Charlene Li of Forrester Research has recently published a study into levels of participation in social media, with a view to helping develop more effective social media strategies.

For the report into Social Technographics, she has produced the ‘Participation Ladder’: 

Particpation ladder

The report groups social media users into six categories, from those who rarely participate at all, to those who are responsible for creating social media content:

  • The bottom rung of the ladder consists of  ’inactives’ – internet users who don’t participate on social media sites, currently 52% of the US online users.
  • Of the remaining 48% who do visit social media sites, 33% were classed as ‘spectators’ who watch videos, read blogs and listen to podcasts.
  • 19% were ‘joiners’, who join social media sites, while 15% were classed as ‘collectors’ who tap web pages and use RSS feeds.
  • ‘Critics’, those who post reviews and comment on blogs, make up 19%, while the final 13% were the creators – those who publish/write blogs or upload videos to video sharing sites.

According to Li:

“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.”

“Companies seeking to engage customers with these new tools need to understand where their audiences are with this categorization.”

Further Reading:

Web 2.0 participation ‘lower than expected’  
Jakob Nielsen’s tips on increasing community participation