Gartner has released some new research which describes how various people engage in online communities.
Using the term “Generation V”, the research confirms that segments do not relate to age, gender, geographic location or social class, but instead are grouped by their interactions and behavioural usage preferences of digital media consumption.
The 4 levels of engagement in Gartner’s model are creators, contributors, opportunists, and lurkers.
The report suggests
- Up to 3% will be creators, providing original content. They can be advocates that promote products and services.
- Between 3% and 10% will be contributors who add to the conversation, but don’t initiate it. They can recommend products and services as customers move through a buying process, looking for purchasing advice.
- Between 10% and 20% will be opportunists, who can further contributions regarding purchasing decisions. Opportunists can add value to a conversation that’s taking place while walking through a considered purchase.
- Approximately 80% will be lurkers, essentially spectators, who reap the rewards of online community input but absorb only what is being communicated. They can still implicitly contribute and indirectly validate value from the rest of the community. All users start out as lurkers.
“Companies should plan to segment all four levels in the community – each has significant business value,” said Adam Sarner, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Differentiation exists between sectors and industries. Marketers with strong brands attract more creators. Certain industries, such as insurance, draw more lurkers.”
Successful communities support the needs of all four segments, and my research suggests that as communities grow, the percentage of each segment will remain relatively consistent.