Forrester’s New Technographics Data – How Do Canadians Measure Up?

Forrester recently released an updated set of data for their very useful technographics profile tool.

What’s a technographics profile?

Forrester’s tool divides consumers into six groups along a “technographics ladder.”

The tool is based on consumers’ social behaviours and on techniques detailed in Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li‘s book Groundswell (which I have not yet read, but plan to shortly).

The six groups are:

What’s the news here?

As Bernoff put it in a post on the new technographics data yesterday:

“…the big news in 2008 is that, not unexpectedly, social technology participation has grown rapidly.”


Critically, the proportion of people who are “inactive” is down from 44 per cent to 25 per cent. Just a quarter of US online adults are not engaged in social media in any way. Almost seventy per cent of online Americans now at least read, listen or watch some form of social media.

Enter the Canadians

Interestingly to those of us north of the border, Canadians are now featured, for the first time, in Forrester’s tool. Canadians are generally thought of as web-savvy, with high connectivity (according to the federal government, 73% of all Canadians use the Internet now) and high engagement (Canada is known as a leader in terms of Facebook use, for example).

So, how does Canada measure up against other countries in this new data? You may be surprised – this data is pretty controversial.

Let’s look at the groups one by one.


Creators are the people churning out the content – bloggers; podcasters; artists.

Surprisingly, according to Forrester’s data Canada is far from a leader in the creator category. Just 13 per cent of Canada’s online adults fall into this category, compared to 21 per cent in the US, 40 per cent in China and a whopping 51 per cent in South Korea.


While ‘critics’ don’t necessarily contribute their own content, they do contribute their thoughts and opinions on other peoples’ content. They’re the blog commenters, the podcast callers-in, the wiki editors.

Canada is actually at the bottom of the pile of critics according to this new data. Only Germany is close to being as low.


Canada fares a little better in terms of collectors – the people who, while they may not contribute directly, actively save, bookmark, tag, vote and otherwise store/arrange online content. Canadians are middle-of-the-road here according to Forrester.


With Canada’s reputation in the social networking arena (especially with Facebook), you would expect that there would be a lot of joiners here. For the first time so far, this is the case. Canada ranks third in this category, behind only South Korea and Australia.


Canadians are once again near the bottom of the pack in terms of people who passively consume online media. Only Germany ranks lower in this data.


You probably know what to expect by this point: online Canadian consumers sit close to the head of the pack in terms of consumers who are inactive in social media.

Notes of caution

Three things here set-off my “don’t jump to conclusions” alarm:

  1. The survey looks only at online consumers;
  2. We don’t know the methodology;
  3. This flies in the face of other research out there.

Online consumers only

From what I can tell, this data only looks at the breakdown of online consumers. It does not, I believe, consider those people who are not online.

While this makes sense as we’re looking at peoples’ behaviours online, it does not consider the proportion of the total population that these consumers make up. Canada is highly connected, while others may have a much lower percentage of their population online.

For this reason, Canada may be short-changed somewhat in this analysis if you look at the broader populations of each country.

We don’t know the methodology

To be more accurate, I don’t have the $995 needed to buy the complete Forrester report detailing the methodology for this study. That’s not Forrester’s problem – it’s mine – but it sows the seed of doubt in my mind over the methodology behind the study and whether it is consistent with that used in the other countries listed.

What about the other research?

As Ed Lee and Sean Moffitt (among others, I’m sure) have pointed out, there’s a host of other pieces of research out there that suggest Canadians are far more engaged in social media than this data indicates.

Back in June, in fact, Ed highlighted comScore research showing that more than 84 per cent of Canadians are active on social networks and that 89 per cent of Canadians watched online video. These numbers seem a bit extreme on the other side to me, but it goes to show that there are lots of different data sets out there.

These three factors may go some way to explaining the difference between the picture of Canadians painted by this data (below) and what I expected to see.


Furthermore, this is raw data that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Personally, I’m taking this new data with a pinch of salt until I have more information.

What’s your take on this?

(Image credit for the first two images: Josh Bernoff. All remaining charts created by me, based on Forrester data.)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.