If you take the online population as a whole and break it up into segments of people who actually contribute content, it’s pretty stunning how few people drive conversations and content in social media.
90 - 99% Read-Only Participants
1%. It holds up.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, noted the following stats in 2005:
- 50% of all Wikipedia edits are completed by 0.7% of users
- 1.8% of users have written more than 72% of all articles
Bradley Horowitz, formerly with Yahoo!, once estimated that 1% of Yahoo! users formed groups, and that about 10% of Yahoo! users interacted with content in some way.
Even in the most serious of social networks, LinkedIN, there are just a few of us who contribute content and actively utilize the built-in social network features available to all users.
Harvard Business School did a study on LinkedIN adoption, and found the following:
- 90% of LinkedIN users use LinkedIN as a “better Rolodex” or better than email
- 5% of LinkedIN users are active online networkers (mirroring results in the real world)
- 5% of LinkedIN users are actively focused on searching for people to help them solve problems - recruiters, consultants, etc. The question and answer generators are here…
So it turns out social media isn’t all that social after all. Just like in the real world, there are relatively few people actively generating and propagating conversations online. Think of the last party or real-world social gathering you attended. My bet is that there were fewer than 10% of the people doing 90% of the talking. (I’m a listener in the real world… hardly a talker at all.)
The key to businesses and organizations tapping into social media effectively, then, is this:
- Develop your 1% content contributor(s) and leverage their activities on your behalf to the hilt. They’re rare, and they might not be the types you’d suspect. (Remember me? Not a talker at parties…)
Find them in your organization by seeking people with strong opinions. People who write great emails, or already blog themselves. Do you know who these people are in your organization? If you don’t think you’ve got them inside, hire them, contract with them, give them food, props, whatever… but find and support your content contributors in their efforts.
- Engage with other 1%’ers to get the word out about your products and services. Authentic, enthusiastic and well-targeted communications are most effective here.
I’d always recommend reaching out via social networking engines first…it’s much more interesting to get a DM (direct message) on Twitter or a comment from LinkedIN or on my Facebook wall (even when delivered via email) than a traditional email.
So few of us actively participate, imagine the messages and media for which are our ears and eyes are most finely tuned…