Social Media – Participation Rates Much Lower Than We Thought…

Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester has a great post up entitled ” Why Some Don’t Need to Join the Conversation“. The basic premise is that even though social media has been so very hot in the past year or two, actual participation by users remains at a relatively low percentage of overall visitors.

To prove my point, let’s start with data: In most markets, (even youth) there are no bars that span 100% for creators. In fact, 18-24 year olds in United States only are creators 39% of the time. 45-54 year olds in UK only create online content a paltry 6%, although they are critics 11% of the time.

So what does this tell us? Not everyone is part of the online dialog exchange. Not everyone will ever be part of the online conversation.

This point has really been driven home lately to me as I’ve become more directly involved in the Reel-Time Community again. In discourse with a few readers, I’ve mentioned “well, you’ve only been a member for the past two years,” only to be told that they were actually lurkers back well into the last decade. In two distinct cases, that means they waited at least 8 years before registering or posting on a site they use almost daily.

So what’s it all mean? My feeling now is that you’ve got to assume that the active participants on your site are the tip of the iceberg. They’re responsible for helping to make the experience rich and vibrant, but you’ve got to realize that many of your dedicated users may actually never really contribute.

New information? Not hardly…we’ve been discussing the lurker factor on online bulletin boards since pre-internet days.

Twitter, FriendFeed and Overexposure of the Personal Brand

I’ve said it before, but this post especially requires that I state it clearly again: I am a New England Yankee.

That means that I possibly have a heightened sense of propriety and generally would consider a lot of things marketing-wise as crossing the line that some of you might not have a problem with.

I’m noticing lately that a lot of marketing types are spending a lot of time on micro-blogging tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed (the new darling), Plurk, etc. I’m sure many have convinced themselves that a lot of what they are doing is “creating social media brand awareness” for their products. The truth is that Twitter is more about branding for the personal brand, and as such I find in most cases, it creates a level of over exposure that’s downright harmful to your personal brand.

Think about Jason Calacanis, who was for a while offering all kinds of contests, giveaways, etc. via Twitter, trying to increase the awareness of the Majalo Search Engine (disclosure: I signed up to contribute when it first started, but honestly never did produce any results for them). For a time, it seemed that the Twitter stream I was getting was all Jason, all the time. “I’m going to have lunch with xxx here. Burritos, yum” or something like that. The signal to noise ratio was so high that I really began to dislike what Calacanis was doing. I didn’t even know him and I was starting to develop a strong dislike.

Jason mentioned on the This Week in Tech podcast this week that he has a lot of people who can’t stand his online persona, but actually become good friends when he meets them. And for the record, I really enjoy hearing Calacanis on podcasts, and I’m sure I’d like him if we were to sit down for a beer sometime. However the Twitterati Calacanis was, for a time, utterly annoying.

Similarly Jeremiah Owyang – he’s been a perennial link in my posts, but when Forrester did their conference in March this year, I had to un-follow him for the time being, I just didn’t need to know whenever anyone decided to go to the bathroom at the conference, or what specific CEO he was talking to.

On the other side, I see a lot of the Twitterati catering to prurient interests to build their following. Yes, sex sells, for the most part, you’re selling yourself here. Do you really want the interest that brings? If you’re even thinking about that, you might want to talk to Ariel Waldman, community manager at Pownce, who’s now got her own stalker, with all the fun that brings. Oh joy!

The problem we have is that so many of us are making the mistake off blending our personal and our professional lives. In business, I prefer not to be known for my ability to consume Mojitos…although personally I really like them. Yet, I blend my Twitter posts with a weird mix of both professional and personal information (yeah, do as I say, not as I do).

I think too many of the Twitterati are making the fundamental mistake of overexposing their personal brand via social networking, to their personal and professional detriment. Your thoughts?