The 90-9-1 Principle Applied to Forums

triangleEssentially, the 90-9-1 rule states that in a social community, 90% are lurkers, 9% contribute a bit and 1% contribute a lot. Jake McKee is a strong proponent of the theory and has a whole site devoted to it. Some community managers, such as Angela Connor support the concept, whereas other such as Richard Millington thinks its a lie!

I do not want to get into the debate over it, but I do like the concept and use the concept has a framework to develop forums, by asking 3 questions:

  1. How can I increase the numbers in the 90% that are lurkers and convert them into the 9% group?
  2. How can I increase the numbers in the 9% that contribute a bit and convert them into the 1% group?
  3. How can I increase the numbers in the 1% that contribute a lot and keep them in the 1% group?

Again, I do not want to quibble over the actual percents, but focus on this principle of unequal participation and about what can be done to get an increase in all three groups. It maybe that if you can double the number in the 90%/lurkers group, there could be an automatic doubling in the 9% and 1% groups by default. It maybe that if you can double the number in the 1% group, more of the 90% may be moved to contribute more and move to the 9% group by default. You could focus on one group or all of them. In the early days of the forum to build content, the 1% may need to be focused on. After a forum is well established, then maybe a greater emphasis could be placed on increasing the numbers in the 90% group.

It could also be that the percents in each group will not actually change, its just the absolute numbers in each group can be changed.

Subsequent articles will look at the practical strategies to:

  1. Get more traffic to your forum
  2. Increase the 90% group (convert the visitor to a member)
  3. Increase the 9% group (convert the member to a poster)
  4. Increase the 1% group

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