I would use this information to optimize our online engagement with stakeholders.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Link and correspond with other Creators and Critics to increase stakeholder engagement. Creators and Critics can help you to reach your goals, and they are the potential influencers who could recruit others to join your network, donate to your organization, volunteer, or interact. Think about who comments on your blog, follows your tweets, or joins your group and also creates online content. Each Creator has Spectators, Joiners, Critics and other Creators that they link with. Can you ask them to engage their followers? Can you link back to them and follow them, thus increasing your legitimate engagement with them? Map out how you want them to assist your organization in reaching its benchmarked goals.
2. Collectors can become your stakeholders. For now, Collectors spread the word of your organization. They love categorizing and influencing through the spread of the new, great find. They are the online pollinators. They obviously like your online content enough to tag it and collect it, now how can you use them to spread the word? It’s hard to discreetly identify the Collectors (you can through advanced statistics), but when you do, use them as you would a media contact. Make sure they know about your new initiatives, find out their personal choices for online aggregation sites, and cultivate your collectors as you would potential news outlets.
3. Most of your online followers will consist of Joiners. They joined, which is a big hurdle for them. Joining indicates that they care about your cause or organization. They are stakeholders. They can be rallied to donate through a twitter campaign, as Beth Kanter so clearly illustrated with her recent Twitter as Charitable Giving illustration. They can show up at offline rallies and events, be mobilized to write postcards and petitions, make phone calls and tell others about your cause. There are many, many online examples of this. Just look at the number of people who rallied for the No on 8 initiative in California through the “No on 8” Facebook group. If you have Joiners, treat them kindly. Communicate often and ask for their feedback. They are the backbone of any organization. They are the cyber-equivalent of your members, and they can be cultivated into important stakeholders if treated respectfully and cultivated to engage more significantly.
4. Most Joiners begin as Spectators, which is important to consider when looking at your online engagement. Many Spectators are your unique visitors to your site. The challenge is keeping them interested and coming back. They may contribute actively later on, join your forum, or even donate. If they like what they see, they may join your group. When developing your online group, you should consider making it as easy as possible for Spectators to lurk or join provisionally. You should have many different social media options for the spectators: blog, website, open Facebook profile, etc that doesn’t require them joining. I’d also post open calls to spectators to join periodically, and make sure that joining is as simple and seamless as possible.