Forrester Research just released an interesting study led by Charlene Li about social technographics that breaks up web users into distinct and defined categories so that marketers can target their efforts to inspire action.

These categories include:

  • Creators – develop media (video, web site, blog, etc.) and publish it to the web
  • Critics – comment and review
  • Collectors – use RSS feed readers and tag pages
  • Joiners – create accounts on social networks
  • Spectators – read, watch, or listen to content
  • Inactives – don’t really participate on the Internet

Li’s social technographics blog post has percentages of people in the United States who participated at these various levels last fall. It is also important to note that a person can simultaneously act in multiple roles.

After reading the complete study, the thing that stuck out to me the most is that it suggests that marketers train their on-line audiences to gradually assume more complicated roles. For instance, it might prove more fruitful in the long run for a company or organization that wants people to create and publish content on their site to first make sure that the audience already is comfortable with acting as critics by commenting or reviewing existing content or products.

If people don’t comment on a blog post, for instance, why would they suddenly upload a six minute video? The study cites Butterfinger as an example when its company wanted people to upload videos to YouTube; only 59 submissions were posted. Although this campaign garnered significant attention, Butterfinger lovers clearly weren’t prepared to make videos about the candy bar. I wonder if there was an active official Butterfinger blog or MySpace or Facebook group or profile that built and maintained an active on-line community, that more people would have created video tributes to the scrumptious candy bar.

Check out the social technographics study; the full version must be purchased.