New 2008 Social Technographics data reveals rapid growth in adoption
by Josh Bernoff
Data is my secret weapon.
Every time I visit a company, we bring data we’ve collected about the social behaviors of their customers, structured according to the Social Technographics Ladder we introduced last year, a technique we rang the changes on in chapter 3 of Groundswell.
When I go to Vanguard, I show them the profile of their customers – and their competitors'. I went to a company that makes replacement hip joints – I showed them the profile of people with arthritis. I just came back from Brussels, where I showed a bunch of direct marketers how Europeans participate – and how many people who resist direct marketing still embrace social technologies. We’ve published lots of this data right here on the blog, including data on voters. Data settles the pointless “everybody does this/nobody does this” arguments and allows people to invest in the appropriate technologies for their customers.
But data gets old, especially in the rapidly changing social
world. Time for an update. Today, we’ve released our 2008 data from around the world. Go
ahead and play around with it, free, at our just-updated Social Technographics
Profile tool page. We’ve got data from 11 countries around the world, by age
and gender. (For the Canadians who’ve been bugging me since Groundswell came
out – yes, we now have Canadian data, too.)
Forrester clients can see our complete analysis of the 2008 data in a document we just published, called The Growth Of Social Technology Adoption. (If you’re not a client, the link will just show you an executive summary.) I'll also be speaking on this topic at our 2008 Consumer Forum.
Looking at the US data, the big news in 2008 is that, not unexpectedly, social technology participation has grown rapidly. Inactives -- people untouched by social technologies -- have shriveled from 44% down to 25% of the online population. Spectators -- those who read, watch, or consumer social content -- have ballooned from 48% to 69%. If you think social technology is about to become a universal phenomenon, we just handed you a nice little bundle of evidence.
As you can see, there was also a nice healthy jump in Joiners (social network participants), Critics (those who react to social content they see), and especially Collectors (those who organize social content). None of these are quite as popular as being a Spectator, but I think there’s plenty of growth ahead for these groups. (If it’s bothering you that the numbers add up to more than 100%, remember that these groups overlap – this is not a segmentation.)
I find it just as interesting that the Creators group grew only slightly, from 18% to 21%. I have long suspected that there aren’t more people blogging, creating Web pages, or uploading video or audio, not because the technology gets in the way, but because they’re just not the kind of extroverts who want to talk about themselves or anything else online. I think this group will continue to grow much more slowly than the others. Interestingly, this kind of participation is far greater in some places like Korea and China.
As usual, the real story comes when you look behind the statistics. Where is the growth in consumption of online content coming from? From older people – the group my young colleagues who manage all this data call “middle-aged.” (Ouch!) Social activity is way up among 35-to-44 year-olds, especially when it comes to joining social networks and reading and reacting to content. Even among 45-to-54 year-olds, 68% are now Spectators, 24% are Joiners, and only 28% are Inactives.
Here’s what it means. It will soon be no more remarkable that your grandmother reads a blog than that she reads email. Social content is going mainstream. Social content ranks high on search engines because it changes so frequently and gets linked to more often, so more and more online adults are becoming exposed to it, accepting it, and embracing it. If you’re a marketer, no matter what group of consumers you’re targeting, this means you must pay attention to the social world online.
But the future of social applications online will not include contributions from everyone, because not everyone has the temperament to create content. Don’t count on all your customers to contribute, and don’t believe that what you see online is representative of your whole audience. The shy among your customers are reading this stuff, but most of them aren’t ready to contribute, and won’t be for a while.
This is the power of data – the power to see beyond the hype
and see what’s really changing. I’d love to bring some to your company and
start the conversation.
Postscript: I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the people who make this data collection possible (and excellent). Cynthia Pflaum is the secret force behind my data insights – she not only finds these tidbits that companies find so useful, she’s also my watchdog for maintaining consistency in our surveys worldwide. Reineke Reitsma is in charge our worldwide data collection and her support of this project (and her budget) make this possible. And Roxana Strohmenger for the second year assembled our worldwide data so we could put it into the profile tool. Thank you, colleagues.