Photo by Grant Hutchinson

Read – We all read online. It’s a given.

Join – Most of us are part of some social network. You have heard of Facebook, no?

Collect – A good number of people bookmark, rate and vote online.

CRITIQUE – Eeek! I see you shuddering. Let’s face reality. Far fewer of us actually comment, post reviews or engage in forum discussions.

In revisiting Forrester’s Social Technographics Ladder, it’s easy to see how this “Critics” rung stands as a barrier to active engagement and content creation on the Web. User engagement is a crucial measurement point for any active online effort. Communications pros devote extensive time, resources and brain power into figuring out how to motivate online action. It certainly would make our jobs a lot easier if there was a constant flow of creative content creators and storytellers out there tackling topics and issues across the board. But, before one ever becomes an active content creator, there is a natural progression through the “Critics” phase.

So, what’s keeping our target audiences from stepping out of their comfort zone to become critics and engage in conversation around the content you’re presenting?


Reading takes time. Reading + processing consumed information + formulating an opinion or response takes much more time. Much more time than most are willing to sacrifice.

Think about active participation in voting. It’s human nature to want a well run government and to voice an opinion about the state of politics but far fewer folks are actually willing to take action to express their voice through an actual vote. It takes time and action.

The other important factor is of course relevance. Without relevant, creative content, no one is going to pay attention in the first place. Some readers may glance over this post without giving a second thought because the headline doesn’t strike a chord (ouch, I know, but seriously, we all skim). Others may skip a video or never click on that actionable link in your tweet because it simply does not resonate.

The Solution?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic “Critics” wand to activate your target audience. What I can advise is to keep plugging away. Every piece of content you create is not going to resonate perfectly with every member of your target audience. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create content that you feel will resonate with the majority of your audience by providing clear direction to facilitate participation (check out what Mashable is doing with #SocialGood Day today, great example).

Also – Drill Down.

Look at those click-thru statistics off tweet links, time of day when people are most responsive or engaged with your tweets or Facebook status updates, which blog posts are being passed around or where people are spending time on your site. The list goes on and on but it’s most definitely an art and a science that will take time to refine.

Feel free to drop in your ideas about sparking critics below.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Scott
    I have a reco.
    Yes about plugging away
    but with very high focus.
    I think if you hang/network/share with the community of like minded people, you’ll get noticed at some point. To any given target audience (for example the 1 million computer security specialist) corresponds a virtual community of ‘influencers’ in the social web (ie: more than 1000 security bloggers as we’ve mapped here). So if you’re a marketer in this space, you need to develop knowledge of that ecosystem and participate/build relationship. A target audience that lacks time and need relevance will likely hang around there.

  2. Thanks for sharing Laurent, good points.


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