April 26th, 2007

Forrester Research: Social Technographics

Just got my hands on the quite fascinating “Social Technographics” study from Forrester Research. They take a close look at the social and demographic structure of the social web population — unlike Technorati’s statistics which mostly focus on raw blog growth numbers and structural features of the blogosphere. The study is based on two surveys including including close to 5000 North-American individuals each.

Interesting facts:

22% of adults now read blogs at least monthly, and 19% are members of a social networking site. Even more amazingly, almost one–third of all youth publish a blog at least weekly, and 41% of youth visit a social networking site daily.


Based on an analysis of online participation and consumption practices, the authors identify six segments of users, ordered by degree of participation:


Note that participation at one level may or may not overlap with the participation at other levels — so the ratios sum up to over 100%. I am citing with omissions from the study:

Creators publish blogs, maintain Web pages, or upload videos to sites like YouTube at least once per month. Creators include just 13% of the adult online population. Creators are generally young — the average age of adult users is 39 — but are evenly split between men and women.

Critics participate in either of two ways — commenting on blogs or posting ratings and reviews on sites like Amazon.com. Critics represent 19% of all adult online consumers and on average are several years older than Creators. Two-thirds of them post ratings and reviews, but only 22% comment on blogs and rate/review Web site content. Four out of 10 Critics are Creators as well.

Collectors create metadata that’s shared with the entire community, e.g. by saving URLs on a social bookmarking service like del.icio.us or using RSS feeds on Bloglines. Collectors represent 15% of the adult online population and are the most male-dominated of all the Social Technographics groups. More than two-thirds tag pages, while more than half use RSS.

Joinersuse a social networking site like MySpace.com or Facebook. Joiners represent only 19% of the adult online population and are the youngest of the Social echnographics groups. They are highly likely to engage in other Social Computing activities — 56% also read blogs, while 30% publish blogs.

Spectators represent 33% of the adult online population and are slightly more likely to be women and have the lowest household income of all the social Technographics groups. The most common activity for Spectators is reading blogs, with only a small overlap with users who watch peer-generated video on sites like YouTube. In all, 31% of Spectators do not engage in Creator, Critic, Collector, or Joiner activities.

Inactives. Today, 52% of online adults do not participate at all in social computing activities. These Inactives have an average age of 50, are more likely to be women, and are much less likely to consider themselves leaders or tell their friends about products that interest them.

Finally, the authors discuss demographic features with respect to the segments:

18 – 26 year olds have the highest percentages in almost every participating category. What stands out is the extremely high participation in social network activities (70% for 18–21 year olds!).

More surprisingly, one third of teenagers is also actively creating content, however these are less engaging as Critics or Collectors than other generations.

Generation X is participating with up to 29% for Joiners, but around 40% are merely Spectators or Inactive. Older generations tend to participate less, but still have a Spectator rate of almost one fifth for seniors, which is also more than I expected.

Overall, an extremely interesting study. Aimed at marketers, it also has a lot to offer for designers: What target groups are you designing for — and what incentives will you provide?

Most interesting to me was the pretty even segmentation — I expected an even more skewed distribution with more people passively consuming and only a small percentage actively creating. And good to see that the social web is pretty gender neutral — women even have a slightly higher ratio on social networks activity.

14 Responses to 'Forrester Research: Social Technographics'

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  1. Moritz Stefaner
    April 27th, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Second thoughts: RSS usage is still pretty low (around 10%). And I would like to see the overlap relationships between the segments more clearly. The authors give some numbers, but not a complete overview of how activities are correlated.

  2. […] Moritz Stefaner of Well-formed data shares figures from a Forrester study on Social Technographics: Mapping Participation In Activities Forms The Foundation Of A Social Strategy (link to the Forrester study – link to Stefaner’s digest). […]

  3. Mo
    May 4th, 2007 at 10:26 am

    For the sake of completeness and to point you to ongoing discussions:

    At Smart Mobs, there is an interesting discussion going on about the difference between contributing users and page visits with the intention of contribution:

    It got started by a post about a Time article stating that
    ” According to Hitwise, only 0.2% of visits to YouTube are users uploading a video, 0.05% visits to Google Video include uploaded videos and 0.16% of Flickr visits are people posting photos. Only the social encyclopedia Wikipedia shows a significant amount of participation, with 4.56% of visits to the site resulting in content editing.”

    If you read the article, you will see that the argument seems at least incomplete or possibly flawed, since the authors constantly mix up “users” and “visits”, and never make clear, what a healthy relation of contribution and consumption should be like and for what reasons. If you think about the effort going into creating a video, I think the ratio of 500 visits to 1 created content is pretty high. Also, what would a ratio of 1:1 mean? One visit on average per created content! Would that be a better sign?

    And thanks to KonzeptioNerd for pointing out Nielsen’s view:
    which points in the same direction as the Forrester study, but I prefer the latter one due to its more differentiated view on “participation”.

  4. Moritz Stefaner
    May 4th, 2007 at 10:45 am

    More good discussion at:

  5. Who Is Really Using Web 2.0? « techada
    May 8th, 2007 at 1:25 am

    […] Is Really Using Web 2.0? Published May 7th, 2007 Society and Culture , Web 2.0 Well-Formed Data and SmartMobs recently reported on the state of Web 2.0 and who is really using it. Based on data […]

  6. Larissa Pschetz
    May 11th, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Really interesting, but I didn’t understand if “consulting wikipedia” was just not considered in the study (maybe because it’s too popular) or if it’s included in the topic “using a wiki” – and in this case it’s funny that the number of adults that consult wikipedia is considered insignificant…


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  14. […] discussies starten op fora etc. Heel recent onderzoek kan ik niet vinden, het beste komt van Forresters.Op basis van een analyse van online participatie, hebben de auteurs zes segmenten weten te […]