Beating Social Media’s 90:9:1 Rule in the Enterprise

The 80/20 rule is out (so last century), 90:9:1 is in: the rule of participation in public communities, social networks, wikis:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

90:9:1 is a pretty good fit for most public wikis, starting with Wikipedia. Ben Gardner observed very different numbers: 50:25:x (he does not specify “x”). The interesting number here is 25, or it’s relationship to 50, meaning:

When the same question was asked about our corporate wiki ~50% of those present had used it but about ~50% of those had edited it.

Active participation in a corporate environment is much higher than in the public domain – this is not really a surprise, since the corporate wiki is used by people of real identities and reputations, and most importantly, shared objectives. This is also why Prof. Andrew McAfee hasn’t seen vandalism – a plague of public wikis – in the corporate world at all.

I suspect that 25% can go a lot higher, depending on the purpose of the wiki. When after the initial “grassroots movement” management fully embraces the wiki not as an optional, after-the-fact knowledge-sharing tool, but the primary facility to conduct work, it becomes the fabric of everyday business, where people create, collaborate, and in the process capture information. When the wiki is the primary work / collaboration platform, participation is no longer optional. Not when the answer to almost any question is “it’s on the wiki.” smile_wink

My earlier posts on this subject:

(hat tip: Stewart Mader)


  1. Looking at actual metrics from the wiki software is far more useful than asking a room full of people about their own behavior. We’ve tried it a few times and people have wildly divergent definitions of “used” or even “edited”.

    A great value-add for a company like Atlassian would be to allow their customers to upload anonymized usage data and get a comparison generated that shows relative levels of participation in relation to other Atlassian customers.

  2. Zoli — nice post. I posted a few months back on work reported by BusinessWeek on Social Media demographics which dovetails nicely into your post.


  1. […] Beating Social Media’s 90:9:1 Rule in the Enterprise A reminder that the 90:9:1 is in: the rule of participation in public communities, social networks, wikis. Still if you are a company how do you nurture the conversation? See also my proposed 40/30/20 rule for social media. (tags: zolierdos socialmedia collaboration) […]

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