Sprinklers and Vacuums: Two Types of Social Media Users

There are two types of communicators on the Internet. Two very different groups of people that tend to show up in most social media conversations. There are those who give and those who take.

I call them “sprinklers” and “vacuums.” And knowing which one you’re dealing with can make a world of difference.

Photo credit: Siddy Lam (Creative Commons)


Sprinklers understand the value of giving. They don’t have the time or opportunity (what with ADHD and the interruptive nature of banner ads and television) to do more than share a bite-sized piece of data. They relish the opportunity to share.

Sprinklers are generous. They refresh with what little time they have to do so.


Vacuums, as you already know, suck. In every sense of the word.

Vacuums take. Every chance they get, they’re looking to soak up, to inhale, to digest. There’s a world full of content, and they want it all for themselves.

There is nothing necessarily bad about wanting to learn or grow or gain new information. The problem is that these people can consume so much that they begin to view every conversation as a means to an end. And that end does not include contributing something.

Vacuums aren’t jerks, necessarily. They’re just selfish.

Telling the difference

If you were at a cocktail party, it might take you a minute to notice a sprinkler. They tend to be subtle. They take their time. They listen. But you’ll know one when you find one, because they’ll share.

These are the people on your blog who leave thoughtful comments, who email you just to say “thanks,” who really, truly care. And you can tell.

Vacuums, on the other hand, would be noticeable almost immediately. They’re always looking over your shoulder, scared of missing the “next best thing.” They introduce themselves and probably name-drop a time or two.

Vacuums immediately ask you not about who you are, but rather what you’ve done. They ask questions but only to test, to provoke. You know what they’re doing. They’re not showing interest. They’re comparing.

Which will you be?

Every day, we have the opportunity to give a little or take a little. Whether or not you end up being a vacuum or a sprinkler is a matter of time and habit.

These types of voices manifest not only in social settings, but also in business.

If you’ve built a tribe of vacuums, don’t expect to profit off of them. Sure, they’ll download your free eBook and subscribe to free updates, but they don’t actually care about you. They just want handouts.

Sprinklers, on the other hand, are giving, even when you don’t ask. They’re the ones who get the free version and pay for the premium, even though they don’t have to. They’re not just fans; they’re followers.

They show respect and gratitude. It’s not grandiose or over the top — little by little, they show you love.

You can be intentional

Of course, everyone wants to know how to attract the sprinklers and keep the vacuums away. The latter is tough, but the former is easy. If you want more gracious, giving people in your tribe, you have to do one very simple thing.

Go first.

Want more friends? Be one.

Want more love? Give it.

You will attract what you put out there. It’s basic reaping and sowing. So, social media user… start sprinkling.