Inequality of Social Sites' Members' Contributions

While maxima attempts to solve a differential equations system I have to get solved to pass examination tomorrow, I would share with you some of my thoughts on social sites and their “90–9-1” problem.

Social sites are great. They help sort things out, divide quality content from lame, share expertise or news or interests or whatever. It doesn't matter right now, what exactly, social sites allow you to get quality unique content created by your visitors, not yourself.

But how efficient are they? Probably you've heard of “90–9-1” rule or figured something like that yourself. This is generally a rule of thumb, which states than in average 1% of your visitors actually “create” content, 9% “interact” with it, and the rest just “use” it (read, download, etc).

Here's an example. There's a message board on (partly) my Russian Rock Portal. There are 5092 members registered at the moment. Among them, there are just 991 members, who posted more than 10 messages, only 299, who has 100 messages or more, 61 person with at least 1000 postings, 5 (!) who posted 5000+ replies, and only 1 (one!) man left more than 10K messages (almost 15 thousands – he's a great guy and listens lots of music every days and writes a lot about it). You see? 5.87% members posted almost a half of all messages, and about 1% left a third of all messages.

This situation also has one unwanted side effect: your community starts to reflect the opinion of minority, not people's opinion, and when people see that “these folks post wierd things”, they like your site less. And less. And finally they leave.

And that's a good case actually (forums have the best “action ratio” among social websites). Take Wikipedia: it has about 75K active submitters, amoung millions of visitors every day.

Can you solve this problem? NO! Whatever you do, most members are still lazy (you are lazy, I am lazy, everyone!) and only a few really do something. You can only shift the values a little, it's up to you if it would be 80–16-4 or 95–4.9–0.1.

What can you do? You should encourage your visitors to become registered members, and encourage your members to contribute. How? There several ways I see:

  • make registration and contribution (whatever contribution means in your case) as simple as possible. And even more simple. Very good examples of this are Reddit and lOOnstart: you just have to enter your email address and password and – viola – you're in!
  • reward active members. Limit something tasty to registered users only. Limit something really tasty to active members only. But you have to be careful with the limits: if they are too high, people won't even try to reach them.
  • make the contribution a side effect. Design your site in a such way so people will actually contribute without doing anything. Well, the simplest example is using a content views count as a rating. Of course, it's not the best rating factor, but could be used in cooperation with another rating system, like stars, comments, votes up/down, etc. Other, better example is Amazon's “Customers who bought this item also bought” thing.
  • force people to contribute. My first PHP/MySQL gig was creating a photo-rating site (thanks God, that site no longer exists, it was awful, just the idea was good). Some people would upload their pics there, others browse them. But to see next picture, one should rate the previous one. Invent something less straightforward.

And, of course, the main is just keep your site usable, useful and/or fun. If people don't like it, they won't do anything for you. Good luck!

If you enjoy my articles, feel free to subscribe to my RSS Feed

Top Top  AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Category: random thoughts Words: 90-9-1, social networks, action ratio, member ecouragement, contribution


Joel Badinas


Thanks for visiting my blog, Joel Badinas dot Com.

May I invite you to my blogger's corner campaign. Please let me know if you do.

21.06.2007 // 07:47 [ Link ]

Reply from author

Hi, Joel.

Sure, you may, and I'll review your blog and and Free Source Codes, too later. I emailed you my answers.


28.06.2007 // 00:04 [ Link ]

Jake McKee

Great article, totally agree.

One thing I'd say is that there's a difference between reward and award. Rewards can get dangerous because you can get into a "reward cycle", where people spend far too much time running after the rewards.

Awards can have the same effect, but mentally satisfying without the bitter "where's my next round of goodies" aftertaste.

05.09.2007 // 06:01 [ Link ]