There are four general classifications of social network site (SNS) users, according to recent research from Alarcon-del-Amo, Lorenzo-Romero, and Gomez-Borja in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Using a latent segmentation approach, they found evidence for the Introvert, the Novel User, the Versatile User, and the Expert-Communicator.
- The Introvert (18.62%)
The least active user, the Introvert uses SNS primarily as a replacement for e-mail. He may update his profile, but most communication with other users occurs via private messaging. Introverts usually have fewer than 50 SNS friends and generally these friends are all people they know from their “real lives.” Introverts generally only have accounts on one SNS (I suspect it is usually Facebook).
- The Novel User (25.25%)
The second least active user, the Novel User logs in for between 1 and 5 hours per week, again with fewer than 50 SNS friends. A little more active than the Introvert, these users will update their profiles, actively seek out information (e.g. groups, what friends are doing), and spend time tagging photos. On average, the Novel User will have accounts on two SNS.
- The Versatile User (36.25%)
The second most active user, the Versatile User is the most common type of user, and uses SNS broadly – sending public and private messages, commenting on discussion threads, updating their profiles, and sharing links with their contacts. These users tend to have fewer than 100 SNS friends, but actively engage with those friends. They don’t use many applications, though they might try one occasionally, and they spend between 1 and 5 hours per day on SNS. More users in this group use SNS for professional activities (e.g. networking with business contacts) than in other groups.
- The Expert-Communicator (19.88%)
The most active SNS user, the Expert-Communicator is the power user of the SNS world. The majority of this group is made up of women, aged 25 to 35. These users typically log in several times per day for more than 5 hours total per day. They typically have more than 100 SNS friends (often many more) and are actively engaged in most services provided by the SNS, including participating in communities surrounding products they enjoy in order to stay updated on those products and using event scheduling. Unlike the other three types of users, this group engages mostly with people they do not interact with much in person, using SNS primarily to stay in contact with those they don’t otherwise interact with.
Latent segmentation is a fairly common technique used to determine market segments – core groups of users which interact with a product differently. So theoretically, this means that if you are planning to use social media as part of a marketing campaign, or if you are designing a social media intervention for whatever other reason, you should consider that these four groups are likely to engage with your efforts quite differently.
In terms of my own research on social media’s potential for collaborative employee training and undergraduate education, this paper makes me wonder if we will be equally effective across these four groups… definitely something worth further investigation.Footnotes: