I have never really been a user of Facebook or Linkedin, but more of a Hostage. I didn’t use them because they made me feel warm inside or helped me kick ass (as Kathy Sierra would say), I used them because everyone else was there.
Hostages are a very important type of customer to consider because in many ways they are a hidden variable that can make or break a business. I say a hidden variable because most companies talk about active users as if it is one homogeneous group of active users. The problem with hostages is if they form a large part of your customer/userbase your business is at significant risk as soon as a viable competitor appears as there will be, as they say, a large sucking sound.
A level above hostage would be a User, I’m probably a user of gmail and twitter. These are tools that I continue to use even if viable competitors come out. Users are the bread and butter of most businesses, and would probably be even considered loyal.
Evangelists are the pinnacle of the userbase of any product, the ones that will actively persuade friends and family to use or buy something.
As I think about this there is maybe a fourth kind, someone who actively seeks to make other peoples experience better with product once they are their. It’s different from evangelist, probably less visable, but maybe more important. It’s the person that helps on the messageboards, that provides moral support or even just thoughtful commentary. You might refer to these people as Experts maybe.
Image by: pfv.