Ask Not What Your Community Can Do for You


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I’ve never been the most social guy, which makes it ironic that I make my living through consulting on social media. I’ll be saying as much in my June Pint of View column for CRM magazine, but I wanted to get out in front of it with this. Social CRM and community software vendor Lithium—specifically Dr. Michael Wu, Lithium’s principal scientist of analytics—just released a study of Lithium customers that sheds light on just who participates in online communities.

Conventional wisdom states that 90 percent of online community members are passive participants, or lurkers; they monitor the content and events but don’t contribute. The next 9 percent are active participants who post and engage with some regularity. But the majority of activity in the community comes from just 1 percent of members, called hypercontributors (or grognards, to some). This is sometimes known as the 1-Percent Rule. Conventional wisdom isn’t always wise, so Wu set about putting numbers to the theory.

It’s hard to get decent data on how non-participants contribute to a community—it’s like proving an unbounded negative—so the study focuses on the top 10 percent of community contributors. Lurkers aside, it turns out that conventional wisdom is actually wise: The hypercontributors in the top 1 percent create an average of 56 percent of community content, with the rest coming from regular contributors in the next 9 percentiles.

There’s more to it than this brief outline, and I recommend reading the study results in depth. Knowing your audience is key to serving it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marshall Lager
CRM Evangelists
Marshall Lager has been writing about CRM and related topics since 2005, first as a journalist for CRM Magazine and then as an analyst and consultant. He has worked at Informa and G2, and as an independent. Specialties include customer experience, B2C, customer journey mapping, and finding the humor in our sometimes dry and dour field.


  1. So it seems that “80/20” rule is in play again.

    It seems like a worthwhile effort to find ways to get the “lurkers” to participate, even in small and sporadic ways. The top 1% are already engaged, the real growth opportunity is to get even just one more visit to a community from the 99%.


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