Part 2: Conversation with Charlene Li and The Participation Ladder

by Marianne Richmond on April 23, 2007

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff released a new research  report today called Social Technographics that expands upon their research and writing on social computing and the ROI of Blogging; in this report they are taking about levels of participation, what they call the particpation ladder.

The message is for corporations, advertisers, or anyone trying to understand how to implement a social media strategy. Like any sound marketing strategy, start with what you are trying to do, then decide upon the tools to accomplish the goal.

As mentioned in the earlier Part 1 post, I had the opportunity to speak to Charlene Li at the Forrester Marketing Forum . She talked about the Participation Ladder and the way that the ladder metaphor demonstrates the way that consumers adopt social computing.

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The bottom rung of the ladder is for non-participants, currently 52% of US online consumers The first step begins with spectators; those that read, watch and
listen and moves all the way to the top of the ladder, the consumers
most engaged in social computing: the creators (13%).

The interesting aspect of the ladder visual I think is that looking at consumr adoption of socia media as a spectrum of behavior leads marketers to a more strategic approach to designing social media programs …and emphasizes the necessity of refining a target.

Ringtones might make a great addition to your branding program and your target may own what you call a mobile device,  but if your target only talks on what they call their cell phone, your probably should wait on the ringtones.

Current consumer behavior typically predicts future behavior. Ted Schadler’s Forrester Marketing Forum presentation on behavioral targeting discussed the ways to identify the best target for your product or service by looking at their current behavior. Monitoring online behavior is a gold mine of data.

Charlene mentioned the perenial interview question: Where will you be in five years? as a way to look at consumer adoption of social media. As you plan your strategy, think about where the consumer is headed on the ladder.

The recent events at Virginia Tech demonstrated to the world the way that college students communicate and connect with each other through social media.

It also demonstrated the availability of the technologies that enabled the communications to the uninitiated. Awareness is of course a precurser to adoption. My guess would be that there are far more people on their way up the participation ladder than there were before the trgic events of April 16th.

In the last part of the conversation with Charlene, we taked about the elusive metric, engagement and how the discussion is in a sense pointless. Her advice regarding deciding what kind of relationship you want to have with your consumer and then designing  social media program to achieve that goal carried onward to the metrics….measure how you achieved the goals you set. Focus on your results, not the definition of engagement.

Steve Rubel weighs in at Micropersuasion.

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