In Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s 2011 book Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies, they introduce the concept of the groundswell. The groundswell is “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 9). Chapter 3 focuses on the ways individuals can “participate in the groundswell”(Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 39). We can categorize users into groups by examining how they interact and how often they interact online. This categorization is called the Social Technographic Profiles. The Social Technographic Profile includes the following groups: creators, conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and in-actives. The groups are often organized in the style of a ladder, known as the Social technographics ladder (as pictured to the right). Those at the top of ladder are more involved in the groundswell and to join a “group on the step, a consumer need only participate in one of the listed activities at least monthly, or in the case of Conversationalists, weekly” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 43).
Elle Magazine: Magazine Industry
Elle Magazine, which is a part of the magazine industry, has a target audience of young women aged 16 to 30 who are interested in the latest fashion and beauty trends. If Elle Magazine were interested in figuring out what that age range’s social technographic profile was then they could use Forrester’s research tool. However, they have since taken down that tool but if it were still available then it would look something like the picture below.
If they were to base their target market to what was generated using the Forrester tool then we can see that only 31% of users in Canada aged 18 to 24 participate in the groundswell as creators and critics, whereas 83% are joiners and 85% are spectators. This means most of those in Canada ages 18 to 24 mainly “consume what the rest produce” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 45). Unfortunately, the data above is not specific enough since it does not disclose the specific genders. To obtain a better understanding of each category within the social technographic profile, I will define and provide an example of each category below.
These users are those who post a blog entry or article online at least once a month, maintain a website, or upload content onto sites like Youtube. Creators make up 23% of the online adult population in the United states (Li & Bernoff, 2011). An example of a creator would be the personal blog of an Elle Magazine intern such as that of Carmen Lo, an Elle Singapore intern.
Individuals who are conversationalists tend to participate in groundswell activities much more frequently, usually on a weekly basis. Conversationalists usually participate through frequent updates and dialogue on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This category was newly introduced in 2009 but has quickly “grown to include 31% of the online population” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 44).
These users are those who are reacting to what creators and conversationalists are posting online. They react by commenting on blogs or forums as well as sharing their rating and reviews. There are far more critics than creators– 1 in 3 online American’s are critics (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 44).
Collectors are quite important because their role in the groundswell is to collect and organize information and content that’s generated by the creators and critics (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 45). To do so, they rely on RSS feeds, such as Delicious, to help them aggregate the best content on the internet. While critics also search for the top content, collectors do not actively interact with the content they collect. This special group only makes up 19% of all the users in the groundswell.
The fastest growing group in the social technographic profile are a group of the groundswell who “participate in or maintain profiles on a social networking site like Facebook” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg, 45). They are known as joiners. While they are a part of and maintain profiles, their participation and engagement is not guaranteed and may be fairly passive.
This group’s sole purpose is to “consume what the rest product” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 45). As the name suggests, they are those who read blogs, forum postings, and reviews but do not necessarily join in on the dialogue. Even though spectators do not create any content, they are still an important part of the groundswell and make up a whopping 68% of American users, making them the largest group of the seven.
Inactives are those who do not create or consume social content of any kind. The number is decreasing each year, but there are still those who are “completely untouched by social technologies” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 45). Those who are inactives are generally older people who are just uncomfortable with social media/technology and thus have not adopted it.
I am still unsure which category I best fit into because I feel there are overlaps between some of the categories. I don’t often create original content but I do actively post own photos on my Instagram account, so I supposed I have been a creator at one point or another. I also participate in back and forth dialogue on platforms like Facebook but I don’t do it every week so I don’t think I qualify to be considered as a conversationalist, at least not by definition. I think of all the categories, I fit best in the category of joiners. I actively maintain a Facebook profile and am sharing other user generated conente on a daily basis.
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, USA: Forrester Research Inc.
Forrester Research Inc. (n.d.).The Social technographic ladder [digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediamodels.net/social-media-overview-models-category/social-technographics-profile-or-ladder/