Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Good post by Yahoo!'s Bradley Horowitz. He provides an analysis of social media sites with Yahoo!'s Groups as the base of his discussion. If you follow social media or social networking sites, his post confirms what most of us know already. My thinking has been that an active user base is about 5% or less of a site's membership. So only a handful of people start groups on MySpace, organize offline events, and comment on a blog. of course it depends on the context and content. If you visit Marc Canter's blog, he has zero to maybe three comments on each of his posts. His posts typically don't warrant comments, but I know he gets a lot of traffic on his blog. But some political blogs with less traffic get a higher response and comment rate because the subject matter of the posts elicit a response. Anyway, check out Bradley's post:

* 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
* 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
* 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers)

There are a couple of interesting points worth noting. The first is that we don’t need to convert 100% of the audience into “active” participants to have a thriving product that benefits tens of millions of users. In fact, there are many reasons why you wouldn’t want to do this. The hurdles that users cross as they transition from lurkers to synthesizers to creators are also filters that can eliminate noise from signal. Another point is that the levels of the pyramid are containing - the creators are also consumers.

While not quite a “natural law” this order-of-magnitude relationship is found across many sites that solicit user contribution. Even for Wikipedia (the gold standard of the genre) half of all edits are made by just 2.5% of all users. And note that in this context user means “logged in user”, not accounting for the millions of lurkers directed to Wikipedia via search engine traffic for instance.

Mostly this is just an observation, and a simple statement: social software sites don’t require 100% active participation to generate great value.
(full post)

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