Paul Holmes 02 Feb 2009 // 12:00AM GMT
Young internet content creators in the U.K., the USA, France and China can make or break brand reputations on the Internet, says RISC International, an international consultancy specializing in consumer behavior and trends in its Dynamics of Influence on the Web white paper, which details the profile of these “net addicts,” analyzes their real influence on consumers and their true potential to promote or undermine brands.
“In any human community such as the Internet, some individuals always participate more than others. The difference today is in the numbers: online conversations happen between 1.3 billion web users,” says Sharon Greene, managing director of RISC International. “Only a small number of net addicts exert a great influence on online consumers. Our white paper quantifies this population, reveals their motivations and recommends the relationships brands should establish with them”.
The paper says that despite the development of Web 2.0, the overwhelming majority of young internet users (aged 15-29) remain first and foremost content consumers more than content producers. Even among net-addicts, the content “creators” are a minority. In mature markets such as the U.K., the USA or France, content creators represent only 10 percent-14 percent of young internet users, with 7 percent-9 percent belonging to the heavy user segment. It is in fact the “heavy user content creator” who makes up the “hard core” of the influencer population. In China, where internet usage is not yet as widespread as in western economies, the situation is slightly different. Only 7 percent of total young internet users can be considered as content creators, and only 4 percent net addicts.
Across the four countries, “net addicts’ are young (under 30) and have a social conscience. Fairly altruistic and unselfish, they care about the environment and keep a constant watchful eye on brands which are perceived to be harmful. They have no hesitation or reserve in denouncing them for the slightest false move.
Net addict content creators in U.K. are more often young men (34 percent are under 24 years old) searching for a job. They see themselves as entrepreneurs and would like to start a business on their own. They also like to discover new things online and also enjoy playing different lives on the web which are separated from real life.
Non-conformist and even libertarian, these net addicts don’t consume like everybody else and are always in search of the next new thing. They are the cutting edge of internet tools. They contribute to the initial creation of new services, which they abandon as soon as the masses latch on to them in their wake. They then seek out new realms to explore, thereby playing their part in the constant creative cycle of the net.
According to Greene: “Brands must approach these net addicts with the greatest caution and refrain from any attempt at manipulating them, as this would inevitably backfire. Although these net addict content creators have a definite influence, it should nevertheless be borne in mind that their modes of consumption and their opinions only rarely chime with the behavior of other consumers. It is therefore worth listening to them to the extent that they are the precursors and the generators of trends.”