Years ago, usability expert Jakob Nielsen developed the “Community Participation Pyramid,” which some observers now call the “90-9-1 Principle.” It states:
- 90 percent of web users are lurkers — read or observe, but don’t contribute;
- 9 percent of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time;
- 1 percent of users participates heavily and account for most contributions.
What are the implications of this trend as it pertains to content creators? It means that we have the opportunity to become centers of influence. Being a member of the “one-percenter” club means there are 99 percent of users that we have the ability to influence.
Perhaps the real promise of social media is not that everyone participates equally, but that those who constitute the “one percenters” have the opportunity to do so with fewer obstacles.
“There’s an explosion of new tools available to help lead the tribes we’re forming,” said Seth Godin in his book Tribes. “There are literally thousands of ways to coordinate and connect groups of people that just didn’t exist a generation ago. All of it is worthless if you don’t decide to lead.”
Marketing Benefits to One Percenters
There are a number of marketing benefits from achieving increased influence within social media communities.
- Influencers gain respect and build credibility. By providing quality content that the market can appreciate and consume, you establish yourself as someone who is knowledgeable. You’ll have the opportunity to gain a greater degree of respect from members of the community. With respect comes attention, which is a valuable and much harder to come by commodity in today’s crowded marketplace.
- Influencers set themselves apart from the competition. If Nielsen is correct in his assertion that only one percent of those who use the Internet actually contribute content in any significant manner, it’s possible your competitors do not fall in that category, which is all the more reason for you to do so. In the process, you will create a body of content that sets you apart from your competitors and makes it more difficult for them to catch up.
- Influencers get attention from Google. One benefit from creating content is that it helps with your search engine optimization efforts. I have long advocated using blogs for marketing. Frequently updated, keyword-optimized, topically relevant content — all characteristics of a well-maintained blog — provide the fodder Google is looking for. Over time, this can result in improved search results, which means more people can find your content, which helps your search results, on so on.
With Influence Comes Responsibility; 4 Guidelines
The responsibility to use our influence cannot be for selfish motives, but to benefit the community as a whole. Those who take it seriously will be rewarded by the very same communities. Here are four commonsense guidelines to consider as it applies to becoming a responsible social media leader.
- Express servant leadership. Lead by example and have a helpful attitude. That’s the mindset I believe an influencer needs to have.
- Think in terms of what will benefit the community. Face it, most people don’t really care what you or I have to say unless it benefits them in some way. You have to win the right to be heard.
I don’t mean to imply that people are necessarily selfish by nature, but we are all strapped for time. We all consume the information that will provide the most benefit. If your aim is to become an influencer, be the person that serves that function.
- Don’t take it personally. While social media is a personal medium, people will tend to value your content before they value you. For example, if I’m in the market to purchase a certain product, I’m probably going to search for product names before I search for a particular brand or company that provides that product.
One of the people who best exemplifies the highest and best of this leadership ethic is new media marketing consultant Chris Brogan. Even he said via a Twitter message that sometimes he feels “more like a service than a human.” It goes with the territory and is one of the hazards of the job.
- Research, research, research. There was a time when creating content for the web was much easier. For example, on average a given blog post may take as much as two hours to write. It’s a far cry from the pithy, anecdotal rants and raves of days gone by. Now, commentary has to be substantiated with appropriate documentation and resources cited.
For those who spend the time to become a “one percenter,” the payoff can be increased visibility, heightened awareness of your brand and, likely, more sales of your products.