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Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web

Monday, May 24th, 2010

In 2007 Charlene Li, then at Forrester Research, now running the Altimeter Group, along with Forrester ’s Josh Bernoff, Remy Fiorentino, and Sarah Glass released a report that introduced us to Social Technographics.  Forrester’s research segmented participation behavior on the social web into six categories, visualized through a ladder metaphor with the rungs at the high end of the ladder indicating a greater level of participation.

Social Technographics were designed to help businesses engage in social media with a more human approach, catering to individuals where, when, and how they are participating and contributing to the social Web. According to Forrester research…

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.

The hierarchy was presented as follows:

Creators, those who publish web pages, blogs and other social objects – 13%

Critics, individuals who comment on blogs or post ratings and reviews – 19%

Collectors, those who use RSS and/or tag Web pages – 15%

Joiners, people who are active in social networks – 19%

Spectators, content consumers who read blogs, watch user-generated videos, and listen to podcasts – 33%

Inactives – 52%


Over the years, the Social Technographics ladder evolved, with the numbers growing and shifting as social media grew in prominence among mainstream users. In January 2010, Forrester’s Josh Bernoff released an update to the popular Social Technographics ladder to visualize and categorize the current state of how consumers participate in the social Web. As you can see, behavior shifted upward in droves, in some cases doubling the level of engagement within roles that define social experiences. The definitions have also evolved to better reflect the online activity of today’s socialites.

2007 – 13%
2010 – 24%

2007 – 19%
2010 – 37%

2007 – 15%
2010 – 20%

2007 – 19%
2010 – 59%

2007 – 33%
2010 – 70%

2007 – 52%
2010 – 17%


This year, Forrester observed notable activity that warranted the creation of a new rung on the Technographics ladder, one that earned a top position just below Creators. According to Forrester, America is increasingly becoming a nation of social chatterboxes. A recent Forrester survey that polled more then 10,000 consumers shows that one in every three online Americans is a “conversationalist” – someone who updates their status in the statusphere (any social network with an update window) at least once per week. Conversationalists represent 33% of today’s online social behavior.

The survey identified the people behind the category, with 56% of conversationalists representing the highest concentration of women in any social group. And, 70% of this group were 30 years or older.

Again, the goal of Social Technographics was not only to classify individual participation in social media, but also to encourage the design and segmentation of focused marketing, branding, and engagement programs that appeal to these respective groups.


The Altimeter Group believes that in order to effectively form ties that bind with social customers, businesses must genuinely understand the social behaviors of consumers. In January 2010, Charlene Li and company introduced us to Socialgraphics to serve the intelligence necessary to develop a social strategy based on a consumer-defined Engagement Pyramid. By personalizing the messages and the digital conduits between brands and markets, businesses evolve from a carpet bombing campaign that essentially marketed at faceless consumers using mediums that appealed to targeted demographics (characterized by age, income, gender, education, etc.) instead of psychographics (grouped by interest).

According to Altimeter, Socialgraphics asks several key questions that allow brands to focus and tailor resources on the very people that comprise each answer.

1. Where are your customers online?

2. What are your customers’ social behaviors online?

3. What social information or people do your customers rely on?

4. What is your customers’ social influence? Who trusts them?

5. How do your customers use social technologies in the context of your products?

In order to truly and effectively engage, we need to understand the behavior and categorization of our customer base. As such, Altimeter’s Engagement Pyramid focuses and ranks social behavior…

Curating – Heavily involved in online communities such as discussion boards, fan pages, and wikipedia through moderation, contribution, editing, etc. These curators contribute their time, energy, and perspective to improve the foundation for available information on a given subject.

Producing - Creates and publishes original content and social objects as a way of expressing expertise, positions, as well as contributing to the ecosystem of information those in the other categories seek to share thoughts and also make decisions.

Commenting - Responds to the content created by Producers. Even though they do not actively create and distribute original social objects, their activity is still influential to those around them.

Sharing – Individuals who actively update their status on social sites and upload/forward photos, videos, articles, etc. This behavior earns relevance and also demonstrates knowledge and awareness.

Watching - Content consumers who are seeking information in order to make decisions or learn from peers, or purely seeking entertainment.

Altimeter also maps the Engagement Pyramid to Twitter, as online behavior is unique to the culture and communication that define the Twitterverse.

Curating – #hashtag

Sharing/Producing – Tweet

Sharing – Re-tweet (RT)

Commenting – @reply

Watching – Read Tweets


Technographics and Socialgraphics humanize our markets, allowing us to better understand the activities and behaviors that will allow us to make informed decisions about how and where we communicate and to what extent. This is about engendering responses that are governed by unique touchpoints based on the placement of our customers within the respective pecking order of social participation.

Genuine engagement is inspired by the research and data we accumulate as we analyze the social web and the specific activity and people who define our markets and audiences. We are now required to tailor our stories and distribute them specifically in the channels that cater to the technographics and socialgraphics of our customers. In order to truly earn relevance and prominence within our communities, we also need to connect information and objects dictated by the personality traits of those influencers who in turn activate and move markets.

If Technographics and Socialgraphics represent the lines of communication from brand to market, Behaviorgraphics serve as the last mile between the medium and the specific person we’re hoping to reach.

Social beacons are the influential voices within social networks who act as the information catalysts to those around them. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith refer to this group as Trust Agents others refer to these individuals as tastemakers, influencers, trendsetters, and change agents. In the era of socialized media, we are now able to pinpoint these individuals and also learn, in real-time, what they’re seeking and to whom they’re connected. This is why Digital Anthropology and Sociology play such a pivotal role in the creation of engagement strategies and the content, objects, and channels we use to establish and cultivate relationships within social networks.

I spent the last several years observing the cultures, laws, behavior, hierarchy, and communication bridges in many social networks and one thing that I observed, is that influence is not universally bestowed upon or earned by any one type of person. Influence is distributed across segmented personality traits and categorized by the prominence within specific nicheworks linked by interests. Activating social networks and the people within them is an act of communication to form an association. Therefore, we must understand much more than how content attracts varying levels of behavior, but also surface the personality characteristics of the people we’re hoping to establish connections and relationships.

In many ways, we become social psychologists and linguists who can speak to individuals in manners that appeal to their demeanor. And, since each of us are also consumers, we find ourselves not in any one group, but at any point in time, we can identify with several traits based on our engagement in varying circumstances.

Introducing Behaviorgraphics…

Behaviorgraphics examines the “me” in Social Media. While it’s avatars that capture our attention, it’s personality that captures our heart and mind.

Social media tests the filter that divides inner monologue from disclosure. As our thoughts become words online, they color our avatars and profiles with a glimpse of our personality – who we are online and in the real world. Over time, it is how we put our words into action that establishes our character. And, it is our character, through the marriage of our words and actions that paves the way for relationships and opportunities.

Visualized once again, with the help of JESS3

At the center is Benevolence – The unselfish and kindhearted behavior that engenders and promotes recognition and reciprocity, and in doing so, earns the goodwill of those around them. This is the hub of social networking with a purpose, mission, and a genuine intent to grow communities based on trust, vision, and collaboration.

Problem Solvers – One of the most common sources of conversations and updates in social media are questions…people seeking information in the hopes that commenters will respond with resolution or direction.

Commenters – Providing thoughts, opinions, observations, experiences, and sometimes, unfiltered reactions to the information shared online. They are less likely to produce original content, but are compelled to share their views based on the introduction of content by others in and around their social graph.

Researchers – Peer to peer influence is prominent in social networks and researchers rely on their social graphs for information and direction to make qualified decisions. They are also active in championing polls and surveys to truly learn about the thoughts and opinions of those connected to them.

Conversationalists – Participation in conversations through proactive updates seeking responses or direct responses to other content, conversationalists fuel threads within and across networks.

Curators – In the context of behaviorgraphics, curators carry a different role. This group works diligently to find and only share what captivates them as filtered by what they believe will interest their followers.

Producers – Among the more elite group of online participants, their stature is earned by the amount of content they generate within multiple networks.

Broadcasters – Social media is proving to be both an effective broadcast and conversational platform. Broadcasters are mostly one-way communicators who either intentionally or unintentionally push information to followers without injecting conversational aspects into the mix.

Marketers – Profiles dedicated to marketing ideas, products, or services and may or may not include content outside of their portfolio, unless the account is focused on funneling beneficial and value-added solutions to specific audiences regardless of origin.

Socialites – Individuals who have earned varying levels of weblebrity, these new internet famous personae earn recognition and attention in online networks which is increasingly spilling over in real world fame.

Self-promoters – Unlike broadcasters and marketers, self-promoters are unconcealed in their intentions through constant updating of activities, events, and accomplishments.

Egocasters – Contribute to the “ego” in the egosystem and represent the evolution of self-promoters. Through constant promotion and the activities and responses that ensue, promoters graduate to a position of perceived prominence and collective unawareness.  What they think and say is what they believe to be the reality for one and for all. They lose touch with perspective as listening gives way to telling…

Observers – Often referred to as inactives, lurkers, or simply consumers, Observers represent the majority of the social Web today, defined by those who read and also share information in the backchannel, including email, and also in the real world.

Social Climbers – Social capital is not only something that is earned in social networking, it is something that is proactively pursued by those whose sole mission is to rise to the top. These individuals intentionally climb ladders on the avatars, profiles, and social capital of others most often misrepresenting their purpose and stature to earn an audience based on disingenuous intentions.

TMI – The things some share in social media continue to blur the line between what’s relegated to inner monologue versus that for sharing with others in public. The state of sharing “Too much information” is dictated by those on the receiving end of the update, not those who publish it.

Spammers – Those accounts and profiles that are created to push messages blindly and without regard for those with whom they come into contact. Often times they’re tied to current events (using trending keywords or hashtags) or targeting influential voices to lure them into clicking through to their desired goal.

Leachers -Not included in the graph, but an important category to recognize as leachers take the good work of others and channel it into their own accounts almost exclusively for the sake of promoting their cause.

Complainers – When we love something, we tell a few people; when something bothers us, we tell everyone.  Complainers are often sharing their discontent as a primary ingredient in their social stream. And, as customer service takes to the social web, these complainers are only encouraged to share their experiences to achieve satisfaction and earn recognition for their role as the new social customer.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

The Age of Social Networks

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Social networks share a common ingredient in design and intent, the connection of people and the facilitation of conversations, sharing, and discovery. What they do not share however, are culture, behavior, and prevailing demographics. Each network is unique in its genetic and cultural composition and it is for that reason that we benefit by becoming digital anthropologists in addition to new media marketers.

Demographics are distributed within all social networks, but only concentrated within a select few. Where specific demographics materialize varies from network to network and as such, the more effective social strategies and tactics are designed to reach target audiences where, when and how they engage.

Over the years, I’ve relied on Google Ad Planner to surface the critical demographics in order to construct meaningful and targeted social programming. Pingdom recently examined the data and packaged the results in a visually rich presentation worthy of sharing.

The study included 19 social networks…

Age Distribution

The disposition of age groups within social networking as a whole is representative of the state of social media engagement, but this is fleeting. Age groups will only continue to meander as online networking becomes pervasive. At the moment, we can see that those 35-44 dominate the social web, representing 25% of total participation. For those who have actively monitored adoption of social networks, this next stat might not come as a surprise, but it’s worth highlighting nonetheless. Following at 19% isn’t a younger generation at all, in fact, those 45-54 are the second most active group within social networks, just ahead of the 25-34 segment at 18%.  Individuals under 17 rank fourth with 15%. I find it fascinating that the 45 to 65+ group, those who are usually considered laggards in the technology adoption cycle, symbolize almost one-third of total users of social networks. They’re equally connecting with not only each other but also the younger generations who are spending an increasing amount of time online as well.

Distribution of Age Within Social Networks

Reviewing the age groups broadly across social media serves only as a primer to the deeper level of analysis required to identify exactly where we need to connect with target demographics. As such, Pingdom performed the first level of segmentation to showcase how age groups are distributed within each specific social network.

Bebo - Over 40% are 17 and under followed by 35-44 and 55-64 at just under 15% each - The 45-54 dominate at just over 30% followed by 20% at 55-64 and just under 10% at 65+ (Represents the highest concentration of the older demographics with 78% over 35)

Delicious - Over 25% of users are 35-44

Digg – 35-44 constitute over 25% of the total user base followed by just under 20% at 25-34 (80% of users are over 25)

Facebook - ~25% of users are 45-54 with the 35-44 group at just 20% (61% are 35 or older)

FriendFeed – Shy of 40%, 35-44 represent the majority of users

Friendster - Polar opposites with 25% under 17 and roughly 20% 45-54

Hi5 - 25-34 collectively represent close to 30% of all users – Almost 20% are under 17 with the 35-44 category also representing just under 20%

LinkedIn – Less than 30% are 35-44, 20% are 45-54 and more than 15% are 55-64

LiveJournal -25-34 and 35-44 are tied at 20+% percent each

MySpace - Over 30% of all users are under 17 and slightly less than 20% are 45-54

Ning – 25% of 35-44 and over 60% are 35 and older

Reddit - 30% are 35-44

Slashdot – More than 30% are 35-44

StumbleUpon – The 35-44 segment symbolize just under 30% of all users followed by 25-34 at just under 20%

Twitter – More than 25% of users are 35-44, trailed by the 45-54 group at less than 20% (65% of all users are over the age of 35 with less than 20% representing the 24 and under age groups)

Tagged - Almost 30% are 45-54 and slightly over 25% are under 17

Xanga – Over 20% are under 17

Governing Age Groups

If we further review the data, we can see which age groups are dominant across the social Web

17 and under: 21%

18-24: 0%

25-34: 5%

35-44: 58%

45-54: 16%

55-64: 0%

65 and over: 0%

Average User Age by Network

Cascading further down stream, the data when crunched, reveals the average age per network, which allows businesses to better understand the general user within each.

Bebo – 28.4 – 44.9
Delicious – 41.3
Digg – 38.5
Facebook - 38.4
FriendFeed - 38.4
Friendster – 33.4
Hi5 – 33.5 – 35.8
LinkedIn – 44.3
LiveJournal – 35.2
MySpace – 31.8
Ning – 37.8
Reddit – 37.4
Slashdot – 40.4
StumbleUpon – 38.5
Twitter – 39.1
Tagged – 34.4
Xanga - 32.3

In social media, not only do women rule, but it seems that the middle-aged are Social Media’s largest share holders.  Again, the average number is just that, a generalization of users classified by age, not by usage, theme, or connectivity. As we identify whom it is we need to reach and why, analyzing data as it relates to age groups is just one side of a multi-faceted program. In order to possess and convey value and meaning, it is anthropology, sociology and the psychographic mapping of people to themes, interests, and aspirations that will prevail now and over time. It’s the difference between visibility and presence, and in social media, presence is felt.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Optimize Your Brand for Sharing and Social Search in 11 Steps

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

In Part One, we focused on how to make your brand findable and shareable in social media. A white paper by Gigya validates the shift to, and resulting importance of, social search and its dependence on crowd participation. Online businesses must optimize in order to earn referral traffic from social networks.

With the advent of social feeds — a live stream of friends’ activity shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter — consumers can more easily rely on trusted personal relationships to determine what’s worthwhile to read, watch, play and buy online.

Honestly, there are too many top 10 lists, and I subscribe to the Spinal Tap school of numeration, so this list will go to “11!” Here are 11 steps for optimizing your brand for sharing and social search.

1. Keywords

This one seems elementary and trivial for many, but it can’t go unsaid. Social media is inviting new players within marketing and communications to the table. Their absence from traditional SEO practices requires the review of all keywords that stakeholders use to find relevant information regardless of the platform or network.

2. Brands Become Media

Essentially, for brands to earn the attention of desired audiences their content must be timely, relevant, irresistible, and shareable. Content production is only part of the equation. Establishing a cadence to entice people to introduce our work to their friends and followers is atypical.

Begin by defining an editorial calendar to produce and distribute relevant content for each and every network with rhythm and conviction. In the era of real-time and social search, brands now become the CNN of their industry while also socializing the content and experience to broaden reach and awareness.

3. Define the Experience

Modernize and socialize your site to complement the experience visitors expect in 2010. Once someone is introduced to your content and they land on your site or landing page, make sure it’s presented in a gripping format and the proper hooks are in place for easy sharing back to the attention dashboards of their social graph. Many Web sites are still stuck in the time of Web 1.0 and essentially represent a static dead end to the dynamic and interactive experiences transpiring in social networks.

4. Establish a Formidable Presence

Go where your audiences are already highly active, and also where they’re experimenting. Create enticing, compelling, and personable social profiles in the networks of relevance that convey a sense of “what’s in it for me?” Establish relationships based on context and make sure those relationships are fortified through the production and distribution of value-added content, combined with the art and science of reciprocity, response, and recognition.

5. Social Media Optimization (SMO)

Optimize the site and all social objects for traditional, social, and real-time search based on the keywords that are defined in step one. Invest time and resources in the eloquence of describing and defining social objects through titles, descriptions, tags (keywords), links, and active content promotion. Create content in the methods dictated by the communities you wish to reach (e.g., blog posts, tweets, videos, pictures).

6. Social Search

Now that Google and other search engines are experimenting with the addition of social search into results, the fusion of sharing and social networking improves the likelihood of someone clicking through to our desired objects. Data shows that, in addition to e-mail, visitors who find content shareable choose to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and MySpace.

7. Connect with Social Influencers

As attention spans continue to thin and as interesting content spins through attention dashboards at blinding speeds, brands must proactively connect relevant information to social beacons who can lend credibility and spark conversations and dialogue around the objects we introduce aligned by theme and context.

8. Employ the Human Algorithm

Google is already experimenting with a human algorithm of sorts for ranking real-time search results. The stature of one’s social capital ultimately contributes to the hierarchy, placement, and findability of the content and social objects we share online. Not only do we need to connect with social influencers to help us share our story, we also must identify and connect with individuals in the public stream and the back channel to ensure that the conversation generates ranked awareness.

9. Social Architecture:

Analyze how key individuals in your markets are discovering, consuming, and sharing content today and integrate one-click social functionality across all pertinent content platforms. Also, make sure to stay on top of the most promising trends because social sharing will continue to rapidly evolve.

Eradicate proprietary login systems and consider pervasive social logins, such as Facebook Connect and Twitter logins, as they’re designed to trigger social effects through reactions on the host site back to their respective social graphs. This extends the reach of content from a site that was once considered a destination to the networks of relevance in order to attract qualified visitors.

10. A Call to Action

Implementing calls to action remind someone that captivating content is worthy of sharing. Integrating the tools to instantly do so is one part; reminding them to do so completes the circle. However, sharing isn’t the end game either. Inciting responses in addition to sharing, such as posts, retweets, likes, etc, create paths that define and engender the experience you desire with destinations and calls to action integrated to close the loop.

Decide the activity you wish to inspire and integrate it into steps one through nine. Give them something to find and to talk about!

11. Listen and Adapt

Create listening dashboards to monitor all activity including the number of shares, discoveries, click-throughs, etc., and find ways to improve the experience, as well as how to ignite a greater volume of sharing.

If the socialization of content is defined by governing behavior, it is that of sharing and searching. The share economy currency is defined by likes, links, retweets, updates, comments, shares on Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, MySpace, et al.

The potential and overall impact of social objects, either discovered or shared, only expands the reach of the brand as social media becomes pervasive. Providing the necessary means for individuals to not only find your content, but also actively share it across the social Web, is paramount to the survival of businesses in the era of curated search, social influence, and channeled attention.

Originally posted in Search Engine Watch.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Search and Rescue: How to Become Findable and Shareable in Social Media

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Search isn’t an isolated experience. The act of looking for information is now fused with validation, which means the socialization of search will unite discovery with context and relationships. It all begins with where we purposely search for relevant content and also where we respond to interesting information that crosses our path.

ComScore’s most recent search engine ranking report offers new insight that will make us rethink how we publish content, increase its findability, and facilitate sharing.

In comparing February to January, Google remained on top with 65.4 percent of all core search activity. Yahoo followed with 17 percent and Microsoft ranked third with 11.3 percent.

Things become interesting when we analyze search queries as opposed to core search activity. The landscape broadens beyond traditional search.

Just behind Google, but ahead of Yahoo, YouTube ranks second for search inquiries overall. In 18th and 19th place, Facebook and MySpace also make appearances in the top 20 list respectively. Perhaps most intriguing is that neither Facebook nor MySpace offer true search functionality — but they still account for increasing search activity. Facebook is up 10 percent between January and February.

What does this all mean? As social networks gain in prominence, the amount of relevant information within each ecosystem increases in value and, as such, we deliberately seek content within the networks in which we engage.

It’s the Journey That’s Important, Not the Destination

Destination sites across the board are losing traffic and ultimately favor, simply because destinations are obsolete as intended or designed. The days of the traditional “start page” are coming to an end, only to be replaced with the “attention dashboard” — a dedicated application that aggregates the activity of those we follow in social networks into a series of digestible streams.

TweetDeck, PeopleBrowsr, Seesmic, HootSuite, Brizzly, and Facebook each represent a new generation of attention dashboards as they funnel social feeds into one clickable view. These streams look a lot like slot machines as information flies through dedicated columns, almost blurring the text beyond legibility. But this is where attention is focused and the content that appears within it represents the future of the information life cycle.

So how do we compete for attention if attention itself is learning how to adapt to a new media landscape?

Our job is to ensure that information travels outside of our domains and to the communities of interest in order to create a bridge back to our hub. And, content must adapt based on consumption and sharing patterns with our existing and potential stakeholders.

This is an important point and one that can’t be ignored. Social activity indicates that we are already moving away from the act of proactively traveling to traditional sites as a source of new content.

With the dawn of social media, the activity that brings social graphs and networks to life is quickly changing how we discover, learn and share and it is also forever reshaping the idea of online destinations as they exist today. It all comes down to attention and understanding where it’s focused and how it is tempted, lured, or distracted to click away from it.

The socialization of information is changing everything.

Connect with Attention Where Attention is Focused

Competing for attention is paramount. We lose most of the battles before they’re begun because we’re working against years of behavior that now represent the complete opposite of tomorrow’s consumption and sharing patterns.

Everything begins with identifying where attention is focused, combined with the new laws of attraction.

Gigya Referral Traffic

Gigya reviewed data from Compete from November 2009 and observed that some of the top media properties were already realizing a dominant effect in traffic from social networks. For example, USAToday receives upwards of 35 percent of its referral traffic from social networks and just over 6 percent from Google. People Magazine receives 23 percent of its referrals from social networks and 11 percent from Google. And, CNN earns 11 percent of its referral traffic from social versus 9 percent from Google.

Peer-to-peer activity strongly influences the resulting behavior of impressionable nodes defining social graphs, much in the same way we rely upon trusted referrals from our real life contacts. The more something appears within the attention dashboard, the more likely it is that someone will click through. In addition, the more intriguing it seems, or the stronger the reaction it engenders among peers, also increases its enchantment and thus beguiling spectators to willfully lunge towards a shared experience, most likely triggering a public response that continues the social effect.

Social Architecture and Connecting the Dots

Information is already socializing and changing the behavior for how people search, find, react, and curate. The difference between our present and future is defined by the roads and bridges we build between relevance and prevalence.

As content producers, our responsibility is to connect information and stories to existing and potential stakeholders. It’s also essential to package and optimize our content as social objects in order for them to work for us in our absence, when individuals actively seek content through contextual searches.

In part two, we’ll look at 11 steps for optimizing your brand for sharing and social search.

Originally posted in Search Engine Watch.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

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