The 90-9-1 Rule in Reality – Managing Online Communities

The 90-9-1 Rule in Reality

This is a reposting, initially done on the Khoros Communities Blog

If you’ve ever managed a community you’ve probably heard of the “90-9-1 rule“. If you have observed a community closely, you have probably seen it in action.

Soon after a community launches, users begin to participate, but each user participates at a different rate. The minute difference in participation levels is accentuated over time, leading to a small number of hyper-contributors in the community who produce most of the community content.

The 90-9-1 rule simply states that:

  • 90% of all users are lurkers. They read, search, navigate, and observe, but don’t contribute
  • 9% of all users contribute occasionally
  • 1% of all users participate a lot and account for most of the content in the community

But how real is this rule? Do all communities follow this rule consistently? If not, how far off is the deviation? Is the proportion really 90:9:1, or is it more like 70:25:5, or 80:19.99:0.01?

While written in 2010 this excellent blog by Dr. Michael Wu, Ph.D. Lithium’s Principal Scientist of Analytics (retired), digs into the complex dynamics of social interaction and online communities.

Read Dr Wu’s blog now.