This post is a little update on one of themes I explored in the book concerning how people are different in the levels of commitment, participation and influence they bring to discovering culture. I started out with some market research about different kinds of music fans: "Savants", "Enthusiasts", "Casuals" and "Indifferents" (see full post about this classification). It doesn't seem far-fetched to imagine that some similar gradation of interest occurs in most, if not all, other fields. But then I speculated that this classification might map onto the different kinds of participation in social media proposed by Bradley Horowitz, where he distinguised
- Creators — 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
- Synthesisers — 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
- Consumers — 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers)
And then I went further and speculated about mapping that onto the distinction that some marketers make between advocates/influencers, 'brand adorers' and 'brand adopters'.
I mentioned in the book that it was questionable whether a pyramid is always the right way to represent these classifications. It implies a very top-down, one-way dynamic of influence. Intuition and everyday experience suggests that life isn't like that, and I gave examples of the most committed music fans being influenced indirectly by the more casual fans (Lord save us from being thought to share mainstream tastes!). But everyone seems to use pyramids to show influence, and that's the bit that stuck, while my nuanced caveats got forgotten. It still haunts me, which is why I have to write blog 'updates' like this…
But what prompted the return of this spectre was a couple of recent blog posts on participation and influence. First, Jay Cross shared the six levels of participation — represented as a ladder this time — identified by Jeremiah Owyang, a Forresters analyst: