The Community Participation Pyramid courtesy of Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox
In this week’s Twitter column I want to debunk a myth that gets spread by the likes of CNN Money and Mashable. Roughly it states that Twitter becomes more of an RSS reader than a real social networking venue due to “only” 27% of Twitter users being active. The number is correct but the conclusion is wrong. The contrary is the case:
Twitter users are by far more active than the average social media users or rather lurkers.
In case you are serious about your web design, SEO and social media success you must know the usability guru Jakob Nielsen. He isn’t always right but where he is he stays right for a decade or more. So once Mr. Nielsen finds something out almost every Web professional acknowledges it and builds hers or his websites according to these findings.
CNN Money and Mashable authors do not seem to read Jakob Nielsen’s articles.
That’s a shame. Let me introduce the statistics they refer to first though. Internet security firm Barracuda Networks has performed a study about the usage of Twitter. It wasn’t the first one, they have older data to compare it to. Now they have found out in their own words:
The bottom line is this: users are more active on Twitter
In actual numbers it means that, again quote “27 percent of users have tweeted 10 times or more, showing a 29 percent increase since June.” This is the number that gets cited elsewhere as a sign of the slow demise of Twitter activity. It’s not only the 29% increase that makes this number a positive statistic but it’s the comparison to overall social media.
Here Jakob Nielsen appears again on the scene. In his milestone article “Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute” from 2006 he examines the usage of several social media sites in the broadest sense. He concludes with formulating a rule of thumb for such sites. It’s the 90-9-1 rule.
In short the 90-9-1 rule says that
- 90% of users are inactive or lurk
- 9% contribute once or occasionally
- while 1% power users provide the bulk of user generated content.
Nielsen goes on to show some extreme examples like Wikipedia where the situation is even more extreme and a tiny elite controls most of the site’s content.
Now let’s compare it to Twitter: On Twitter you have an astounding 27% of moderately active participants. This is almost three times the social media average. 3*9 = 27 but the 1% of power users has to be taken into account as well. CNN Money and Mashable: Please update your erroneous articles. Don’t spread myths in areas you obviously don’t understand.