Excerpt from their blog post:
Looking at the US data, the big news in 2008 is that, not unexpectedly, social technology participation has grown rapidly. Inactives — people untouched by social technologies — have shriveled from 44% down to 25% of the online population. Spectators — those who read, watch, or consumer social content — have ballooned from 48% to 69%. If you think social technology is about to become a universal phenomenon, we just handed you a nice little bundle of evidence. As you can see, there was also a nice healthy jump in Joiners (social network participants), Critics (those who react to social content they see), and especially Collectors (those who organize social content). None of these are quite as popular as being a Spectator, but I think there’s plenty of growth ahead for these groups. (…)
Where is the growth in consumption of online content coming from? From older people – the group my young colleagues who manage all this data call “middle-aged.” (Ouch!) Social activity is way up among 35-to-44 year-olds, especially when it comes to joining social networks and reading and reacting to content. Even among 45-to-54 year-olds, 68% are now Spectators, 24% are Joiners, and only 28% are Inactives.
Here’s what it means. It will soon be no more remarkable that your grandmother reads a blog than that she reads email. Social content is going mainstream. Social content ranks high on search engines because it changes so frequently and gets linked to more often, so more and more online adults are becoming exposed to it, accepting it, and embracing it. If you’re a marketer, no matter what group of consumers you’re targeting, this means you must pay attention to the social world online.
But the future of social applications online will not include contributions from everyone, because not everyone has the temperament to create content. Don’t count on all your customers to contribute, and don’t believe that what you see online is representative of your whole audience. The shy among your customers are reading this stuff, but most of them aren’t ready to contribute, and won’t be for a while.
What it means: Forrester does a great “what it means” above. Everyone will soon be interacting with social content somewhere on the Web, from reading to creating.