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This article was published on March 19, 2008

    Companies should embrace the social influence of communities

    Companies should embrace the social influence of communities
    Ernst-Jan Pfauth
    Story by

    Ernst-Jan Pfauth

    Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

    Rebecca Jennings, a Senior Analyst from Forrester Research, talked about Social Computing in Europe: Facts & Figures. She asked how well social computing is being adopted in Europe. Why is the adoption and use of social computing different from country to country?

    She started of with some examples to show how important social computing gets. Of course she mentioned Lego, the toys company who really gets how you can use your engaged following. For example, they asked the community what kind of Lego thing they wanted to see. The crowd asked for a bit more challenging object to build. So Lego launched the Lego Imperial Start Destroyer, an expensive Starwars space ship (80 euros). It was sold out in five weeks.

    So Forrester figured it might be about time to do some profiling. Here’s what they came up with:

    • Creators (10%) – creates content, like blogs and Flickr pictures
    • Critics (19%) – commenting and participating
    • Collectors (9%) – Following RSS feeds and social bookmarking
    • Joiners (13%) – Maintain profiles on social networks
    • Spectators (40%) – Watch, listen, read
    • Inactives (55%) – guess what: none of the above

    The percentages refer to the whole European population. When you look at the numbers per country, the Dutch turn out to be the keenest creators – reason for us to start yelling (sorry about that Rebecca). So why is that? Jennings thinks it’s because Holland was pretty early with affordable broadband. Yet cultural reasons do matter as well. Germans for example, are less into sharing than their Dutch neighbors.

    jennings waving at the Dutch
    Jennings waving at the yelling Dutchmen

    If you look at different age groups, you notice that social media is a way of life for young customers. Companies should jump into this trend. A good example according to Jennings is Spine Breakers from Penguin Publishing. It’s a writing community for writing youngsters. The team of Spine Breakers gives their young users what they want, and it a huge part of the content is generated due to that philosophy.

    So profiling should be the foundation of a company’s computing strategy. Companies have to ask themselves: What do we want to achieve? Then strategy evolves next. This is becoming more important everyday. “It’s a long term phenomenon. As you know, since I’m preaching to the converted”. In 5 to 10 years, we’ll see ubiquitous social networks, based on developments like open technology, shared identities, an information flow and advertisers who embrace the social influence of the community. And, as Jennings noted, thanks to internet entrepreneurs like us.

    Update: check out the graph Ton Wesseling from Dutch blog Marketingfacts made.