Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web

In 2007 Charlene Li, then at Forrester Research, now running the Altimeter Group, along with Forrester ‘s Josh Bernoff, Remy Fiorentino, and Sarah Glass released a report that introduced us to Social Technographics.  Forrester’s research segmented participation behavior on the social web into six categories, visualized through a ladder metaphor with the rungs at the high end of the ladder indicating a greater level of participation.

Social Technographics were designed to help businesses engage in social media with a more human approach, catering to individuals where, when, and how they are participating and contributing to the social Web. According to Forrester research…

Many companies approach social computing as a list of technologies to be deployed as needed – a blog here, a podcast there – to achieve a marketing goal.  But a more coherent approach is to start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for. Forrester categorizes social computing behaviors into a ladder with six levels of participation; we use the term “Social Technographics” to describe analyzing a population according to its participation in these levels. Brands, Web sites, and any other company pursuing social technologies should analyze their customers’ Social Technographics first, and then create a social strategy based on that profile.

The hierarchy was presented as follows:

Creators, those who publish web pages, blogs and other social objects – 13%

Critics, individuals who comment on blogs or post ratings and reviews – 19%

Collectors, those who use RSS and/or tag Web pages – 15%

Joiners, people who are active in social networks – 19%

Spectators, content consumers who read blogs, watch user-generated videos, and listen to podcasts – 33%

Inactives – 52%


Over the years, the Social Technographics ladder evolved, with the numbers growing and shifting as social media grew in prominence among mainstream users. In January 2010, Forrester’s Josh Bernoff released an update to the popular Social Technographics ladder to visualize and categorize the current state of how consumers participate in the social Web. As you can see, behavior shifted upward in droves, in some cases doubling the level of engagement within roles that define social experiences. The definitions have also evolved to better reflect the online activity of today’s socialites.

2007 – 13%
2010 – 24%

2007 – 19%
2010 – 37%

2007 – 15%
2010 – 20%

2007 – 19%
2010 – 59%

2007 – 33%
2010 – 70%

2007 – 52%
2010 – 17%


This year, Forrester observed notable activity that warranted the creation of a new rung on the Technographics ladder, one that earned a top position just below Creators. According to Forrester, America is increasingly becoming a nation of social chatterboxes. A recent Forrester survey that polled more then 10,000 consumers shows that one in every three online Americans is a “conversationalist” – someone who updates their status in the statusphere (any social network with an update window) at least once per week. Conversationalists represent 33% of today’s online social behavior.

The survey identified the people behind the category, with 56% of conversationalists representing the highest concentration of women in any social group. And, 70% of this group were 30 years or older.

Again, the goal of Social Technographics was not only to classify individual participation in social media, but also to encourage the design and segmentation of focused marketing, branding, and engagement programs that appeal to these respective groups.


The Altimeter Group believes that in order to effectively form ties that bind with social customers, businesses must genuinely understand the social behaviors of consumers. In January 2010, Charlene Li and company introduced us to Socialgraphics to serve the intelligence necessary to develop a social strategy based on a consumer-defined Engagement Pyramid. By personalizing the messages and the digital conduits between brands and markets, businesses evolve from a carpet bombing campaign that essentially marketed at faceless consumers using mediums that appealed to targeted demographics (characterized by age, income, gender, education, etc.) instead of psychographics (grouped by interest).

According to Altimeter, Socialgraphics asks several key questions that allow brands to focus and tailor resources on the very people that comprise each answer.

1. Where are your customers online?

2. What are your customers’ social behaviors online?

3. What social information or people do your customers rely on?

4. What is your customers’ social influence? Who trusts them?

5. How do your customers use social technologies in the context of your products?

In order to truly and effectively engage, we need to understand the behavior and categorization of our customer base. As such, Altimeter’s Engagement Pyramid focuses and ranks social behavior…

Curating – Heavily involved in online communities such as discussion boards, fan pages, and wikipedia through moderation, contribution, editing, etc. These curators contribute their time, energy, and perspective to improve the foundation for available information on a given subject.

Producing – Creates and publishes original content and social objects as a way of expressing expertise, positions, as well as contributing to the ecosystem of information those in the other categories seek to share thoughts and also make decisions.

Commenting – Responds to the content created by Producers. Even though they do not actively create and distribute original social objects, their activity is still influential to those around them.

Sharing – Individuals who actively update their status on social sites and upload/forward photos, videos, articles, etc. This behavior earns relevance and also demonstrates knowledge and awareness.

Watching – Content consumers who are seeking information in order to make decisions or learn from peers, or purely seeking entertainment.

Altimeter also maps the Engagement Pyramid to Twitter, as online behavior is unique to the culture and communication that define the Twitterverse.

Curating – #hashtag

Sharing/Producing – Tweet

Sharing – Re-tweet (RT)

Commenting – @reply

Watching – Read Tweets


Technographics and Socialgraphics humanize our markets, allowing us to better understand the activities and behaviors that will allow us to make informed decisions about how and where we communicate and to what extent. This is about engendering responses that are governed by unique touchpoints based on the placement of our customers within the respective pecking order of social participation.

Genuine engagement is inspired by the research and data we accumulate as we analyze the social web and the specific activity and people who define our markets and audiences. We are now required to tailor our stories and distribute them specifically in the channels that cater to the technographics and socialgraphics of our customers. In order to truly earn relevance and prominence within our communities, we also need to connect information and objects dictated by the personality traits of those influencers who in turn activate and move markets.

If Technographics and Socialgraphics represent the lines of communication from brand to market, Behaviorgraphics serve as the last mile between the medium and the specific person we’re hoping to reach.

Social beacons are the influential voices within social networks who act as the information catalysts to those around them. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith refer to this group as Trust Agents others refer to these individuals as tastemakers, influencers, trendsetters, and change agents. In the era of socialized media, we are now able to pinpoint these individuals and also learn, in real-time, what they’re seeking and to whom they’re connected. This is why Digital Anthropology and Sociology play such a pivotal role in the creation of engagement strategies and the content, objects, and channels we use to establish and cultivate relationships within social networks.

I spent the last several years observing the cultures, laws, behavior, hierarchy, and communication bridges in many social networks and one thing that I observed, is that influence is not universally bestowed upon or earned by any one type of person. Influence is distributed across segmented personality traits and categorized by the prominence within specific nicheworks linked by interests. Activating social networks and the people within them is an act of communication to form an association. Therefore, we must understand much more than how content attracts varying levels of behavior, but also surface the personality characteristics of the people we’re hoping to establish connections and relationships.

In many ways, we become social psychologists and linguists who can speak to individuals in manners that appeal to their demeanor. And, since each of us are also consumers, we find ourselves not in any one group, but at any point in time, we can identify with several traits based on our engagement in varying circumstances.

Introducing Behaviorgraphics…

Behaviorgraphics examines the “me” in Social Media. While it’s avatars that capture our attention, it’s personality that captures our heart and mind.

Social media tests the filter that divides inner monologue from disclosure. As our thoughts become words online, they color our avatars and profiles with a glimpse of our personality – who we are online and in the real world. Over time, it is how we put our words into action that establishes our character. And, it is our character, through the marriage of our words and actions that paves the way for relationships and opportunities.

Visualized once again, with the help of JESS3

At the center is Benevolence – The unselfish and kindhearted behavior that engenders and promotes recognition and reciprocity, and in doing so, earns the goodwill of those around them. This is the hub of social networking with a purpose, mission, and a genuine intent to grow communities based on trust, vision, and collaboration.

Problem Solvers – One of the most common sources of conversations and updates in social media are questions…people seeking information in the hopes that commenters will respond with resolution or direction.

Commenters – Providing thoughts, opinions, observations, experiences, and sometimes, unfiltered reactions to the information shared online. They are less likely to produce original content, but are compelled to share their views based on the introduction of content by others in and around their social graph.

Researchers – Peer to peer influence is prominent in social networks and researchers rely on their social graphs for information and direction to make qualified decisions. They are also active in championing polls and surveys to truly learn about the thoughts and opinions of those connected to them.

Conversationalists – Participation in conversations through proactive updates seeking responses or direct responses to other content, conversationalists fuel threads within and across networks.

Curators – In the context of behaviorgraphics, curators carry a different role. This group works diligently to find and only share what captivates them as filtered by what they believe will interest their followers.

Producers – Among the more elite group of online participants, their stature is earned by the amount of content they generate within multiple networks.

Broadcasters – Social media is proving to be both an effective broadcast and conversational platform. Broadcasters are mostly one-way communicators who either intentionally or unintentionally push information to followers without injecting conversational aspects into the mix.

Marketers – Profiles dedicated to marketing ideas, products, or services and may or may not include content outside of their portfolio, unless the account is focused on funneling beneficial and value-added solutions to specific audiences regardless of origin.

Socialites – Individuals who have earned varying levels of weblebrity, these new internet famous personae earn recognition and attention in online networks which is increasingly spilling over in real world fame.

Self-promoters – Unlike broadcasters and marketers, self-promoters are unconcealed in their intentions through constant updating of activities, events, and accomplishments.

Egocasters – Contribute to the “ego” in the egosystem and represent the evolution of self-promoters. Through constant promotion and the activities and responses that ensue, promoters graduate to a position of perceived prominence and collective unawareness.  What they think and say is what they believe to be the reality for one and for all. They lose touch with perspective as listening gives way to telling…

Observers – Often referred to as inactives, lurkers, or simply consumers, Observers represent the majority of the social Web today, defined by those who read and also share information in the backchannel, including email, and also in the real world.

Social Climbers – Social capital is not only something that is earned in social networking, it is something that is proactively pursued by those whose sole mission is to rise to the top. These individuals intentionally climb ladders on the avatars, profiles, and social capital of others most often misrepresenting their purpose and stature to earn an audience based on disingenuous intentions.

TMI – The things some share in social media continue to blur the line between what’s relegated to inner monologue versus that for sharing with others in public. The state of sharing “Too much information” is dictated by those on the receiving end of the update, not those who publish it.

Spammers – Those accounts and profiles that are created to push messages blindly and without regard for those with whom they come into contact. Often times they’re tied to current events (using trending keywords or hashtags) or targeting influential voices to lure them into clicking through to their desired goal.

Leachers –Not included in the graph, but an important category to recognize as leachers take the good work of others and channel it into their own accounts almost exclusively for the sake of promoting their cause.

Complainers – When we love something, we tell a few people; when something bothers us, we tell everyone.  Complainers are often sharing their discontent as a primary ingredient in their social stream. And, as customer service takes to the social web, these complainers are only encouraged to share their experiences to achieve satisfaction and earn recognition for their role as the new social customer.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!

Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:

Image Credit: Shutterstock

322 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web”

  1. Even with the addition of “conversationalists” Forrester seems to have still missed an important rung for marketers: sharers who typically don't create, critique, or converse.

  2. dmattcarter says:

    I'm glad you've created a category for serial complainers. I recently wrote a blog post about the value/opportunity that negative sentiment presents and positive sentiment lacks. Addressing and engaging these folks is important. They have an audience and create “well-attended opinion forums”. The brands who can successfully engage and satisfy valid detractors, can earn the admiration of the many. If interested here's a true story of this in action:

  3. Akash Sharma says:

    Hi Brian,We have been figuring out the connection between the end user and the product earlier it was how they responded on ad copies now it's their original reaction to anything that goes around a new media called brand.
    I think this information would help companies in deciding what kind of content or information they should organize for different types of people on the web.

  4. Lots of stuff to think about here. Altimeter's five questions are very helpful for any business to remember.

    The jump in content creators is staggering to me. We're already swimming in a sea of white noise. You wonder if this trend will continue and what the implications will be if it does? I suspect attn spans will continue to decrease and content will change with this.

  5. Go2Mach2 says:

    Brian, Thanks…you write well…

    I like your analysis…and agree with you conclusion on understanding behaviour. The challenge is converting a comprehensive analysis of the behavioural aspects regarding social media networking into a simple user friendly explanation on the positive effects of integrating Social Media analytics into a company's Branding Strategy. While I enjoy examining all aspects of the subject, my clients are only interested in the simplicity of – “Just Do It”….

    Thanks Again…

  6. Tracy Lee says:


    This is a well organised, insightful article. I am sure this will be helpful to many people trying to navigate this space and understand how it is applicable to them.

    Thank you for posting this and I look forward to reading your book.

  7. Wow.This was an amazing post. The data and insights provided are so helpful. It really shows how social media has grown and the impact in having on how we consume.

  8. skyshoes says:

    One more category.. “All of the abovers”. Thank you (me) now I feel “defined”.

  9. I've been a big fan of Forrester's Technographics work. Love that it is continuing to evolve, and that you are building on it with “Behaviorgraphics”. Keep up the great work!

  10. galkinelli says:

    Awesome article and research. I am not sure about 52% all the way down to 17% (inactives), but I will gladly take that. I am in the business of crowdsourcing and cognitive media, so I view the engagement trends as the single most important ingredient of all the social changes (not only on the web). We live in these truly awesome times, where the creativity and connectivity are dictating the course of events for our entire civilization.

  11. Hank Wasiak says:

    As usual some great facts turned into powerful insights on the role of people in the social web. Reinforces the point that social media has morphed into the fifth “P” of the marketing mix….PEOPLE…In addition to Product,Price,Place and Promotion Companies must elevate a comprehensive People Strategy to the same level and it will positively permeate everything they do from basic organizational structure through to media selection.

    Keep the great insights and provocative thinking coming.

    Hank Wasiak

  12. Frank says:

    Behaviorgraphics is fantastic and a very interesting way of trying to organize the Social Media world and the individuals that operate within it. I am intrigued by this way of presenting social web.

  13. Pingback: breakdown « *xa.
  14. Steve says:

    Hi Brian. Very thought-provoking as usual. Have ordered your book here in Australia. Many thanks.

  15. Swati Tol says:

    Hi! Brian, Interesting and insightful indeed! I kind of draw subtle parallels to Roger’s Innovation-Adoption curve where you have the Innovators, Early Adopters…and Laggards. Makes me ponder, while the Social Media is today shaping the way we do business and communicate, still the basic ideology of communication flowing through social networks essentially remains the same. As always, we need to be firmly ground in principles of customer-centricity driven by better consumer insights, which at the same time as becoming complex has now become easier to obtain by engaging with customer at multiple touch points in real-time!

  16. Sarg says:

    Real interesting statistik

  17. How do you think Facebook's soon to be ubiquitous “like this” button will effect this mix? It seems to me that making non-obligatory connections to objects we like is getting easier by the day. Almost to the point that I feel the connections become disingenuous.

  18. Brian,
    Is is fantastic to see such an insightful conversation (started by your post and then continued through the comments below) about conversations. You have covered the types of conversation very well and this should be a thought provoking stimulus for reflections on how to engage in the right type of conversation with the right people through the right medium. I work with people through conversations to enhance performance and build relationships – it is I believe the most effective and enjoyable to engage people. You may be interested to see the alignment between your work and mine about the structure of “Conversations that Matter”
    and also visualising conversations (like a “verbal wiki”)
    “See you” in the next virtual conversation.
    Arthur (Twitter Metaphorage)

  19. Ben says:

    For others who have used Ladder Metaphors there is Arnstein's “Ladder of Community Participation” (1969). Sadly enough, nearly all of the rungs on Forrester's ladder would fall under “Tokenism” and “Nonparticipation” on Arnstein's:

    • Riichradka says:

      But Arstein has a complete political interpretation of what participation or even interaction means. It was a product of it’s time; I think the ladder above while far from perfect is politically and anthropologically neutral – it simply describes rather than hoping to foment.

  20. barbato says:

    Impressionante como os números e comportamento em mídias sociais cresceram em 3 anos

  21. Here elaborates the matter not only extensively but also detailly .I support the
    write's unique point.It is useful and benefit to your daily life.Nike Zoom LeBron James Soldier

  22. New to your work Brian and I must say your stuff is getting me to look at web marketing in a different view.
    Good Stuff.

  23. Chris Syme says:

    I like the idea of taking the original version of social technographics and taking them a step beyond to describe individual behavior. It helps capture the essense of social media as a one-on-one platform and not so much a herd mentality. Interesting, and, as usual, thought provoking.

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is a great primer for anyone wanting to develop a social media strategy. So many of my clients want look at social media as a check box: blog – check, fan page – check, twitter – check. Benevolence being at the heart of behavior graphics feels so spot on to me. Thanks for giving me a new language and way to communicate the reasons for a a business to engage in social media!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Stay Connected