I couldn’t believe it recently when I saw an email sent out from a group manager on LinkedIn.
The message basically said something to the effect of “this group is for people to promote their products/services, so if you’re not posting anything I suggest you leave the group”
In their book Groundswell, authors Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li studied, amongst other things, attitudes and behaviours of social media users.
Now, the original study was back in 2007 (which is ancient in social media terms, I know) but it still provides some key insight into how people use social media.
They identified different groups of users which they described in terms of their “social technographic profile”.
The most active users are knows as “Creators”. These are the people who publish blogs, upload content, write articles, etc. In Europe, these made up only 10% of users.
The next active were “Critics”, who post ratings, comments on blogs and participate in discussions on forums and groups. These make up around 20% of users in Europe.
Other types of users include “Collectors”, “Joiners” and “Spectators”, which accounted for the balance of active social media users. All these groups have one thing in common – they are not making any visible contribution to social media.
Sure, they join groups, like comments, etc but essentially they keep below the radar.
I have a close friend on Facebook who, every time we catch up, I ask him why I never “see” him online. He never posts any pictures, status updates, likes any comments – nothing.
However, he is online all the time. He knows exactly what I’ve been doing so, in that sense, he’s a classic “Spectator”.
The point here is that people use social media in many different ways.
In the early days, business social networking sites like Ecademy and OpenBC (latterly Xing) were the exact opposite to LinkedIn. LinkedIn was all about putting up your profile (effectively your CV) and nothing in terms of discussions, status updates, etc.
Early adopters of Ecademy were all Creators and we used to complain about the fact that you couldn’t blog on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn continued to grow and reached a critical mass largely through less active “Spectators”and “Joiners” who just wanted to put up a profile and not much else.
So, when I saw that message from the LinkedIn group manager I thought, “why is this guy effectively telling the majority of his group members that they should leave?”
In his view, anyone who isn’t contributing by starting or participating in discussions isn’t adding any value.
But, he’s missed the bigger picture; it’s the value they provide by reading the stuff that everyone else adds.