A bunch of folks from the Spaces team were in Asia recently talking to customers about how they used social software applications like instant messaging, blogging tools, email, social networking services, chat and dating sites. Recently Moz Hussain who's one of the product managers for the Spaces team provided some insights on current thinking about classifying users of social networking applications.

Below are excerpts from his blog post

In a people centric world, I see two major dimensions of people interaction: who I want to know about and who I want to share information with. This leads to four distinct segments as shown below.


1) The Content Consumer 

This group values their privacy but is voyeuristic in its desire to learn about others. One focus group participant explained how they like to compare thoughts and lifestyles of people in their social status and age bracket. They primarily use the Internet to search for information but rely on traditional communication methods for keeping in touch with close friends.

This group needs easier ways to find information, including user generated content, on a particular topic. A company that does this well in Japan is Livedoor with rich categorization and editorials on user generated content.

This group is often slightly older, but not exclusively so.

2) The Relationship Builder

This group is interested ONLY in their close circle of friends. They neither care about or want to share information with strangers. We have seen much higher prevalence of this group in Europe than elsewhere.

Relationship Builders use a variety of online and offline communications tools to share private thoughts and memories with those close to them. This can include photos, opinions, what's going on in their lives. The reason can be to keep in touch, or just for fun with friends. In China, MSN Messenger is seen as a great product for this group. In Japan, MIXI is the leading web based service for this group.

As many social networking tools are new to this group, they would benefit from greater education on the scenarios that are applicable to them.

This group is often slightly older, but not exclusively so.

3) The Social Networker

This group enjoys meeting people, even strangers, online and interacting to kill time. They enjoy chat rooms, dating services and generally having multiple superficial relationships. It is not uncommon for this group to have more than 200 contacts in their Messenger contact list.

This group is often younger and accesses the Internet from net cafes or mobile phones, i.e. away from prying eyes of parents and room mates. They often use paid for content to enrich their entertainment experience.

Many early web based social networking products such as Friendster and Orkut effectively targeted this segment.

4) The Content Creator

This group is the classic "Maven". They consider themselves experts in a field (ranging from shopping to high tech) or have a desire to express their creativity publicly. They want to get their opinions heard. They use the Internet to research topics of interest, and then create blogs to write their take on the situation.

This group is also interested in rewards for their content and opinions. There is an opportunity to align this group to service provider interests with appropriate reward mechanisms.

This group is also slightly older and has a narrower range of feature interests.

These groups are present in every geography, their relative size varies. The challenge now lies in addressing their needs and figuring out how to use each group to create a synergistic ecosystem of viewer and authors.

All great fun and why I love this job so much!

I think this classification of users of social networking services hits the mark. I also think it is quite cool that we are actually sharing this kind of information with the community of social software enthusiasts as opposed to keeping this as private market research.  I wonder what the various folks on the Corante Many2Many blog would have to say about the above classification scheme.

I like the fact that this classification takes into account online social butterflies like Robert Scoble as well people who simply want to use social software to enhance their existing real world relationships.

Putting the above data together with the Degrees of Kevin Bacon post by Mike Torres seems to imply that we are very interested in how people use social networking applications. I wonder why?



Comments are closed.