The Online Participation Factor

Last week I posted my results of a 24 hour experiment I did on FriendFeed. The point was to try and get an idea of those following me on FriendFeed, who was participating. When I posted the results (even while doing the test) I wasn’t sure what I would learn or gain from it. There were some good discussions and questions that came from the results and I wanted to dive further in.

Is Participation Important?

Whether participating on a Social Network (such as FriendFeed, Twitter, or Flickr) or someone’s personal blog, the level at which you participate, or are expected to participate, is very different.

The Social Network

Social NetworkSocial Networks are built and based on their social aspects. As a user, you are expected to participate at some level. I’m not going to dictate what level that should be (and no one should), but, some level of socialization is expected. However, there is always a spectrum of participators. Shey Smith had a great post on the different levels of participators on FriendFeed, but I feel he missed one outside circle: The Passive User (aka The Lurker).

Are passive users actually participating? I think so. They aren’t being social or contributing to the live conversation, but they are part of the spectrum of participators and should be acknowledged. My guess is at least 50% of lurkers participate outside of these social networks in one way or another; they talk about what they read with a friend or colleague or they think about what they read and integrate it into their lives.

But how do these lurkers help or improve a social network such as FriendFeed? They don’t (at least not directly). I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, everyone will get what they want out of their social network experience. I’m not telling you what you should or shouldn’t do, but, FriendFeed has particularly made it easy to get involved and show you are alive and kicking by simply using the LIKE link (and Flickr has the Fav button). You never have to type a single word or share a single thing, but at the very least, liking on FriendFeed (and faving on Flickr) provides the passive user the opportunity to actually help the network be more social. (On a side not, I think the “Like” link in FriendFeed should be changed to “Share the Love.”)

The Blog

Now, when reading someone’s blog, whether it is a personal blog or a big blog (such as TechCrunch), what is the expected level of participation? Is anything expected? I, personally, don’t think so. Everyone enjoys getting comments and comments show that you are engaging people, but is this engagement necessary in the blogoshere? Would blogs come to a halt if no one commented anymore? Would Robert Scoble stop sharing his incites and thoughts if the comments came to a halt and all social interaction went to FriendFeed or another social network?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I hope not. Blogging and the way users interact with blogs is changing. Social networks are here to provide us with an outlet to socialize, react, discuss, and ponder as a group. As a user, it is beneficial to you an the community to participate, even if it’s the simplest of ways. FriendFeed, as I mentioned, gives even passive users the ability to chime in with a simple “Like” and be on their way.

Is participation important to you? How are you participating?

Till next time…

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Be the first to rate this post: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
Come on, give this post some love!
Categorized: The Social Web