So, like any good blogger, I’m going where the traffic is.
The 90-9-1 rule interests me for a number of reasons beyond the obvious applications it has to driving participation in Connect.
It’s an interesting study in psychology, especially when compared to social networks that inject trust into the equation. I really would like to see similar metrics for symmetric (ahem, classic) networks like Facebook and MySpace because of the addition of trust to the social equation.
This offhand mention in the Harvard Business School study alludes to trust as a motivating factor for participation:
“On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production.”
As enterprise adoption of social networks advances, their participation metrics will also be intriguing. Do more people participate when you add another comfy trust blanket on top of the network? I have to believe that just providing a place to share information inside the corporate firewall drives participation, if only because it is sanctioned by the company.This gives people a safety net of security, policy and repercussions that you don’t have on the consumer web.
This is a bigger deal than you’d think. We initially launched Connect in June 2006 with LDAP integration to ensure everyone had an account. This is standard operating procedure within an enterprise and a win over the consumer web. OpenID is a reality in corporate environments by necessity.
Even so, we hit several walls with people trusting us with their credentials, which drove us first to add SSL and then to support Oracle SSO. So, even inside the firewall, people are guarded with their credentials, and rightfully so.
Trust is a weird thing. If the metrics are correct and 70% of people create 90% of the content on typical social networks, this is huge when compared to 90% creating only 10% of tweets and 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned.
What else could it be, if not trust?
In the asymmetric follow model, anyone can follow you and @ reply you, pretty much the same with blogs.
Trust dictates how and if you respond. If I know you and trust you, I respond differently than if I don’t know you. It’s human nature. People trust other people they know. They do not trust the Internet.
Consumer networks create the semi-illusion that what you say and do is among friends, whereas blogs and Twitter do not. At least Twitter users shouldn’t have that illusion, especially after we’ve seen some famously embarrassing fails.
Granted, there are loads of cases of fail on social networks, but the key point for me here is that trust prompts participation. Good judgment is ancillary to this fact.
It’s important to remember that New Web is still in its infancy, and participation doesn’t come overnight, especially after hundreds of years of the old media model, i.e. a few sources broadcast, you consume. The prevalence of email doesn’t help either.
For a large majority, the ‘tubes is a place to consume information, old media style, and read/send email with parties you trust. It’s not anything like that cocktail party we were promised.
This is bad for New Web. If 90% of New Web content is created by a precious few of us, how boring, opinionated and derivative is that?
I want new content and information. I want more opinions and disagreement (ahem, not flame wars), more collective intelligence.
Maybe this is too egalitarian, but that’s the promise of the ‘tubes, right?
So, what to do about it?
I’m not alone in believing that Gen Y will shape the future of the web and drive more people into participation. So, there that. Being a digital native isn’t for everyone, but people will gradually be drawn into New Web by its participants. Once there, they’ll pick and choose what’s for them and what isn’t.
The overall result will be increased participation across all age groups.
The growth of Facebook across older demographics shows this is already happening, so maybe I’m just echoing what is already working. It’s too bad Twitter doesn’t have similar demographics. That would be interesting. Although I did read somewhere that Twitter adoption has been slow among those under 25.
Take that with a grain of salt, since Twitter doesn’t collect age data, making me wonder about any study’s results.
Texting seems to be the accepted mode of operation in younger demographics, which makes sense, and hey, there’s trust in there. Surprise.
Anyway, my theory is that participation begins as imitation.
My usual advice to anyone who’s wary and unsure about how to get started is to jump in and lurk. You can’t expect to start a blog or a social network and follow a bulleted list to success. Start by doing. Read and comment on blogs. Join a social network. Join Twitter. Discover what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
Beyond influencing personal behavior, this creates and establishes trust.
So, for me, participation equals trust.
What do you think? I trust you to sound off in the comments.