Rise of the Digital Voyeurs: What is Your Role in Social Media?
Every day we sign into Facebook, Twitter , Google+ and a plethora of other Social Media platforms. The content shared on these sites is limitless, and with new content being created and shared every day, the power of Social Media has never been stronger.
We are constantly told about the benefits of Social Media as an Online Marketing Strategy, but one question that I’ve been pondering is: What do the 700 million people who use these sites actually use them for?
I propose a three-pronged method of identifying social media users.
1) Those who seek to create new content for their online audience for a multitude of reasons and in a multitude of ways. (Creators)
2) Those who enjoy nothing more than engaging with online content and sharing it among their family, friends and professional peers. (Amplifiers)
3) Those of us who sign in just to see what our friends and family have been up to. (Voyeurs)
The spread of users across these three categories is far from even. As the following diagram comprehensively explains, the people responsible for creating new content are in a tiny minority, while most people are quite content to just observe what other people are creating.
So what type of user am I?
There is no easy answer to this question. I imagine most people fall under ‘a bit of each’; but here, I will give each User-Type a profile and you can see which you most identify with.
These are the people at the top of the content waterfall. People who focus on creating web content. Here are the different types:
Type 1: Raising Awareness/Expanding a Fan Base/Increasing Exposure
The creators with the most exposure are big brands with big followings. A company like Coca-Cola push new content all day every day. They want to keep people interested in their product and spread the good word. If people are sharing new pictures, competitions and media around Social Networks, it’s free promotion for the company and everyone’s a winner.
There’s obviously a sliding scale with the multi-nationals at one end and independent companies, artists, musicians and people trying to build a fan-base at the other end.
(If you’re on the digital marketing team of a big brand; an unsigned musician; or a celebrity, this is you).
Type 2: Staying Current/Inspiring Ideas/Informing
Other creators might be Bloggers or companies who offer online services. They spark discussion about topics and, as their content is shared in email or social networks, they build more of a following. New content is important for these people. Staying fresh and current in the SEO-driven world requires a focus on innovative ideas and compelling writing.
(If you’re a Blogger, SEO or Redditor, this is you)
Type 3: Have-a-Go Heroes
The final type of creator is anyone else who posts on any Social Media Platform. The people who Tweet about their breakfast; or Instagram pictures of the weather; or update Facebook after a successful bowel movement. The people who just want to share their lives with their contacts. Features such as ‘Checking-in’ and ‘Tagging’ on Facebook enable these users the opportunity to be as detailed as they could possibly be when creating new content. The more they tag, the bigger their audience becomes. Mobile technology means that essentially anyone with thumbs can be this type of creator.
(If you have an internet connection, this is probably you)
The Amplifiers of Social Media can be broken into similar sections, as such:
Type 1: Shameless Self-Promoters
This is the type of Amplifier who tries to get their own content as much attention as they can. For example, a Blog-Post writer at an internet marketing company might Tweet a link to his post for his followers to see. His Twitter account is linked to his Facebook page, so it will also post the link to Facebook. He might then post a link to the page on Reddit; Submit the page to Stumbleupon; +1 the page on Google+; Pin the page on Pinterest; e-mail the page to all of his friends; write a letter containing the URL to his Great Aunt; Spray paint the link under a railway bridge or just go door-to-door asking people to visit his page. If he’s lucky, his followers, friends and associates will give the post the same treatment; retweeting it and sharing it around their own online networks and this will get the post the recognition it deserves.
(If you are trying to increase exposure to your own content, this is you)
Type 2: Subject Gurus
These are the types of Amplifiers who are considered (by themselves at least) to be experts in their field of interest. They will follow anyone who shows an interest in their subject and retweet, comment and increase awareness of the content they view to be of a high standard. This could be @DogFoodCentral Retweeting your comment about the new biscuits you bought your Labrador, or it might be @MattCutts raising awareness of your worthwhile post about Google’s Interpretation of HTML Tags. In any case, these are people who have an online following interested in a particular subject. They acknowledge that responsibility by sharing the best content in that field.
(If you are an online expert on anything, this is you)
Type 3: Fankids
These are the people who share content from their favourite bands, celebrities or artists. There are pages and sites dedicated to sharing the content put out by pop-cultural icons from all walks of life. Many artists have modern-day Fan Clubs in the form of Fan Pages and Groups on Facebook. There are also a growing number of Twitter accounts dedicated to Retweeting people talking about the artist. For example the frankly confusing account dedicated to 2010’s 4th Place X-Factor Contestant, Cher Lloyd:
For an example of the hype that can be created by Fankids, look at a fairly innocuous Tweet from a young boy named Justin Bieber:
That was Retweeted by more people than could fill Wembley Stadium.
Take a moment to process that…
Now, I’ve got nothing against Justin Bieber. I’m sure he’s completely deserving of the attention he receives for quoting other people’s lyrics. But I’m sure if an 18 year old boy doing an Apprenticeship at a local City College had Tweeted the same sentiment, it might not have generated quite the same buzz…
Fankids share their love of artists to an alarming level of dedication, making them a huge part of the Amplification process.
(If you are obsessed with someone online, this is you)
Type 4: Keyboard Keensters
This applies to anyone else who interacts with online content. Casual Social Networkers who either want to get involved with the technology or just keep up with their friends. They will retweet @sportsquotesoffical or whatever sage advice is being handed out by @charliesheen that day. They will comment on each other’s photos with material that 5 years ago would have been confined to a text message or phone-call. They will like their friend’s status updates, share photos from their favourite singer’s pages; but still be fairly restricted to slightly extended group of people that they probably see on a day-to-day basis anyway.
(If you spend much of your time on Social Networking sites, but don’t like posting, this is you)
This is less easy to break into different segments since we are all guilty of it in some way. By Voyeurism I mean the idea of looking and not touching. Seeing but not interacting. The idea of voyeurism conjures up a lot of negative connotations, but I think it is exceedingly appropriate here– especially in an age where privacy is flouted just as much as it is protected. There’s something kind of perverse about how most of us use Social Media. Every day we log on and trawl through updates of people we probably wouldn’t even think about were it not for this fairly unnecessary level of connectivity.
I’m in the age bracket where people start to have children. I’m sure having a child is the most precious thing in the world, and I’m sure when I have children I’ll want to share it with everyone I know. But at the same time, I find it almost unsettling that I’m being exposed to an enormous number of such life events by people I barely know and may never physically meet again. We invite people who are essentially strangers to share in our successes and failures, knowing that they probably don’t care. We watch people’s lives go by in our Newsfeeds and learn more about them than we care to know; but in many cases we wouldn’t even say hello if we passed them in the street.
And we still log on every day to do the same.
Looking but not clicking.
…Welcome to digital voyeurism.
So Why Should I Care About This?
It’s important to recognise who will be using your content and what they will be using it for. If you want to get a killer video out there; or you want more people to spread your latest blog post you need to think of ways to turn Voyeurs into Amplifiers, and Amplifiers into Super-Amplifiers. You might offer a prize for the 1000th Retweet or comment. You might reward commenters by commenting back with feedback. People like to know their opinions are being heard, and the more links you build on that personal level, the more people will connect with your company and the more they’ll come back. Get visitors active, and then reward their activity.
As a planet, we’ve never been so connected. The next stage for online commerce is activating the potential to interact with all of their potential customers. Things like Google Authorship are a step away from online anonymity and a stronger sense of community.
Put the effort into engaging the visitors to your site and you’ll see the benefits in no time.