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April 23, 2007

Forrester’s new Social Technographics report

By Charlene Li

We just released a new report that Josh and I wrote, titled "Social Technographics". Here's the executive summary:

Many companies approach social computing as a list of technologies to be deployed as needed – a blog here, a podcast there – to achieve a marketing goal.  But a more coherent approach is to start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for. Forrester categorizes social computing behaviors into a ladder with six levels of participation; we use the term "Social Technographics" to describe analyzing a population according to its participation in these levels. Brands, Web sites, and any other company pursuing social technologies should analyze their customers' Social Technographics first, and then create a social strategy based on that profile.

At the heart of Social Technographics is consumer data that looks at how consumers approach social technologies – not just the adoption of individual technologies. We group consumers into six different categories of participation – and participation at one level may or may not overlap with participation at other levels. We use the metaphor of a ladder to show this, with the rungs at the higher end of the ladder indicating a higher level of participation.


For example, 13% of US online adult consumers are "Creators" meaning that they have posted to a blog, updated a Web page, or uploaded video they created within the last month. I would fall this group because of this blog. I'm also an avid user of services like del.icio.us so would be a "Collector" as well. But I'm not really active on social networking sites – I'm there mostly for professional reasons, not personal ones, so wouldn't be a "Joiner". Lastly, while I enjoy reading environmental blogs like Treehugger, I'm mostly a "Spectator" when it comes to that content area, although I occasionally add a comment here and there.

The value of Social Technographics comes when it's used by companies to create their social strategies. For example, in the report we look at how Social Technographics profiles differ by primary life motivation, site usage, and even PC ownership. 


The report also lays out how companies can create strategies using Social Technographics. For example, I've used the "participation ladder" to help figure out which social strategies to deploy first – and also how to encourage users to "climb up", so to speak, from being Spectators to becoming more engaged. It's my belief that not everyone is cut out from the start to be a Creator; nor is everyone inclined to jump with both feet into social networking. Companies seeking to engage customers with these new tools need to understand where their audiences are with this categorization.

I'll be holding a Teleconference on this topic on Tuesday, April 24 2007 at 1pm EST – more details are available at http://www.forrester.com/Teleconference/Overview/1,5158,1848,00.html (note: there is a charge for non-Forrester clients).

Also, if you are a blogger in this space and would like to have a review copy of the report, please send an email to Tracy Sullivan [tsullivan at forrester.com] with your name and URL of your blog. I'd love to get feedback on how useful you find this approach. Update: If your blog is affiliated with a sizable company, you may be getting a friendly call or email from a Forrester salesperson to see if you're interested in receiving more research from Forrester. This is because I need to walk a fine line between giving away our research to potential customers and providing review copies for bloggers. Hope you understand, and let me know if you have any questions about this. 

Tags: social technographics, charleneli, Forrester Research, Groundswell

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» What Kind of Catalyze Member Are You? from Current Wisdom
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff are analysts at Forrester who cover the social technology., media and networking space. In a recent blog entry, they summarized their findings on social technographics.&n ... [Read More]

» Which consumer 2.0 are you? from SaaStream
Blogs, podcasts, video-sharing sites, social networks ... You will find below great graphical representations of Forrester's Social Technographics® research results … a very informative set of charts as to the demographics of Internet users and how the... [Read More]

» Which consumer 2.0 are you? from SaaStream
Blogs, podcasts, video-sharing sites, social networks ... You will find below great graphical representations of Forrester's Social Technographics® research results … a very informative set of charts as to the demographics of Internet users and how the... [Read More]

» Online participation numbers in detail from Knowledge Jolt with Jack
Forrester's recent report, Social Technographics, has generated some discussion on the web. My first impression is that this may be a new way to think about the "1% Rule" of participation. [Read More]

» Charting 2007's Three Big Web 2.0 Trends from Micro Persuasion
"The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln Thinking about the future is fun. It's what I am paid to do. However, I never contemplate the days ahead without [Read More]


Jonny Bentwood

This is an excellent insight into how companies should make bespoke programmes dependent upon the audience they are trying to reach.

Too often I have seen a 'one size fits all' methodology into new media outreach.
Hopefully, this kind of research will push vendors to consider that different approaches need to be taken dependent upon the micro-audience that are targetting.

My post backs this up - http://technobabble2dot0.wordpress.com/2007/04/24/best-practice-approach-to-social-computing/


Aren't newspapers, Radio and TV social technologies?
We're readers, listeners and viewers to the technologies, but classed as consumers by advertiser.

Aren't we all annalists in this medium of online communication and shouldn't a report on social technologies be collaborated on by a community?


We've seen a lot of companies with laundry lists of collaborative tools that they need and we always tell them the same advice you do: What are they really trying to build, why and how do they plan to succeed? Turning on collaborative technology doesn't mean people will suddenly use it. That's the "Field of Dreams" approach. Unfortunately, most people think you can "buy" community. Another problem is that there often isn't someone at the business level charged with how to plan for success (and your ladder approach is a good tool for it) and then actively manage it. Too often, it's someone in an isolated department or someone with a tool-centric view of the world.

Your participant percentages are helpful. It's interesting to see how those percentages change inside a company vs with a company's external community. Participation vastly increases when everyone is on a single collaborative platform. We see the internal and external worlds becomming continually closer (which is why we build products for both). Once companies are more regularly interacting with their customers, it could very well change the ladder percentages and increase customer engagement.

Dan Greenfield

Very helpful analysis of user data. It is very easy to focus on the technologies and lose sight of a coherent communications strategy. I agree that you need to start with your target audience and understand how they use tools. But don't overlook corporate culture and employee adoption as well. Employees and management need to have the same comfort level with the new media tools that they are using to reach customers. That may not always be the case -- especially with established companies who are just beginning to embrace new media.

Filiberto Selvas

However; isn’t it true (most of the times) that across a target audience you will find individuals that fall on all of these categories? So in that case when you wrote: “start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for” Wouldn’t it be the case that across the universe of your target audience you will some are ready for deep/interactive engagement (i.e. Creators/Critics) while other are always going to be a little bit more detached (i.e. Spectators).

Also: I had the opportunity to attend one of the panel discussions you lead for the Web 2.0 conference; and I think based on what I heard the term “collector” may need to be expanded to include (or maybe a new class is needed?) what was called at that discussion the “curator” . Which I understand goes beyond the RSS consumption and moves into the aggregation and “connecting the dots”.

Filiberto Selvas

John Bell

This serves as a great checklist for the levels of engagement that could be a part of many social media initiatives. So rather than expect that you will cater to one or two levels of the ladder, could you expect to find people all along the ladder spectrum for a particular brand social media experience?

Some thoughts:

Rob Stancliffe

Good article, good summary. Are we really in a world that you can categorize people's computer by Dell and Apple? A quick check of the machines around me finds that we could be in a Dell & Apple world. If so then we're in a sad state indeed.

Matt Moore

Hello - I found the report interesting but I had some quibbles with the central conceit:

Is there any evidence that people will actually move up the ladder either in general or around a specific site? Or is it better to see individuals carrying out the activities described in specific contexts?

Rolling Talks

Hello Charlene and thanks for sharing this with us. I have a question regarding a remark you made. You said "But I'm not really active on social networking sites – I'm there mostly for professional reasons, not personal ones, so wouldn't be a "Joiner". " Is your study making the difference between professional and personal reasons why people are posting/reading on these social technologies? why do you point yourself this distinction for this particular point (and not for the others?)?


Thank You !

Christian Smagg

Thanks for this great article which is providing very informative stats as to the demographics of Internet users and how they spend their time online as well as a great approach to implementing an effective "Social strategy".

I have always been very surprised to discover how so many companies know so little about their customers, especially when it comes down to their use of social technologies and online behaviour.

My main recommendation to companies scrambling to become a part of these conversations: do not just try and get involved in every high-tech platform that comes across your in-box (being Second Life, MySpace.com or the many others). It's time to shift your focus and home in on your customers!

Please see my post on this very topic: http://www.saastream.com/my_weblog/2007/09/which-consumer-.html
As well as my blog providing additional insight on this and related topics: http://www.saastream.com

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