It's easy to become overwhelmed with the seemingly instant rise of the social revolution. Knowing what your role should be and which tools you should be using can seem daunting. Where do you start? What is appropriate for yourself, and what is right for your business?
The fact is, the underlying technologies that make up many of the popular social networking platforms (where the goal is to meet people, identify leads) and social collaboration platforms (designed more for interacting with teams and customers) have been around for some time now, but business culture is finally catching up to the consumer-focused leaders, bringing social to the forefront of business.
I came across an article in the September/October issue of Business Uncovered magazine called "5 Top Tricks for Making Social Media Work for your Business" that provided some sound advice on utilizing the social landscape by understanding your goals, defining your target markets, selecting the appropriate content to engage customers, and then measuring your success so that you can learn from your experiences and improve your ongoing strategy.
What stood out to me, however, was the idea of understanding your role, or style, within the social landscape, and where your skills and interests will be best put to use.
While there have been efforts to develop a social computing or community-based maturity model to help companies and individuals identify and then to progress in their social awareness and capability, what I liked about the article is that it focused on a broader set of social profiles that, I believe, provide a simple snapshot of where most people fit. And when you understand your current state, you can then develop a strategy for improvement.
Identifying Your Social Style
Some of us may span multiple styles depending on the business goal or on our own professional or personal need. To be honest, I constantly change social styles throughout the week: most of the time I am creating, while other days I feel like being more of a spectator. And most weekends I completely unplug, going dark with the rest of the "inactives." Can you find your style?
These are the people who are generating the original content, through articles, blog posts, videos and memes. They are constantly identifying content that interests themselves, or that they believe their network may be interested in, sharing news and content, or organizing it into interesting and relevant formats for their networks.
Most Creators are active in every aspect of the social landscape, adding content, responding to questions, providing feedback on other sites and networks, and generally nurturing their followers and keeping in touch with their friends and associates.
While not creating content, these people are providing their feedback and commentary to the community by replying, liking and re-tweeting content. They may not be the thought-leaders, per se, but they are a critical aspect of the social fabric because they extend the audience of the Creators, generally focusing on one or two areas of focus. They are often specialists, with deep subject matter expertise who have strong opinions, and who are also very active in the communities in which they participate.
These are the people who build vast networks, many times acting as connectors for their contacts. An obvious Collector job might be a recruiter, who wants a large network to help them identify unique skills for an open requisition. Some Collectors also gather contacts as a status symbol, making them feel like a tight knit part of the community. They may not participate in creating or discussing much of the content, but they tend to be active members of the community.
Within every community there are those who sign up for every list, join every group and sign up for every mailing list — but then do not add much to the conversation. You've seen them — they have a Twitter profile, follow 785 people, but have only tweeted 3 times. Joiners have not yet figured out how to make social part of their work habits. They are generally testing the waters.
Sometimes referred to as "lurkers," these are the people who, like Joiners, sign up for various tools and groups, but do actually participate — as consumers of data. They may not add content, or rarely even comment or share their feedback, but they are out there. In fact, they constitute the largest portion of the social sphere. They are the audience of the Creators and Critics.