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November 23, 2008

Reconciling Social Technographics and 90-9-1

by Josh Bernoff

Social_technographics_ladder_2008_3 Forrester’s Social Technographics surveys show that when it comes to social content 21% of online US consumers are Creators, 37% are Critics (those who react to content created by others), and 69% are Spectators.

The 90-9-1 principle, recently publicized by Community Guy Jake McKee at 90-9-1.com, says that in a community, the rule of thumb is that 90% of visitors only view the content, 9% only comment or react to it, and 1% create it.

 This confuses people, and I often get questions about who’s right. In fact, there is no contradiction between these two statements. Let’s examine why.

First of all, the 90-9-1 principle applies to a single site or community. Let’s suppose we are talking about tivocommunity.com, for example. 90-9-1 says that 1% of its members create content. But our surveys might detect a TiVo community member who just reads the Tivo posts, but who is an enthusiastic Barack Obama supporter at myBO.com. Forrester's surveys would call her a Creator. But with regard to tivocommunity.com, Jake’s rule says she’s in the 90% or lurkers. No contradiction, it just depends on whether you're looking at a single site or across all sites. Since Creators (in the Forrester sense) include people who create content at any site, they add up to a lot more than 1%

Second, our groups are designed to overlap. Since we also identify Collectors (who organize content) and Joiners (who join social networks), there’s no strict hierarchy. Some Joiners are Creators, some Creators are Joiners, but neither group is a subset of the other. (When creating Social Technographics I attempted to create a hierarchy of behaviors, but carefully examining the data convinced me that was a mistake.) So we allow our categories to overlap. 90-9-1, which examines fewer activities, can accommodate mutually exclusive categories.

Third, 90-9-1 is a rule of thumb. For example, according to 90-9-1.com, only 0.16% of YouTube visitors upload content, far less than 1%. A community of Webmasters will have a lot more contributors than a community of senior citizens. Our surveys are actual data independent of site-to-site variation. (So I don’t get to create a nice neat rule, while Jake can.)

What’s it mean? It means that 90-9-1 is a good rule of thumb for sites, while Social Technographics is a good way to look at populations. And it also means that you should check the Social Technographics Profile of your customers first, to see how many of them are likely to contribute if you put them in a community. 

Got it? Looking forward to your comments.

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Comments

Nicole Anderson

That makes complete sense, thanks for clearing it up! But when broadly deploying a social strategy (across your own site, and others), how do you account for the varying activities of the audience? Operating across a wider swath of networks/sites, do you set the balance for more involved folks as the social technographics ladder suggests or do you plan for more opportunities to lurk as the 90-9-1 rule suggests?

Josh Bernoff

Nicole, good question. Any strategy that ignores the lurkers is flawed -- 90-9-1 and Forrester agree that you need to make it as easy as possible for the less active members to participate in some way.

Not to be a broken record, but your balance will depend on the social Technographics of your customers. You gotta make it really easy if it's for 55-year-olds, and you can expect a lot more participation if you're targeting college students, to use the most obvious example.

Matt H.

Thank you for that - I was having this exact conversation with people at work as we are working on some community efforts. That was great.

kareem

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Frank Fortin

90-9-1 is only a starting point. Social technographics refines this rule of thumb for your audience/community. It provides insights on the specific social technology tools your users are most likely to embrace. It shows you how which of your users are most amenable to moving from the spectator category to the more highly engaged behaviors. Lastly, it provides an efficient roadmap to more effectively monetizing your online work.

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