Mobiles & Twitter Put The Ladder On Its Side

Well, what a week that was. Trafigura, Jan Moir and Ian & TFL: three separate incidents, all unrelated other than the fact that, to greater or lesser degrees, mobiles & Twitter played a large part in their being resolved/gaining mainstream coverage.

In the case of Trafigura, Carter-Ruck almost certainly caved more quickly than they would have done otherwise; The Daily Mail was forced to pull advertising from an article which was, let’s be honest, no more horrible than many of the other hateful things they publish on a daily basis; and Ian, the TFL worker, finds himself sitting at home this morning wondering if it was such a clever idea to suggest throwing a customer under a train (with someone actually claiming I helped it hit the big-time. Blimey). Then again, anyone who, in this day & age, thinks it’s cool to wear fingerless gloves and have a pony-tail probably isn’t going to be battering down MENSA’s door demanding membership any time soon.

Many people have written about all of these events already, and with much more insight than I could hope to provide. However, one thing has kept popping into my mind again & again over the last few days: Forrester’s ladder is broken; the ladder is now horizontal, not vertical.

For anyone not familiar with it, the ladder (above) is Forrester’s way of categorising the different types of users of social media. I use it a lot when talking to clients and think that it makes a reasonably complicated topic quite simple to explain. The reason that they chose a ladder is obviously because the idea is that it takes more effort to be a creator than a spectator, hence Creators being at the ladder’s top. And, in the days when creating a web-page, or filming & uploading a video, or even just writing a blog post, took a vague amount of effort, that was a valid metaphor.

But, as we’ve seen over the last week, all you need to be a Creator now is a half-decent camera phone & a Twitter account. This trend can probably be traced back to the London bombings back in 2005, when most of the iconic images came from the camera phones of people trapped in the Tube tunnels, rather than the professional camera crews ‘trapped’ outside, away from the story. But now, with the exponential improvement in the quality of camera phones, especially video ones, and the ease with which Twitter allows someone to ‘upload’ that content, the whole game has changed.

So, to paraphrase Clay Shirky if I may:

So forget about mobiles and Twitter and tweeting and focus on this — the cost and difficulty of instantaneously publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just dropped as close to zero as makes no difference. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is already proving to be vast.

Ladder image by Bohman on flickr


  1. Great graph, not come across that before, but a very useful break down of who is doing what in social media areas.

    At times I probably come under all of the categories, tho at the moment would probably class myself mostly as a “Creator”, on my own and company blog and a collector, as I am using social media to learn more about everything I can find.

    In some respects I feel for the Ian guy – his behaviour was absolutely dispicable, and you should never speak to a paying customer like that – but I will bet he never expected to see the backlash that he received. Sadly, I suspect that this isnt the worst treatment a customer has received on the underground, but by virtue of having been picked up by Twitter, its spiralled into a huge issue for TFL, and they have been forced to take action. And, we dont really know other than what was said to have happened the build up to the incident – I’m inclined to agree with the blogger who wrote it, but we are then taking a leap of faith.

    Certainly agree about the Mail – whilst it was a particularly unpleasant article, it was not really any worse than most the content that appears on their website or in their paper.

  2. Excellent post Ciaran!

    We met at SMX in Sydney and you made an impression with your presentation back then and now with the post I just read today.

    I fully agree with you on the ladder being on it’s side. But what I also think is happening is people tend to take on different Technographics under different circumstances.

    For example. Right now I’m a ‘critic’ by posting a comment, but that because I have met you and feel comfortable with the topic and think I have something to contribute. But on other blogs (in areas that I’m less familiar with) I’ll take the back seat and be a ‘spectator’. Just to make thing more complex, after I’ve become more knowledgeable on the topic, I can move from being a ‘spectator’ to being a ‘critic’ or even start up my own blog ‘creator’, the variable being time.

    Social Media is such an exciting area to be working in and we are having challenges forming our social media strategy at Microsoft Australia due to the complexities of human nature, behaviour and the difficulties of shifting from segment focus to being audience focus (which is really the key first step to doing anything in Social Media).

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