Forrester Research recently released a report, that I’ve been lucky enough to read, entitled Social Technographics that profiles adult US web users and their level of engagement with social media:
“Site features can also influence participation profiles. Not all Social Computing/Web 2.0 sites are created the same the profiles for MySpace.com and YouTube differ significantly, given the activities available on those sites.”
The report describes 6 levels of web users who engage in social media activities, they’re described as a ladder of increasing involvement, starting with spectators and ending with creators. According to the report, myspace is more popular with the joiner segment and while youtube is more popular with spectators.
This means that sites that wish to engage social media users must have features that speak directly to each segment. In this way, those users who are just testing the web 2.0 waters and are still on the lower rungs will have a low barrier to entry and those users at the top will be able to interact with your site on a level of sophistication of their choosing.
For the creators, you should make your story or message easy to repost on their blog or remix or re-create however they want. This means a Creative Commons license and actively asking readers to show you what they can do with your content.
Critics like to review and comment, so make sure your site has at least someplace for these users to post comments. A ratings system will also help engage these users.
Collectors use RSS and tags, so make sure your site has an RSS feed for updated content and the reader-specific chicklets are in place. You may also want to think about including visible tags links to places like technorati or flickr, to suggest possible tags for your content when these collectors repost it. You can also setup special tags so that viewers can track posts to various social sites that refer to your site.
To attract and engage the joiner profile, message boards or other social networking features can be invaluable. This type of functionality requires a large investment in setup and maintenance so they may not be feasible for every creative. Instead you may want to try to add widgets or other portable content that can be integrated into your user’s existing social networking profiles.
The lowest level of social media users in this report are the spectators, those users that read blogs, watch videos and listen to podcasts. These people love content and media, so give them your message in every possible media, video, audio, and written.