A new rung on the social media ladder

Update, Jan. 19, 2010: Josh Bernoff introduces the new version of the social media ladder in this morning’s post. “Conversationalists” are on the second rung. – AC

Those of you who sat in on my CASE District VI session on social media last week may recall a discussion of the social media latter, a concept introduced by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in their wonderful book about the rise of social media, Groundswell.

The ladder is one way of illustrating the “social technographics” Li and Bernoff created to classify different Internet users — from the “creators” who publish blogs and user-generated videos to the “collectors” who use RSS proficiently to the “joiners” who link up via social networks. Above is a shot of the ladder from my Tweets, Tubes and Feeds presentation, and here’s a good explanation of technographics from Bernoff himself.

Well, the ladder just got taller. Forrester Research just announced the new social technographics. The original ladder, Bernoff explains, did not take into account “the rapid conversations that take place in tweets and Facebook status updates.”

To reflect the new behavior, we’ve added a rung to the Social Technographics ladder: Conversationalists, a group that starts out with 33% of the online population (compared with 70% who consume social content and 59% who use social networks).

I’m not sure where on the ladder that new rung fits, although for $499 I could buy a report from Forrester Research that would probably tell me. Anyway, the new rung makes sense. The conversations occurring on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere have exploded over the past 12-18 months, reinforcing what The Cluetrain Manifesto told us some 11 years ago: that “markets are conversations.”