I’m not really into this relentless trend to categorise people and their behaviours into socio-economic-demographic groups since very rarely does anyone neatly fit within one of these categories. However, I follow the trend if for no other reason I can speak the same language as my peers. So, having got to grips with the various attributes and behaviours symbolised as â€˜Generation X‘ and â€˜Generation Y‘ , it seems we need to recognise another category – â€˜Generation V’. (Since we seem to be going through the alphabet in reverse order, I can only assume I’ve somehow missed who â€˜Generation W’ is or was!)
A recent Gartner report categorises â€˜ Generation Virtual’ (Generation V) as a new online group that is not defined by age, gender, social class or geography. Instead, it is based on achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights.
Within the Generation V community, Gartner defines four levels of engagement – creators, contributors, opportunists, and lurkers – related to the extent to which customers engage with other customers and the level of engagement that businesses and other organizations must have to enable them. This graphic pulled from the report explains:
Creator: “I want to own this.”
- Establish a community
- Create blog / podcast
- Upload video content
Contributor: “I want to be part of this.”
- Review a product
- Answer a question
- Contribute to the community
Opportunist: “Since I’m here…”
- Provide purchase feedback
- Ask a question
- Forward to others
Lurker: “I’ll reap the rewards.”
- Click, transact
- Read product reviews
- Read blog / message boards
I shouldn’t be over-critical of the Gartner report or the conclusions they reach, since it’s certainly useful to recognise there are different levels of engagement in any social network or virtual community. However, I have two points to make:
- The â€˜Creator’ falls tantalisingly into the seemingly well-established â€˜1 % rule‘. In my experience, this is only true for social networks or unmentored/unfacilitated Communities of Practice (CoPs), where members orÂ users are entirely self-directed. Based on the evidence I’ve seen in the IDeA CoP platform (550 communities), facilitated communities can have as much as 40% Creators (i.e. creating original content).
- I hate the term â€˜Lurkers’ and refuse to use it in any dialogue I’m having about social networking or communities of practice. It seems to infer some sort of socially unacceptable behaviour and misses the point that these people are getting some value from the network or community. So – Gartner and anyone else who wishes to continue categorising behaviour, can we drop the term â€˜Lurkers’ and call these people â€˜Spectators’, which is a more socially accepted term, and infers these people are gaining something from the experience.
Anyway, and on reflection, as a 50-something year old, I guess I might prefer being categorised as Generation V as opposed a Baby Boomer!