Sunday, 6 February 2011

Dave White’s Visitors and Residents Principle

The Visitors and Residents Principle categorises the way individuals engage with the Web. It implies that Web-user fluency is not reliant on age or technical skills but instead focuses on issues of motivation and culture. To summarise - Residents “live out a portion of their life online” and hold a strong online presence/identity. Residents see the Web as a social space. Visitors, on the other hand, engage online to complete specific tasks and then leave without making a mark. The Visitor sees no need for online networks and views their privacy as being paramount.

The principle becomes even more interesting when we look at the two different user characteristics and apply them to specific social media tools in an organisational setting.

In Twitter, a Resident organisation/brand would be highly visible and very active, posting many times a day. It would be able to easily build relationships of trust, cultivate networks by responding to followers’ tweets quickly. The organisation/brand would gain reputation as being a listening and responsive organisation. The Resident would always be present and poised to transform a tweet into a business opportunity or a follower into a customer.

The main drawback for the Resident organisation is that it needs to work hard to maintain a respected Twitter presence by constantly pumping out tweets and instantly responding to followers. Demands of this nature can be draining on staff time and resources. An organsiation wanting to keep its finger on the Twitter pulse needs a dedicated employee, constantly adding to the Twitter stream. The quality of tweets may be sacrificed in favour of quanity, in an attempt to keep up with the fast pace of the Twitter stream, where five minutes equates to an eternity.

The Visitor organisation in Twitter is not burdened by the demands of keeping up a presence and of instant interaction. It will log-in and tweet items of specific company news or events and log-out. It will not be too concerned about the twitterings of followers. The drawbacks for the Visitor organisation are the missed opportunities for networking and interaction. Visiting risks losing followers (potential customers or business partners) due to inconsistent activity or inactivity.

For the Visitor organisation, Twitter is a business information service. For the Resident organisation, Twitter is a business community.

I am not very familiar with Facebook but I would assume that the organisational benefits and drawbacks for each motivation characteristic would be similar to those mentioned above. Do you agree that this is the case? Is Facebook a “residential platform”?

Links with relevance to the Visitor Resident Principle: -

Dave White’s presentation on the Visitor Resident Principle

Dave White’s blog is also well worth a visit.

Andy Powell’s blog mentioning Twitter as a residential platform

Prensky on Digital Natives and Immigrants – Part 1

Prensky on Digital Natives and Immigrants – Part 2

Prensky on Digital Wisdom

Sapiens Digital - Digital Extensions and Enhancements

Bryony Taylors post on Visitors and Residents



  1. Additionally The Resident would always be present and poised to quickly rectify mistakes and rebutt false statements or negative opinions.

    As mentioned on facebook. In terms of resident twitter presence perhaps cultural engrainment :-) would be a good thing ( with which would come a clear explanation of what would be expected of the employee i.e a social media policy.

    Couple of things to think about. Is tweeting quantity really that important? What do you think are the optimum tweets per day?
    Can any business/organisation afford not to be resident on twitter and facebook? Some good links at the end Cheers Lisa

  2. I have come to these conclusions from my reading and research. It seems that some level of tweet quality is beneficial i.e. a considered tweet, a reputable link etc. I agree that excessive/obsessive twitterers can be an irritation, driving the follower to click and “un-follow”. For the organisation that I work for, my aim is for at least one tweet per day.

    I am a Twitter/Facebook novice. I am also a novice when it comes to the realms of mainstream marketing and PR, so it is difficult to draw from experience here. It may take me some time to realise the potential role of social networking sites in the unfamiliar area of mainstream marketing.

    When I have been responsible for services in the past, they have been service to meet human need and human rights. There was never a shortage of customers and always a lengthy waiting list.

    Can a business afford NOT to be a resident? I see this as a question that each individual business/organisation needs to ask itself after taking into consideration its motivation, cultural setting and organisational intention.

    In the 80’s I ran a community arts organisation. To publicising ourselves we hand produced posters using stencils, shook hands with Arts funders/Council commissioners and jumped around a lot in bright coloured shirts with bells on (truly – there might even be photos).

    So, if Twitter and Facebook are the new way of shaking hands and jingling bells about what we do as organisations and in our day to day business, then choosing to be either resident or visitor on social networking sites is not only digitally wise (see Prensky link below) but notably, free.

    Prensky on Digital Wisdom