The 64% Rule: What Real Customer Engagement Looks Like

When a company’s goal is insight and co-creation with customers, active participation is a crucial measure of not only the quality, but the cost-effectiveness, of its investment in social media.

That’s why in 2007, Communispace analyzed participation data from 66 of our private, recruited online communities. In the course of that research, we found that our average monthly participation and contribution rates were significantly higher, and our average monthly “lurker” rate significantly lower, than was the norm at public forum and e-pinion sites, where the “1% Rule” prevailed: 1% of people created content, 9% edited or modified that content, and  90% viewed the content without contributing.

Since then, we’ve done many, many more communities – over 425 in total. That alone was reason to revisit our participation benchmarks to see what had changed. But there were other reasons as well. There are also many more social marketing sites, public communities, and Facebook fan pages (which didn’t exist five years ago), and market researchers appropriately asking, “Why do I need a community if I can “mine” insight from these other, larger venues?”

This year, Communispace’s Research team is focusing on answering that question. In Like Me: The Dynamics of Public vs Private Social Media, we addressed what people are willing to share in different types of online venues. Our newest research – The 64% Rule: What Real Customer Engagement Looks Like – explores the variables contributing to how many people are willing to share, how often, and in what volume, in our communities vs. other platforms.

Here’s the sneak preview. The same 90-9-1 principle applies to public communities and brand sites today as it did five years ago. Social networks are a somewhat different story; Forrester Research estimates that roughly 33% of Facebook users who log in weekly update their status, which is a form of content creation. But that vibrancy in social networks is of limited value to market researchers, because the content is generally private and inaccessible to web scraping tools.

In contrast,  in a just-completed study of 246 Communispace communities comprising 86,275 members, we found that an average of 64.1% of community members contribute new content every month, they average over 7 contributions per month, and only 7.5% “lurk,” i.e. read content but do not contribute.

How do variables like community size, number of activities per month, community composition, industry vertical, and national make-up influence participation rates? Sorry – you’ll have to read the white paper to find out. Please do, and then share your comments and questions for us here. We’ll respond – we promise. After all, authentic, iterative conversation is our (lengthy) middle name.