Is It Time to Add Another Rung to the GROUNDSWELL Ladder?

laddersBy Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

What kind of social media user are you?

Forrester Research created a diagram that they called their Social Technographics Ladder (you can read all about it in GROUNDSWELL, the bestseller from then Forrester employees Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff).

Basically, people who used social networks were one of the following:

  • Creators
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives

Since the diagram is a ladder, the implication is that the bottom rungs are undesirable and that the goal is to climb to the top of the ladder.

Steve Woodruff suggested that a final, highest rung should be added – Organizers – and explained that the progression of social networking behavior should be moving from Consumer to Contributor to Consolidator.

As nervy as it is to disagree with thought leaders as prominent as Steve and Forrester – I am.

I don’t think the ladder should be a ladder. It would be more accurate as a pyramid, with most people on the lower strata and the higher strata including fewer and fewer people.

You can’t have everybody wanting to run things – first of all, they don’t want to; second of all, they’re not needed; and third of all, then what would they be running?

Most people are consumers, not contributors or consolidators. And that’s right. Consumer isn’t an undesirable state. It’s a natural place.

Think about it in tangible terms – think about vegetables. Pretend you have three groups of people – one that eats tomatoes, one that grows tomatoes, and one that sells tomatoes. For the system to work, there must be more tomato eaters than growers or sellers. And there should be more growers than sellers. It’s just how the system makes sense.

Are you trying to force yourself “upward” when perhaps your goal state isn’t in line with what you need to be doing?

As part of the massive group of humanity working on providing health care and related goods and services, I will go back on my first point a bit. No, we should not just be Consumers or Inactives or Spectators. Our professional purpose is greater than that, and more proactive.

However, we should definitely understand each “rung” as we move up through them, so that we can know how to speak to those groups.

And we should not move up just for the sake of it. Perhaps your current project needs to be collecting the experiences of patients, right now. Your goals may not be met by creating something new for them, but merely by becoming a repository for their information. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed by being “only” a Collector and not a Critic or a Creator.

Moreover, maybe you’re at such an early stage right now that all you can do is be a Joiner. That’s a hugely important step, and you shouldn’t skip over it and try to become a Creator immediately.

Where are you? Where should you be? And where should you be online?

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