Business Week has done a nice bit of research pulling together some demographic information to come up with profiles on who uses the current crop of social web services and how they use them.
Overall, social sites are growing at a huge rate, but for many of us it seems that we just want to lurk and are not actually contributing anything. Only 4.59% of Wikipedia users actually contribute any content, while the numbers for sites like Flickr (0.2%) and YouTube (0.16%) are surprisingly low.
Not surprising, the major contributors to social sites are in the 12-26 age group. Business Week calls them the Creators. These are the people who publish web pages, blog and upload videos to sites like YouTube. This group also has the largest percentage of social network Joiners with between 51% to 70% participation rate.
What is surprising to me is how consistently low the level of the Collectors is across the board. In every demographic, the rate of people who are tagging or aggregating, collecting and remixing content via RSS hovers between 11% and 18%. While it is encouraging to see some consistency across the demographic board with taggers and aggregators, overall it tells me that people have yet to see the value of both syndication and tagging.
For me, collecting it is one of the most exciting features of social networks – the ability for me to take all these disparate pieces of information and mash them up into a form that makes sense to me. It allows me to become my own editor, to begin to create my own mediascape and filter my own information.
Tagging is really what puts the social in social networks. It is through tagging and folksonomies that you begin to harness the power of the collective. As content gets tagged, it begins to take shape and organized into a coherent system. But in order for tagging and folksonomies to work, there has to be a fairly diverse and large group of users. Until that happens, the value of tagging and folksonomies run the risk of being tainted by a small group of sophisticated users.