Mass Adoption and the 1% of Social Media

Internet participation inequality from

When I first jumped into social media activity almost five years ago (back when we just called it Web 2.0), I was looking for tools that could help collaboration and innovation as part of my job in an enterprise environment (what Andy McAfee dubbed Enterprise 2.0). A Jive community space, Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter turned out to be great tools not only to collaborate internally, but helped to connect me to a small, but growing community of technology enthusiasts. While the general rule for Internet participation is the 90-9-1 rule where 90% lurk, 9% participate some and the 1% are heavy contributors (the Occupy movement now brings a different 1% to mind) that create over 90% of the content. Bloggers are almost always in the top 10% of participation and they made up a lot of the early Twitter community. Over the last five years, we’ve watched social media go from the early adopter crowd to more of the general population and it is also impacting traditional media.

While having discussions through social media is great, it’s even better when you can meet those people in real life (IRL) at events or when travelling. For comparison at how fast the communities are growing, compare Stephen Foskett’s list of storage people on Twitter in 2008 with the 2011 VMworld Las Vegas Twitter list. With the expansion of Twitter users (and slow decline in blogging), it seems to me that Tweetups have lost some of the excitement that they had a couple of years ago. As I wrote back in 2009, I prefer gatherings where I have already started the connections online. As traditional media and brands increase the usage of social media, more users simply consume the streams rather than engage and create new content and conversation. This week I had some fun participating chatting with the Run! podcast (follow link or click play below, total length is 33 minutes) where we discussed the interaction and differences between mass media and social media. I had fun with the discussion and there is a good mix of viewpoints between Marc Farley, Matt Brender, Roger Strukoff and me.

Like many bloggers, I’m a little concerned that as mass media and mass adoption of social media picks up, there may actually be less active and constructive conversation and more polarizing rhetoric controlled by too few people. Social media holds the promise of democratizing communication and most traditional media usage falls back to a one-way broadcast of information (as Roger pointed out on the podcast, reading questions or comments off of Twitter doesn’t count as being engaging).

Be part of the active Internet 1% and don’t let the media (controlled by the other 1%) rule the social webs.

Thanks Marc, Matt and Roger for having me on the podcast. Also, thanks to those who read and engage in the conversation on this blog, Twitter and everywhere else.


3 Responses to Mass Adoption and the 1% of Social Media

  1. Marc Farley says:

    Stu, thanks for coming on the show. I’m enjoying to evolution of social media along with you.

  2. Erik Smith says:

    Hi Stu, this distribution also seems to apply to most IRL large group settings as well. I think it’s:
    – 90% of the people either don’t know enough about what is going on or are not confident enough that they sufficiently grasp the substance of the arguments to make an intelligent comment.
    – 9% pick and choose their words carefully and
    – 1% have no issues babbling on and on.
    BTW, the people participating in each group seems to change from one setting to another..

    What this distribution doesn’t account for is the value of the information being shared by each group. I don’t know of an effective way to actually measure this, but I sure do appreciate (and follow) people who have a higher signal to noise ratio and tend to drop those who babble about nothing frequently.

    For me this translates into only sharing information that others may potentially find interesting and only commenting on articles where I think I can add something. As a result my “lurking” to interaction ratio is higher than someone who tends to “think out loud” in comment sections. I wonder if others feel the same..

    Regards, Erik

  3. Ed Grigson says:

    Good read Stu, I’ve only just discovered your blog but there’s a lot of though provoking posts. I wrote something along the same lines as this post (a month earlier – no plagiarising!) but more focussed on the VMware community and the vExpert award;

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