I've written before about three types of museum users: contributors, lurkers, and judges. Forrester separates social media engagement into six kinds of users:
- creators (people who produce content, upload videos, write for blogs)
- critics (people who submit reviews, rate content, and comment on social media sites)
- collectors (people who tag sites, use del.icio.us, create RSS feeds and aggregates)
- joiners (people who join social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn but don't create a lot of content)
- spectators (people who read blogs, watch Youtube videos, and visit social sites)
- inactives (people who don't visit social sites)
No matter the demographic slice, the sum of percentages of people in each user category add up to more 100%. This makes sense: many spectators are also joiners. I'm a creator and a collector but rarely a critic. The only exclusive group is the inactives--everyone else overlaps. The social media user types, like learning styles or gaming styles, are more like personality traits than exclusive groupings. Just as you can be both a kinesthetic and linguistic learner, you can be a collector and a joiner.
This is an important point, one that bucks against the arrangement by Forrester of these user types into a "ladder" with creator at the top, inactive at the bottom. It can be enticing to design experiences that will encourage visitors to "level up" from spectator to creator, or in my terms, from lurker to contributor. But that's not appropriate. It would be strange to imagine talking the same way about learning styles--trying to push people out of their own modalities into preferred "higher-level" engagement types.*
*Digression: Some people have commented that my hierarchy of social participation suffers this fault by implying that museums should be trying to level up to higher social engagement. I'd argue that the hierarchy is different because it's about process steps, not user types. The hierarchy pyramid is meant to demonstrate that the way to get to a social "level 5" experience is through the intermediate stages, not in a sudden leap. It's not a suggestion that all museums should be trying to get to level 5, but rather a sequence of steps for those who want to go there.
Instead of trying to push visitors to new heights, we should focus on providing content that accommodates the full range of user styles. The question is not "how do we make an exhibit so good that all want to create?" but "how do we make an exhibit so good that creators, joiners, collectors, spectators, and critics are included?" and maybe if we're ambitious, "how do we make an exhibit that specifically encourages one kind of behavior and has a better than average return rate on engaging that type of user?"
To answer these questions, we need to look at the range of who we serve. Museums provide well for spectators/lurkers, and recently, museums have focused on ramping up offerings for creators and contributors. But we're weak in the middle levels. We rarely engage the critics, collectors, and joiners. Where do visitors get to vote on their favorite content? Which exhibits allow them to aggregate selections from a group? Which allow them to connect with other visitors socially? These are the exhibits and design types that we should pay more attention to.
Forrester suggests that companies use their profiling tool (and related custom research services) to understand the behaviors and desires of target audiences, and then provide experiences accordingly. It's important to understand that fewer creators than joiners and spectators walk through your doors each day. With social media and participatory experiences, we shouldn't just focus our design efforts on what sounds cool or is easy to conceive. You wouldn't create an exhibition on music that only appeals to musical learners. In the same way, we shouldn't think of participatory experiences as being "just for creators."
What Forrester categories do you identify with? What kinds of museum experiences could you imagine accommodating those aspects of your personality?