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The Forgotten ROI in Social Media

December 9th, 2009 · 5 Comments

The current brouhaha over social media ROI fed by articles such as the recent one in Business Week trashing social media snake oil salesmen caused me to think of what we’re missing.  Too often we focus on the engagement, interaction and strong communications we have in social media.  However, hundreds of people will read this blog post, but only a few will comment (if any at all) or post on Twitter about it.

In the early days of TV there was much questioning of it’s value as an advertising medium.  It was touted first as the most amazing advertising medium ever invented, and then panned as over hyped and under performing.  Social Media is in the same position today.  It is neither the be all, end all, nor is it incapable of delivering.  We are still learning how to use it, misuse it, and understand it.  We need to understand the impact and limits of our ability to analyze what happens in social interactions.

90/9/1= the ratio of people in any given social network who are lurkers/contributors/zealots.

  • 90% of the people in any network, from 1000 people to 350 MM people will never contribute any content to the general population
  • 9% of the people in any network will contribute information occasionally, either weekly or monthly.
  • 1% of the people in any network will contribute most of the information (80% of the 80/20 rule.)

I have observed these ratios at work from inside networks in my work with Ripple6 who built large social media networks for major corporations.  These participation ratios have been observed in Wikipedia, Flickr, Facebook, and reported by Forrester,  The concept  is generally accepted by most major social media practitioners. 

Now perhaps the number isn’t 90/9/1, maybe it’s 80/15/5 or even 70/20/10.  It doesn’t matter if you think it’s 90/9/1 or 80/20 just remember that many more people will see your social media outreach than will interact with you about it. 

It is most important for marketers to remember that just like with TV, Radio and Print, it is impossible to tell how many people will see and react to any specific social media outreach with any accuracy.  We are not used to this type of uncertainty in online marketing because we believe that we can know everything that happens online.  But in social media, we are thrust back into the realm of estimating the impact of our efforts, just as we have done for decades with off line media.

Posted via email from ckieff’s posterous

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Tags: Marketing Monday · Reasons For Net Marketing · Web Wednesday

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lies Damned Lies and Statistics // Jan 6, 2011 at 9:21 am

    [...] In all forms of social media there are a small subset of people who generate the majority of content and participate most often. For further thoughts on this concept look at the 90-9-1 rule. [...]

  • 2 Tweets that mention The Forgotten ROI in Social Media -- Topsy.com // Jan 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Kieff, Lil, Fire Tracker and others. Fire Tracker said: RT @RodrigoEBR: More here: The Forgotten ROI in Social Media http://bit.ly/hkddJp #SMEM [...]

  • 3 Tweets that mention The Forgotten ROI in Social Media -- Topsy.com // Jan 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Northlandfox, Julie Harris. Julie Harris said: 90/9/1= the ratio of people in any given social network who are lurkers/contributors/zealots http://bit.ly/gVLIG8 [...]

  • 4 Who You Should Be Talking To // Feb 21, 2011 at 5:00 am

    [...] February 21st, 2011 · No Comments There’s a number that floats around social media known as 90-9-1.  It refers to the percentage of people on any given website that are Lurkers (90%), Contributors (9%) or Creators (1%).  Creators make most of the content on any social network. Contributors will jump in and join the conversation occasionally but generally don’t start things.  I wrote more about this here. [...]

  • 5 Clay Franklin @ iZigg Mobile Marketing // Feb 27, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Chris, This the the #1 question businesses are asking themselves.
    How to measure the impact of social media.
    Comcast was able to turn a aweful reputation for customer service around by staffing Twitter with a high level Comcast Person @Comcastcares and other staff. Have a problem with Comcast? Get on Twitter and get it resolved fast. Forget calling on being on hold forever. Even though this works great and is improving the customer service percepeiton a bit, how do you justify it to management and show the ROI? Sometimes it takes a leap of faith and just doing what you know is right.
    For Facebook pages, a company can measure the opt ins on a welcome page. They have use Mobile Marketing to have visitors text in a keyword to a short code to build a list of raving fans by providing what they want be it a discount or information.
    You Tube can help too. Like the Old Spice or Cisco Videos that went viral. Old Spice is seeing actual results and Cisco at least got some brand awareness.
    I agree with your findings that few people will interact and contribute. I get about a 2% ratio of comments on my blog for all the visitors. I do get a lot returning so I must be doing something right.
    As time goes by, businesses will get better at measuring the value of social media and get better at getting people to contribute and interact and measure the results to the bottom line.

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