The State of Community Management 2013 (I’ll call SOCM2013) briefly touches on the 90-9-1 Rule, which states that, within the population of an online community:
- 90% lurk
- 9% contribute and/or comment
- 1% create content
This rule was considered the norm for online communities back in 2006. But it’s 9 years later, and they checked to see if these figures still hold true.
The SOCM2013 states that new research determined that the top engaged communities reported very different numbers, with the majority of the population being contributors. The numbers:
- 17% lurkers
- 57% contributors
- 26% create content
Remember, these numbers are the average for highly engaged communities. So does this mean that, in order to be a successful community, you have to reach these numbers?
I believe the correct answer is maybe. But also, maybe not.
Competing With Yourself
The main problem I have with rules like the 90-9-1, or the 17-57-26, or whatever kind of numbers you want to throw together, is that these “rules” don’t take into account your target community.
I’ve encountered a lot of articles that will claim they know best way to engage, the best times to engage, or the numbers you should be hitting. More often than not, however, what they won’t tell us is how to monitor our own community to figure out what’s best for your community. It’s a bit like the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching him how to fish.
Quality and Quantity
Instead of reaching for an arbitrary number, CMs should instead work to challenge themselves on a daily basis to improve their community.
Most importantly, not only should a CM look at the number of lurkers, contributors, and content creators, but they should critique the quality of the content that is delivered. Ask questions like:
- Are you getting more engagement this day/week/month than last?
- Are there more content creators – and is that content better?
- Are commenters starting meaningful discussions that better your community?
Another drawback to having a goal number is deciding your next move once you’ve reached your “goal.” Do you set a new number to reach? What if your community is already highly engaged – can you sit back and relax because you’ve found what works? What if the optimal ratio for your community is different than your goal?
The goal as a CM should be to optimize the community. It seems more effective to try out different strategies and see what’s an optimal engagement ratio rather than chase a magic number someone outside of your community has set.
What do you think about rules like the 90-9-1 rule? Should they be used to set goals for community manager – or should CMs focus on their own metrics?