Friday, July 9, 2010

How to be a social climber on the digital ladder

There are a variety of ways to participate in or experience news via social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, Yelp, Foursquare, Gowalla... the list goes on. But in what ways should a journalist utilize social technology?
A few years ago, Forrester researchers Charlene Li (a Poynter National Advisory Board member) and Josh Bernoff created the Social Technographics Ladder. This graphic (below) defines the behaviors and interactions associated with social media by placing users into overlapping categories. Each rung on the ladder represents a specific set of behaviors, and people can move up and down these rungs. (The most recent addition to the ladder is the "Conversationalists" category.
How many of these rungs should today's journalist climb? I say every rung above "Inactive." Why? Because while there may be a learning curve for using specific tools, these categories describe behaviors that defined journalism before social media became the "it girl." Here's how each rung relates to journalism, from the top of the ladder to the bottom.

  • Creators author a story.
  • Conversationalists talk to people about stories, find sources, break news.
  • Critics review, offer opinion pieces.
  • Collectors research, create contacts and read publications on a regular basis.
  • Joiners are part of a community, professional or personal group.
  • Spectators keep up with competitors and other publications.

I am a Creator, Conversationalist, Critic, Collector, Joiner and Spectator. But, I'm not all of these things on every social network. I focus on the networks that I see being used heavily in my Lawrence, Kansas community: Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla.
LinkedIn, MySpace and FriendFeed are not used as often by our audience at the Lawrence Journal-World, so I'm more of a Joiner/Spectator when it comes to those. But our websites have an active presence on them all.
Being an active part of these networks keeps us in touch with a tech-savvy, information-hungry portion of our audience. They're willing to participate in and share our content on a daily basis. On Twitter alone, if a handful of people retweet a link, it could reach hundreds of thousands of users new to
Where are you on this ladder of social interaction today? Have you been a social climber over the last few years?

Hint: If you're reading this, you're at least a Spectator. If you have an account on Facebook, you're a Joiner. If you leave me a comment, you're a Critic.

Source: Poynter Online

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