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Monday, 16 May 2011

Sight seeing.

I’ve been looking at ways to publicise my writings lately, but don’t fret, that isn’t what this post is about…
My research got me thinking about the wider question of who looks at what web-sites, and why. What types of people look at what type of sites, and how much overlap is there? I was primarily looking at social networking sites, which more-or-sell included blogging sites, and various sites associated with writing. Although I suspect my findings could equally well be applied to any group of specialised web sites. I definitely think the same things hold true for the technical and programming sites that I also frequent (I’m a computer programmer to trade).

Anyway, it’s fair to say that a good percentage of people present on one writing-related forum will also appear on other similar forums and many of those people have writing-related blog pages. Obviously this type of behaviour isn’t just limited to writing related sites, but I’ll use writing as the example here. What doesn’t necessarily follow is that those people are involved in any of the more specific social-networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter. A fair percentage is, but the assumption seems to be made that the majority of people are. The results I’d got by trying to follow people through, and in some cases simply by asking don’t necessarily follow this assumption.
I think the Facebook user can be of a very different breed to the forum/blog user.

On Facebook I’d say that around 75% of my ‘friends’ probably are ether real-world friends, family, work colleges, or people I have otherwise personally met. This leaves around 25% whom I have ‘met’ through the internet, and the people I have met through my writing are only a sub-group of this. Now I know a lot of peoples’ Facebook friends-list distribution would be vastly different to this, but that isn’t really my point. My point is, have all those people on Facebook got a ‘type’ in common? Is there something that makes then a Facebook-user; other than the fact that they are on Facebook, obviously!
The same thing can be said, and asked, of Twitter, although I suspect the people making up the user-pool for this to be slightly different from that of Facebook. A fact that is nicely illustrated by a recent facebook poll I saw. The poll was of the most frequently asked questions on Facebook. One of the highest questions asked was: ‘What is Twitter?’

Apparently, most people on Facebook have ether migrated across from other social networking sites, or have been directly introduced to it by friends. In this case it is more common than not that Facebook is the only social-networking site that those people have ever been on. And based on some of the comments I’ve read, it will probably stay that way for many. Twitter on the other-hand seems to have drawn its core user-base from a much more technical and/or business savvy internet user, who already had a decent to good handle on many things Internet.

So Facebook is a mass-market cyber-space with a broad-appeal. Like all mass-market things there are many people there with very different views and interests. So, it can be argued that Facebook is where the ‘normal’ people are; although sometimes you wouldn’t know it by reading the posts!
Twitter takes a bit more understanding, not necessarily in ease of use, but in reason or function of use. I’ve seen many people try, and fail, to use twitter like they would use Facebook. They invariably fail because in many ways twitter is not like Facebook. These people generally tend to give-up on Twitter and return to what they know.
So who is the average Tweeter then? Is there an average Tweet? Well no, I don’t think there is an average Tweet. You do get the ‘twit-every-single-little-thing-I-do-in my-entire-life’ Tweeter, but despite the clams of some, these people are firmly in the minority. I’d say the average Tweeter has a more specific message to say, where the average (personal) Facebook post is more conversational. This doesn’t make twitter more of a market-place necessarily, but I think (and based on my personal experience) you are more likely to ‘sell’ on Twitter, whether it be a product or an idea or whatever… People tend to look at Twitter for information more that chat. With Facebook I suspect these expectations are reversed, for most users; although Facebook-Pages can be a decent avenue for a ‘selling’ tool.

I’ve concentrated on Twitter and Facebook here, but I’m sure you can widen these descriptions to other sites that you may use.

But back to those non-social-networking specialised sites. You can probably split these into two, very general, categories of main marketing sites for large organisations or corporations, and the often much smaller individual, personal, and small-business sites. Is there an inherent difference between the types of people who frequent these sites? I think there is…
If you take book sites, and e-book sales/downloads in particular, as an example, there are the ‘big’ store sites like Amazone, Waterstones-online, as well as the apple and kindle stores etc. These have the weight of the name behind them, and attract a mainstream consumer. Many people I have talked to are very reticent about buying on-line from start-up or smaller web sites. A state of affaires that has been fuelled by sensationalised press coverage of identity theft and bogus site etc… Some people I know still won’t buy anything on-line, as they say it’s ‘all out to rip you off,’ but back to my point…
A difference is perceived in many peoples minds, and this seems to influence a lot of sites people chose to visit. For example, the average Facebook user may well fell ok about downloading a story, free or not, from Smashwords, because they’ve heard of it
Through the media, but not from Feedbooks , which someone on the internet may have mentioned to to them, or that they may have ended up at by accident. But there are other people who seem to gravitate towards the Feedbooks rather than the Smashwords, although these people are much more likely to use both, and others.
These are the people that generally tend to be the Tweeters and the bloggers, who know a bit more about all things web. I’m not saying this always happens, or that one thing is better than the other, but people seem to be picking camps more than ever lately. I can see a divide forming in peoples use of the internet, an ‘us and them’ attitude between the ‘normal’ consumer who is a casual internet user, and the ‘hardened’ savvy users who aren’t afraid to look under the flashing-lights of the main retailers’ store-fronts.

So what do you think? Am I way off base with this? Am I simply seeing ghosts? Or do you agree?

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