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The Community Club Team
The Community Club Team

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CCW #10 - The 90-9-1 Engagement Rule

CCW #10 - The 90-9-1 Engagement Rule

The Infamous 90-9-1 Community Engagement Rule, Community Policy, and The Future of Social

CCW is a newsletter about building and growing communities, featuring collected tweets, posts and thoughts from various community leaders.

Question of the Week

Do you track community engagement? If so, what metrics do you use to measure engagement?

Feel free to reply directly to this email, or join our Slack community (linked at the bottom of the email) to chat with us and other community builders.

Last week's question was "Do you have a formal community policy? How do you enforce rules and guidelines?" 14 of you replied across Slack and our newsletter, and many shared examples of their community policy pages. Here are two of our favorites!

Lee Fuhr, manager of San Diego Digital Designers

Shawn Mayzes, manager of LaraChat

🔥 Community Conversation

This week, the Community Chat Team set out to dig into a community engagement topic: The 90-9-1 Rule, also known as the 1% Rule. We've investigated what it is, why it is so pervasive, and what (if anything) community managers can do about it.

The 90-9-1 rule states that, in an online community, only 1% of users will create content, with an additional 9% engaging with said created content. The remaining 90% only lurk, observing and consuming the created content and engagement.

It is pervasive, extending to all corners of the internet.

The 90-9-1 Rule applies to communities of all types and sizes online.

Look at Wikipedia – 99.9% of users are lurkers. According to their About page, the site has only 72,000 active contributors, which is 0.02% of the 412,000,000 million unique visitors it receives per month. In fact, their top 1,000 editors contribute about two-thirds of the site's edits!

On YouTube, the number of likes and comments are only a fraction of the total views. For 1 creator creating a video with 100,000 views, you’ll likely only see a few thousand likes and a few hundred comments.

What are the implications?

Other than the eternal struggle of maintaining community engagement, one of the biggest downsides of the 90-9-1 rule is bias – if the loudest voices are always the ones setting the agenda or driving discussion, are their posts truly representative of how the majority think and feel?

One the other hand, a large potential positive of the 90-9-1-rule is a reduction in the signal-to-noise ratio. If every single member of a digital community were to actively contribute, it is doubtful that all content would be high quality, all of the time. Gems would get lost in the conversation, and this could make engagement even worse if users had to constantly sift through noise.

Overcoming engagement inequality

The consensus that we've come to is that in all likelihood, you can't, but you also don’t have to. Just because a community member isn’t creating content or engaging doesn’t mean they aren’t gaining value out of the engagement being created by other members.

In one of our communities, we recently hosted an AMA (ask me anything) where only 21 of 240 members asked questions. At first glance this may seem like a low amount of participation, but we polled users after the AMA and nearly 90 told us they’d read the questions and answers and enjoyed the session.

Don't be discouraged, not every member has something to contribute all the time. Stay actively engaged in the community yourself, lower the barrier to contribute, reward participation, and promote quality contributions, and you’ll continue to provide value to your community members!

🐦 Tweets

Who uses LinkedIn groups these days, anyway? As we established above, engagement starts and stops with the community manager and the processes they employ!

Company community managers, take notes. Proving the value of a community will be top of mind heading into 2020, and according to CMX, only 1 in 4 companies are able to tie their community data back to a CRM.

Are communities the future of "social"? Greg Isenberg, Founder of Islands ("Slack" for Colleges) seems to think so.

A three step crash course in community growth. If a niche or identity that you're passionate about doesn't yet have a community – go create it!

📝 Blog Posts

A handful of recommended readings from the past week.

Communities should be built with people, not for people (4 min read)

A Q&A session with Bailey Richardson, former head of community at Instagram. Bailey discusses her time time as one of Instagram’s first 10 employees and what makes a long-lasting community.

Hot from the Reddit Blog. Reddit's Community Year in Review (2 min read)

Some snapshots: Reddit just hit 430 million monthly active users, 30% YoY increase. Their two most popular subreddit communities of 2019 were r/sneakers and r/skincareaddiction, and the most popular AMA session was with Bill Gates.

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