The 90-9-1 principle holds that just one percent of those who are online are creating content. Nine percent of those present respond to this content in someway, often by commenting on it, while the great majority, being ninety percent, of those viewing material online do just that, or lurk.
Paul Schneider of Socious, a US based company that creates online community software, contends that this participation ratio is actually closer to 10-20-70 though, meaning some ten percent of those online are producing content, while twenty percent are interacting with it.
The thing about the rule is that it infers that all users are doing something since the 90-9-1 all add up to 100%. The problem is that many organizations have profiles of users that are deactivated, past members, or guests. Also, not all members of an online community have access to the same tools, content, and functionality. So, to make a fair correlation, I ran two sets of numbers – one set accounting for all profiles in the system and one set with only the participating users making up the 100%.
Considering that content can constitute things like forum posts, tweets, or photos, I’ve often thought that a one percent participation rate was too low, while ten percent, which possibly a notch or two too high, is however closer to the mark.
On the other hand given that tools such as Twitpic and Instagram make it easy for someone with a camera, in other words just about anyone with a mobile phone, to post photos or content online, ten percent begins to seem quite low.