Thoughts on Growing Any Community ...
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In my struggles and learnings as a social business practitioner I occasionally deliver social media workshops to share my experiences and knowledge with others (well, at least have delivered two of those to date).
So according to Jakob Nielsen, a user experience guru, the 90-9-1 rule prevails. The rule says that in most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action. The 1% can have a great impact on the 90% (for example, the hotels that you read on at travel websites are only the opinion of that 1%).
In Designing for the Social Web Joshua Porter explains that the goal for creating an engaging social interaction online is to help audience members move through the engagement spectrum from unaware to interested and 1st time participant to the ultimate goal of turning those audience members in to regular participants and even passionate participants. Unaware, interested, and 1st time participants primarily consume information, and going back to the 90-9-1 rule, they are mostly lurkers. Creating such an engaging online experience doesn’t happen without a plan.
When considering the value, the regular participants and passionate participants are obviously worth more.
As we move people along this engagement continuum, we actually 'Design For Community'. To promote someone from being unaware to being interested we can provide information that builds awareness and interest. And then to make them a first time participant, we can give them a call to action (solicit input from, involve in creating a plan, etc.) To make them a regular participant, we need to give them an incentive to return (info on events, competitions, etc.) And to make them a passionate participant, we need to offer a progressive benefit (give them a badge of recognition, give them some responsibilities, eg. being moderators).