I think you’ll be hearing more and more about how social media channels such as Twitter actually have a rather low percentage of people who really generate new content. The comment might be taken even a bit further and developed into a rationalization as to why social media is not a good investment for business. I suspect it will start popping up in a lot of boardroom meetings as some folks look for reasons not to make the effort.
According to Forrester’s Social Technographics Ladder only about 24% of people using social are “Creators”. These are the people who blog, publish content such as video or audio they’ve created. One rung down on the ladder we find the “Conversationalists” who update social site status and tweet. Meanwhile the “Critics” are those who might post a revue, comment on a blog, contribute to an online forum or wiki — they make up about 37%.
By far the two largest groups are more about consuming than they are about creating content. “Joiners” make up 59% and likely have a social site profile and visit social media sites, but they don’t get too active.
The biggest percentage of social media users according to Forrester are the “Spectators” at 70%. They are the consumers of all content social. They’ll read your blog post, read consumer reviews and listen to your podcasts. Online communities refer to them as “lurkers” and they are both bane and godsend.
When Andy Warhol made his famous quip about everyone in the future being famous for 15 minutes, I don’t recall him mentioning the audience. He predicted we’d all have that chance to perform, but as far as I know he didn’t give the same fanfare to those who would get to watch. The fact is, without the audience there isn’t any show at all.
It’s the spectators or lurkers who give the core members a reason to be out there producing the content. Oh sure, maybe we’d love them more if they spoke up or clapped a little more loudly, but they are vital to any community.
While we may engage the creators and conversationalists out there, we perform for the spectators. The fact that they make up the majority of social users is a reflection of how communities and society work in real life and I kind of find that to be reassuring.
Look at it this way: You have a smaller cast to work with and a much larger audience to impress and they do want to be impressed! So, if that line of rationalization comes up at your next board meeting about social media ROI, remind them the audience is waiting.