Are you stopping at 1% of your ultimate goal?

Stopping with something when you have just reached 1% of your goal. Sounds rather silly, doesn’t it? However I know quite some people, either community managers or others working in the social media area, who do just this. As soon as they have 1% of their community active, they stop. Since Nielsen states that a typical community 90% are lurkers, 9% contributors from time to time and 1% of the group members participate a lot and account for most contributions.

Actually that number is even a lot lower, if you also take the theory of the Diffusion of Innovations of Rogers into account. You can read about that in this blog post I wrote a while ago. However if you read the article from Nielsen word by word you will notice the following:

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.

In most communities this the behavior, however why are these people taking it for granted they are working on something similar as everybody else, why don’t they think they are working on something really special? Often this is a result of lazyness, avoiding risks, not enough time or simply a lack of skill and insight.

Taking 1% as your goal is really the easy way out. Plus when you design for 1%, it is very likely your community / social platform will not perform as good as you expected when suddenly 60% decides to participate. Therefore always design for 100%, since that is your ultimate goal. You have to design for everybody who participates, but also for the lurkers.

Many communities are not like most communities, communities within enterprises have a completely different dynamic than the Facebook page from Starbucks (where less than 1% is participating) and communities about a certain niche are yet again completely different. Within groups in enterprises you can have a participation level between 60% and 100%, all depends on the kind of group and the goals of this group and your design.Your design is the thing that will help you to overcome the ‘1%-is-all-we-can-get-myth’.

For example: you can start with a more elite group, which is based on invite only, exclusive group have in general a higher participation level. You can start with a group ambassadors who will be helping others in the future to join this group and help participating. So people are more involved thanks to that ambassador. Also integrating it in the daily activities of people and by providing a good user experience are things that thrive the participation level.

You have to design to go beyond 1% and you have to realize that you are not working on most online communities. You are working at your online community, that one is special, that one can go way beyond 1%, that one you can design to have a higher participation level than 1%.

1% is what you get when you don’t do design for participation… if your are lucky.