Consider two men called Brian. First of all ‘Brian’ (no surname). In his infamous Open Letter to all of Advertising and Marketing he noted that if he likes a sausage ad, he might just buy the sausages. But that’s where his engagement ends. Where, he queried, did you get the idea that I might want to create and upload a video, draw a picture, nominate a friend or, in short, participate in your marketing? The letter is almost certainly fictional, an industry in-joke, but it makes its point to anyone planning social strategies. Our second Brian is the far-from-fictional Brian Solis, the engagement evangelist whose Conversation Prism brilliantly, in all senses of the word, presents a spectrum of social platforms and technologies with which we can try and engage our audience. So who do we listen to when devising social strategies? Brian X. (“do nothing, don’t ask me to engage”) or Brian S. (“do something; engage or die”)? The answer is actually both. The key point is that it’s vital to understand if – and how – your audience uses social media so you can make it a foundation of any ensuing social strategy.
A good moment then to present a summary of our first-ever UK Social Media Census 2011. Conducted in March of this year, to coincide with the UK’s official census, this captures an alternative snapshot. Carried out by Opinium Research, the study asked people how, if at all, they use social media. I hope the infographic below provides an interesting insight into the results.
As noted in the visual above, our research is inspired by the Social Technographics ® work by Forrester Research in which back in April 2007 Charlene Li defined a range of ‘social computing behaviours’. She identified six different levels of participation: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Spectators, Joiners and Inactives. At the start of 2010, having left Forrester, her colleague Josh Bernoff revisited the concept to add Conversationalists (to account for the rise of Twitter).
We’ve adopted some labels and adapted others and some definitions to reflect what these terms currently encompass, and the end result is that we’ve defined a total of nine social media usage types. Aided by some consonance and a crowbar we’re calling these the 9C’s.
Our two new categories serves as a reminder that social media will continue to evolve. The Commercialists are those who recognise that they are using social media for business social not just social social. They may have existed before, but I think it’s important to note and now track their growth, especially as social commerce and social CRM seem are set to further boom. Also identified are the Collaborators and again I think we will see this category to grow as cloud computing becomes ever more widely adopted.
We plan to continue tracking this and more in future Social Media Census research. Users evolve at different rates but we would expect to see many of today’s Crowd-members becoming active, and indeed interactive, as tomorrow’s Critics, Collaborators and Creators, whilst the numbers classified as Currently inactive will surely diminish as online users become ever more social.
Their number might even include Brian, with his sausages.