The Ecology of Social Media

social networkThe most important part of using a blog to book strategy is building an audience.  Blogs are one form of social media.  Social media is the umbrella term for blogs, podcasts, video-sharing sites (e.g. YouTube), tagging sites (e.g. Digg and Reddit) and social networks (e.g. MySpace and Facebook). 

A recent Forrester Research report, highlighted in the June 11th issue of BusinessWeek sheds some light on the current ecollgy of social media.   Social media is rapidly consuming a greater overall share of web traffic – going from just 2% in April, 2006 to 12% in April, 2007.   The Forrester study shows the percentage of online users in a given age bracket engaging in different types of social media activity.  These are summarized in the table below. 

ACTIVITY

12 to 17

18 to 21

22 to 26

27 to 40

41 to 50

51 to 61

62 +

Creators

34

37

30

19

12

7

5

Critics

24

37

34

25

18

15

10

Collectors

11

16

18

16

15

16

12

Joiners

51

70

57

29

15

8

6

Spectators

49

59

54

41

30

26

19

Inactives

34

17

21

42

54

61

70

      

Creators are those who actually produce something and post it on the web:  blog, podcast, video, etc.  This type of activity is most popular among the younger age groups, and still represents a small percentage of overall web activity.  This group might represent contributors, co-creators or people who can remix / spread your content in a viral way.

Inactives are those who are online, but don’t use social media.  This group is overwhelmingly skewed toward toward the older age brackets.  Older users have been accustomed to using a different kind of Internet so this isn’t too surprising.  This may be the great future wellspring of traffic to your blog if you can entice them to your blog through the non social web activities they already engage in.

Collectors and spectators are the groups that will most likely consume your blog content.  Collectors use RSS feeds and other information trapping tools to gather data or news.  This activity engaged a remarkably consistent percentage of individuals across all age agroups.  RSS feeds and are still being discovered by the mainstream of Internet users.  The convenience of getting information delivered vs. having to go and retrieve it will no doubt attract more converts over time.  Spectators actively explore the web – they read blogs, listen to podcasts and watch videos.  These folks are probably the first groups to visit your blog and become part of your loyal readership.

Joiners tend to congregate in on social networking sites and see what their friends or colleagues are up to.  This activity is primarily enaged in by a younger audience.  However, as social networking continues to evolve, one can imagine that the age dispersion will be a little less concentrated in the younger brackets. 

Critics are the people who write reviews, leaves comments on posts, or tag sites on social bookmarking sites.  This activity has a wider age dispersion, but the overall levels are low.  Perhaps many web users are reluctant to be critics.  These are influencers can drive traffic to your blog.  They probably play a more significant role after you’ve established some moderate traffic.

Blogger / writers can use search engine optimization (SEO) to make their sites more visible in search results generated by users typing in keywords and phrases into search engines.  A body of new techniques, referred to collectively as social media optimization (SMO), is emerging that can help leverage the ecology of the social media to bring more traffic and a higher profile to your blog. 

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