The Social Media Involvement Pyramid

March 18, 2009 at 10:33 PM Leave a comment

Earlier this month I ran across a great blog post by Ruth Seeley discussing different levels of involvement with social media. Ruth’s post referenced a piece of research done by Forrester that defined five different tiers of social media participation and put them into this ladder diagram.

**It should be noted here that this study is a little outdated (April 2007). Regardless, the distinctions of involvement are still relevant.

Social Media Involvement Latter

The diagram suggests (as Ruth does in her post), that users should start out on the base rung and work their way up to the Creator level. But we all know that’s just not the way it works. Ruth even admits to starting at the top and working her way down.

I’m not a fan of the ladder design for two reasons:

1) The steps aren’t mutually exclusive. While I understand that the groupings are organized in a natural progression that may lend themselves to this type of diagram, to successfully survive in social media, you need to be active in all 5 areas. (I’m excluding the Inactive group all together.)

2) The progression doesn’t make since. There’s no real “top” or “bottom” in SM as portrayed in this diagram. Users don’t have to start as spectators, and rarely work their way through each rung. A fair number of my friends and friendz could be labeled solely as Joiners or Critics. I guess they just jumped to reach these rungs on the “ladder.”

But enough of my mockery. Truth-be-told, I like this diagram and would love to see more research regarding the use of social media. Shoot, it’s research like this that gives PR professionals an excuse for wasting half their time on sites like Twitter and Facebook!

But that’s why I decided to revamp the diagram and put it in a whole new context.

So here it is, The Social Media Involvement Pyramid:

Social Media Pyramid

Big deal, huh? You think I just ripped off someone else’s idea, and tweaked it a bit? Well, you may be right, but here’s why the SMIP makes more sense to me:

Similar to traditional public relations, success in the SM world depends on a good base of research — in this case Spectating. Users must have an understanding of what they’re dealing with in order to know what they’re talking about. The more knowledgeable they are the better shot they have at good communication. More time should be spent in this area than any other. (The stronger the base, the better the pyramid!)

Joining is almost equally important in SM . Connect to intelligent, influential people and find out what they’re saying and doing. This is similar to a PR pro’s need to network. There’s a reason this is the second tier of the structure; it’s all about who you know (or interact with online).

Collecting is essentially a more engaged form of spectating. It’s the equivalent of a PR pro’s task of monitoring. It’s real-time research to find out what’s important or interesting. It’s also the last part of what I consider to be the base of the SMIP.

Without a strong base, the top of the pyramid has little relevance.

I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but involvement in the Critiquing and Creating levels are generally not as significant if you haven’t spent an adequate time building your SM base. To make a solid argument, you have to have a sturdy base. Think of it this way:

Inverted Social Media Involvement Pryamid

**One last special note should be made to point out the most important figure in the ladder diagram: 52 percent of online US adults are not active in social media. Again, I know this study is almost two years old, but the fact is that the majority of adults who actually access the Internet were not involved with social media. Makes you wonder why there’s such a fuss over this stuff, huh?


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