User communities – The 100-10-1 rule

Very often, when building user community sites or sites that will predominantly be driven by user generated content, the question that always gets asked is how many users do we need to attract to ensure that there is a steady stream of new content that is generated on the site. In the book, Citizen Marketers, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba talk about a very easy to remember 1% guiding principle. The 1% rule says that

  • 1% of the visitors to a website will create new content or contribute content.
  • 10% of the visitors will interact with the content by writing comments or say rating the content.
  • The remaining (a very large majority by the way) will merely read the content

They have validated this 1% estimate (give or take a few percentage points) using leading websites such as Wikipedia, TiVo Community Forum, Microsoft’s Channel 9 website, Yahoo Groups, Quickbooks community etc.

I have found this to be very true in the user community websites I have created, beta programs I have run. This rule which I find appropriate to refer to as the 100-10-1 rule serves as a great guideline to determine how much traffic you need to generate to your website such that it is self sustaining in terms of content generation. If you need say 10 new articles a day from 10 different contributors to keep your website going, then you need to make sure that at least 1000 users visit your site everyday.

It also helps you understand how user communities behave such that you do not set unachievable targets such as “1 in 5 users (20%) who visit my website will contribute content.” – it is very likely not going to happen.

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