Well, this is no apocalypse or anything, and it has been with us for quite some time. But, it was not until recently that I read this article of Business Insider that got me thinking about who generates content and who consumes content in a UGC solution, either this is an app, or a website or a service, etc.
As it seems, it would generally be a pretty good rule of thumb to assume that you get 90% lurkers on your app, which means that you get 90% of the users just looking at what you have to offer and not offering anything in return. Imagine having a twitter account and just following people to read their updates without tweeting anything on your own, thus creating no content (although following someone could be characterized loosely as a contribution). Or even better, think of the Trip Advisor app, using it to find venues and see ratings but never adding a review for yourself.
Then you get a 9% that is the regular users of your app, meaning that they will generally tweet or add a review, or post something more than the bottom end of the user spectrum but still significantly less than the power users of 1%. My general feeling is that the rule of 1-9-90 is too simplistic, but I don’t have the data to back that up. I could experiment a bit but the sample I can get access to, is too small. My feeling though is that it’s less like 1-9-90 and more like 1-9-30-60, or 1-9-20-30-40, meaning that there are many subcategories within that 90% of the original rule.
And then you get the 1% of the top users. These are the ones that will open your app daily, at least one time, or even 10 or 20 if we are talking about Twitter for example. These are the ones that will support you throughout. I consider myself such a user for the services offered by IMDB where I have reviewed more than 40 movies and counting, which is something that not a lot do (not just rated, reviewed, which means that I took the time and wrote a couple of paragraphs for each movie).
Then you also have the 80-20 rule that can be adapted in UGC, to state that 80% of your content comes from 20% of your users, just like 80% of your income comes from 20% of your customers, etc. This is also not too far from the truth. It’s not hand in hand with the 1-9-90 rule, but it may as well lead to the same quantitative data.
And then, you start to think about usage in general and not just contribution, and it seems to me (again no data, just a hunch) that there, it could as well be a normal distribution. I mean, you could have in both ends of the spectrum the few people that either overuse or underuse an app or a service and then as you move closer to the centre you get the ones that actually make a logical use of your service. Independent of the contributions they make or don’t make, just by looking at time spent on the app weekly for example.
Anyway, looking at the article, I really like the list of the reasons for why a person would contribute on a website/app/service like that and so I will copy-paste them from the article to keep them in one place:
– enjoyment from being a creator rather than just a reader
– creation of social status within the organization for having contributed
– rewards or perceived rewards for achieving status (kind of like collecting airline miles
– self promotion in order to gain status that might either help with future job prospects or to drive traffic to ones website for primary business
– to meet friends / other people that are similarly inclined because they, too, are “power users
I think that any UGC-related app that wants to hit the nail on the head, should look to capitalize on one and even more of these reasons so as to make sure that they get 1% or 2% of these power users that are fundamental for the first few months. And then, also look at the advice in the end of the aforementioned article and make sure that you also serve your 90% as these are equally important for the success of your app or service, as is the 9% as well.
I have been picking my brain for ideas on various fields for the past few months, focusing on UGC and how this content or data if you will can be harvested. It seems that the answer is not automatically (only). It seems that every solution needs the manual labour along with automated means and it seems that techniques and metrics and rules such as this one will come in hand if I want to understand how this works.