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1:10:89: the vital statistics of online media

One more thing from Heather Green at BusinessWeek. She points to an excellent post by the Church of the Customer blog.

They reckon that only 1% of the visitors of a social media site create content, while 10% interact with it (leaving comments, etc.) and the remaining 89% behave like a classic audience. they go into detail and quote the following stats from that Daddy of all social media sites, Wikipedia:

  • 50% of all Wikipedia edits are done by 0.7% of users
  • 1.8% of users have written more than 72% of all articles

This certainly rings true for me in the light of work I've been doing in recent weeks, looking at building communities (best advice is you need a lot of participants to start getting things moving) and also researching content created around brands and issues. With regards to the latter (as I've mentioned before) I was surprised by the small number of Wikipedians involved in creating quite significant entries, and also by the oblique connections they had with that subject where I was able to see their profiles.

Obviously the precise numbers differ case-by-case,  but it's a useful rule of thumb, especially for getting a reality check on how hard it is to gain the kind of critical mass required to achieve some things with communities.

But then as the guys at Church of the Customer put it, it may simply be that you have to look at community building projects as long term commitments if they are going to be successful:

To some marketers, the polar opposite of the 1% Rule -- the Law of Big Numbers-- might doom any decision to  dedicate resources toward a democratized community. Should it? Not necessarily, although any community organizer should be prepared to accept the reality of slow, incremental growth, not a big, Hollywood-style opening.

Makes me think once more of the organic parallels with community/networked models. To be successful these things need to survive and grow within the new media ecology, as John Naughton puts it.

These aren't things that necessarily lend themselves well to the "Wam! Bam! Thanks for having your brand awareness raised" tactics that industrial age marketing communications has often preferred. Starting a community will be more like committing to starting a new brand or product line, it's going to be something you better be in for the long haul with. I wonder if that's how Nike marketers sees Joga, for instance?

The thinking here nicely complements Ross Mayfield's "power law, which I discussed in this article: More on analysis of social media production.


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