Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mapping Participation

A while back I saw a post on Forester about a new article on a topic they called Social Technographics. It peaked my interest and they were offering copies to bloggers, who wanted to review, so I sent in a request. Never heard anything so I went through another source and got the paper anyway, and here is my summary of the key concepts:)

I always find it funny how the think-tanks come up with new terms, register them and then tell everyone how they were the first to come up with the idea. This time its 'Social Technographics' which essentially means describing a population based on their level of participation. Companies are starting to realize that demographics don't mean what they used to especially when it comes to online usage and especially social software. You can no longer equate race, sex or age to social software engagement. Forester suggests that you need to create a social strategy based on how your users map into a set of profiles. They have identified 6 increasing levels of participation. (note - participation levels are not mutually exclusive)

1. Creators: online consumers who publish blogs, maintain web pages, or upload videos at least once a month.
2. Critics: participate by either commenting on blogs, or posting ratings and reviews. Their participation is not near as intense as creators. Critics pick and choose where they offer their thoughts, and often use blogs or other items as a launch pad for their participation.
3. Collectors: save URL's, use social bookmarking, tagging, and RSS. They create meta data that shared with the entire community and add to the self organization of web content.
4. Joiners: one defining behavior - use of social networking sites. Highly likely to engage in other social software activities.
5. Spectators: read blogs, view videos, and listen to podcasts. The audience for the social content created by users in the other groups.
6. Inactives: do not participate in social computing activities. They site this as 52 percent which jives well with this study.

These profiles of course do vary by age. For example teenagers generate more content than any other generation, and joiners are dominated by Gen-Y. However age is not the only way to slice the data. User motivation (entertainment, career, family etc) as well as site features, and brand appeal can all drive different participation profiles.

The key with this is to think about these it terms of your users/customers to define the right strategy with respect to deploying social software. Make sure you deploy what will best fit the participation levels of your audience. Once you understand your audience, Forester continues that you should:

  • Map out how users will participate today and in the future
  • Create multiple participation points (don't just give your audience one option to participate)
  • Find lightweight ways for first time creators to contribute
  • Make it easy for spectators to find user generated content
  • Prepare your organization for participation (and criticism)
Overall, a decent article, I wouldn't say its worth the $280 for 12 pages of content, but if your organization has a contract with Forester its worth a read.

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