As I work on a research project that has me going through blog archives, an interesting pattern has turned up. Things we were talking about in 2005 and 2006, still apply to what we’re doing now. In particular, the conversation about social networking hasn’t changed as much as all of the new communities and places to meet might make us think.
If you click through on this this Social Networking graphic you’ll see that it was posted to Flickr in May of 2005. The information refers to cell phone networks, but I think you’ll agree that it applies as easily to today’s social networking site.
The graphic shows that people at social networks break into four quadrants or types. They divide first by their need to know about the world or other people, and they divide again by the group with which they want to share what they know.
The four quadrants become these:
- Content Consumers want to know about the world and share what they know with their friends.
Content consumers consider close friends a priority, but they have an interest in everyone. They share their lives with friends and family, but enjoy reading about the lives of others. Content consumers go wide finding information — these are the folks who read hundreds of feeds — but they go narrow when they pass it on. They prefer , messaging, and cell phone to stay connected. These are the keepers of information we think of a mavens. They know where to stay, where to eat, when to plant our gardens, which car / computer / camera to buy, and where to find out more.
If you find Content Consumers on Twitter, they’re probably listening more than they’re talking. They’re the masters of LinkedIn. They’re the one’s you want to plan your next personal conference meeting agenda — they get you the most for your investment. Some also make great “Stumblers” and “Diggers” because they filter content well.
- Relationship Builders want to know about the people in their lives to and want to share what they know with them.
Relationship Builders are power networkers. They keep a small group close and know them each well. Relationship Builders see no need for hundreds of connections in their life. Ask a relationship builder to be your “friend,” and he or she might ask how you think connecting will help you both. Relationship builders might take longer to know, but they also invest the time to know you. They’re the fiercely loyal, brand evangelists we all want, but their small social circle can also make them hardest to reach.
You’ll recognize Relationship Builders on Twitter by the small list of people they follow — no matter the number of people who follow them. They plan a conference around relationships they want to extend and partnerships that have mutual goals. On Twitter, they look for ways to showcase their friends. On SU and Digg, Relationship Builders review content they find useful to pass on to their friends.
- Social Networkers understand the value of being tapped into a network of connections.
Social Networks connect openly and with enthusiasm, thinking that, if we cannot directly help each other, our connections probably can. As part of their open networking, Social Networkers are generous with help and share what they know as often as they can. Social Networkers want to be where the people are and the action is happening. They understand what makes a party fun and how to engage and inform hundreds of connections.
On Twitter, you’ll know Social Networkers by the thousands of friends they have and by the fact that they usually friend back everyone who friends them. You’ll find them at most important conferences and on most social sites. They’ll be the ones with the crowds of friends. On Twitter, it might seem that everyone is talking to them. On SU and Digg, you might find them in huge networks that share content regularly.
- Content Creators would be those we call thought leaders.
Content Creators like to connect with close friends, but want their thinking to be heard beyond their own group. Content Creators value the ability to publish their ideas. They believe that knowledge gained is valuable and worth sharing. They use the Internet to discover information, solve problems, and share new thoughts.
On Twitter, Content Creators will be discussing ideas in longer conversational threads and pointing to useful information they’ve found. At conferences, they’ll be speakers or the first to ask questions. On SU and Digg, if they are there, what they share will reflect their thoughts.
You might call the four groups by different names than those on this chart — I do — that aside, the ways we act are familiar. People are people now as we always have been.
Who’s in Your Business Conversation?
For those of us in business or looking to increase our readership, the first question that comes to mind is how can I use this information to improve my social networking ROI?
When you’re looking for evangelists and loyal customers, remember relationships get built one at at time. To find more Relationship Builders, keep in mind they prefer in their own social circle. Look within your own business and social circles to find relationship builders with whom you might have strong compatibilities. Encourage relationship builders you know to refer you and introduce you. When relationship builders ask how they might help you offer them ways and words to share what you do with their friends. They might write you a valuable LinkedIn referral or introduce to the ideal client.
When you’re looking to extend your reach, Social Networkers offer all of your friends a reason to pass on your words / work on your behalf. To enlist their support, be sure what you ask them to share is something of high value that will reflect well on them. If you offer a product or service that resonates with their needs, it’s your lucky day. They’re the broadcasters and the buyers.
Don’t discount the Content Consumers. Your subscriber base is likely to have a huge percentage of them. They may check read your blog, check your profile, but you’ll only know through your referral stats. Constantly offer opportunities to subscribe and reach out to them to become friends. When their friends are in need, they will remember your name.
Identify Content Creators you respect and read their blogs. Comment with thoughtful, well-written insights and questions. Trackback to articles that connect their thoughts to yours. Relate to them as a respectful colleague not a fan. In time you’ll be a part of their network and they’ll part of yours as well.
The conversation and the way we relate hasn’t really changed. The people talking are still people talking just the same. The art and science of social media is to understand, which people you want to listen to, learn from, and have as friends.
Have you met all four social networking types? Do you have all of them in your business life? Now that you know, how will you serve them?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!