According to best-selling author Charlene Li, creating a sustainable social ecosystem means focusing on the passive “watchers” first and the actively engaged members of your community second. Li noted this as she kicked off SmartBrief and SocialFish’s summer breakfast series, Buzz2010, on social media for associations.

Li discussed recent findings that analyzed the way people in the U.S. engage online and focused on the importance of more passive users, who primarily watch social sites, not sharing, commenting, producing or curating content themselves. The “engagement pyramid” outlines how Americans are spending time on social spaces, and it shows the significance of the more passive user groups.

Li noted, “Unless you can build a firm foundation of people who are engaged with you at a more passive level of watching and sharing, it’s very difficult to create that audience for the people who are commenting and producing content.”

While it is an asset to have ambassadors for your brand and influencers willing to create content, your platform will not be successful unless you have the people there to consistently watch and share it.

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How are you developing your community of both active and passive users?

If you missed the Buzz2010 series of events on social media for associations, recordings have been made of all three events. The June 16 session on open leadership and July 20 session on social-media risk are available now. The Aug. 18 session on social-media ROI will be available on Sept. 1. Get more details here.

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18 Responses to “Build your social community with passive users”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SmartBrief on SocMed and Ana Hoffman, Santi Chacon. Santi Chacon said: Build your social community with passive users: According to best-selling author Charlene Li, creating a sustainab… http://bit.ly/bkQmFs [...]

  2. [...] How are you developing your community of both active and passive users? via smartblogs.com [...]

  3. Leigh Takata says:

    Emily, I appreciate you sharing the idea of what Ms. Li had to say at a recent conference. It really made me think about how I have previously been using social media at different companies that I had worked for. The idea of building your social community with passive users might seem like an odd idea, but certainly makes a lot of sense. A few months ago I attended SoCon10, a social media conference held every year at Kennesaw State University. At the conference, the focus was more building your ‘fan bases’ and getting people engaged. Someone from Sharpie spoke about how they get people to submit beautiful works of art for their social media communities and creating contests for said submissions. While it is great, if there is no one to appreciate it, then what’s the point?

  4. Leigh Takata says:

    Social media has definitely come a long way since the sketchy days of MySpace and whatever came before that. But I think a lot of the focus has shifted to what associations define as ‘interaction’ – getting people to respond to what you have to say about your association or product or sometimes, even both. Everyone has different ways of using social media and this needs to be taken into consideration. In the video feed posted to the blog, Li mentions that unless if there are those who are ‘listening’ and ‘watching’ then any association while never have a strong foundation. While it is always nice to know that someone is actually responding to what you might be putting out into the world, it should also be comforting to know that there are many more who just listen. Just like art, if there is no one to even just stand back and appreciate it, the painter has not done his/her job.

  5. Leigh Takata says:

    While possibly human nature, I think that most people spend their lives looking for recognition or at minimum, constructive criticisms so that they can better themselves. Associations and companies are no different. Part of the point of social media is to have open platforms for people to share their opinions on a company’s products and services. I think that it is important for companies to realize that there will always be those people (around the world even!) that are always willing to share their opinions and suggestions about how a company should be run, what it should do, what it’s food should taste like, how it could do a better job of making a piece of clothing, etc. These kinds of people will never be in short supply because, let’s be honest, we all know a handful of people that are willing to give us their unsolicited opinions (even if it’s just mom and nana) of what they think is best on a wide array of subjects.

  6. Leigh Takata says:

    Perhaps we should all stop and recognize those who have always stood by us and watched us grow over the years. Companies should do the same. I have a feeling that many of these ascribed watchers and listeners are people who care just as much about the company, if not more, as those who create content or comments for them. These are the people who want to be informed about what’s going on, see what are people are saying to make decisions, and perhaps, could turn out to be an association’s or company’s best clientele. As Ms. Li said, and Emily kindly restated, without these kinds of people, an association will not be able to successful in creating its social communities.

  7. EmilyMolitor says:

    Thanks for your comment, Phillip. I think you make a great point–this is truly a testament to traditional media and the power that resides in a large (albiet mostly quiet) audience.

  8. Karen Swim says:

    Emily, your post validates that the rise of social media does not mean that all are using in the same way. In the same way that bloggers are the most active commenters, regular users may now be more present in social media but may not be the most active participants.
    My recent post Corner Office – Kasper Rorsted – E-Mail Can’t Replace Interaction

    • EmilyMolitor says:

      I couldn't agree more Karen. I think you make a great point, that social media users are not all alike and we cannot assume that social platforms have been built by users who interact with content the same way.

  9. [...] Build your social community with passive users | SmartBlog on Social Media. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Tips on Social Media in the EnterpriseBuilding Trust Without Being There in PersonRussia tops social mediaSocial Media Continues to Grow In Audience Share [...]

  10. [...] Emily Molitor on getting aggressive with passives It’s hard to know who’s actually paying attention to your marketing. You can stick posters around town, put postcards in every cafe and bookstore, you can plant your online flags in the social media, but how do you know that anyone’s watching? Yes, we takl a lot about interacting with your online patrons, but what if they don’t interact? Check out this report, which points out that the majority of people checking you online are simply watching. Can you build a community from these users? What do you think we’re going to say… [...]

  11. [...] to data presented at Buzz2010, from Charlene Li — the largest groups are sharers and watchers. These are people participating in social media by reading, watching and learning, who may or may [...]

  12. [...] preferences so that their intake suits their interests. These customizations may also be used to attract passive networker’s to content with interests similar to theirs and with content that they may [...]

  13. [...] preferences so that their intake suits their interests. These customizations may also be used to attract passive networker’s to content with interests similar to theirs and with content that they may [...]

  14. [...] As Charlene Li put it, “Unless you can build a firm foundation of people who are engaged with you at a more passive level of watching and sharing, it’s very difficult to create that audience for the people who are commenting and producing content.” [...]

  15. I took the Facebook and Google+ buttons off our editorial travel-planning site because so few people clicked on them. Our more engaged readers prefer to interact with us in the old-fashioned way: by sending "Thank you" e-mails after they've spent significant amounts of time in researching travel on our site.

    That isn't to say that such readers aren't users of social networks; they just aren't in "social mode" when they're researching trips.

  16. [...] point usually comes up when you’re trying to create a social network. (Especially if it’s an internal, Enterprise 2.0, intranet kind of network.) And the point [...]