If you spend any time at all talking about online communities, you’re bound to stumble across the 90-9-1 Principle. The idea is simple: In social groups, some people actively participate more than others. Researcher Jakob Nielsen calls this “Participation Inequality“.

These three groups make up an ecosystem, of sorts. Pulling on one group affects the distribution of the other. Of course, it’s typically not possible to change the distribution in significant ways, as the more people added into one group directly drives the growth of the other two groups, maintaining something close to a 90-9-1 split.

Social participation tends to follow a 90-9-1 rule where:

Can you drive that 1% group closer to 50%? Or 60%? Or beyond? Possibly.

The real question is one of strategy: how can you best understand what your community’s percentage breakdown currently is, and what you want it to be. How do you design and support a social structure that moves you to where you want to be?

Here are a few tips to improve the social dynamic across these three groups:

Want to learn more about the 90-9-1 Principle? Here are a few additional discussions


For information about my Community Consulting, Training and Speaker services, or to find out more about Dinner5, my unique community for community builders, contact me today.

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