Reconciling social technographics and 90-9-1

Useful thoughts from the groundswell blog:

Forrester’s Social Technographics surveys show that when it comes to social content 21% of online US consumers are Creators, 37% are Critics (those who react to content created by others), and 69% are Spectators.

The 90-9-1 principle, recently publicized by Community Guy Jake McKee at, says that in a community, the rule of thumb is that 90% of visitors only view the content, 9% only comment or react to it, and 1% create it.

This confuses people, and I often get questions about who’s right. In fact, there is no contradiction between these two statements. Let’s examine why.

First of all, the 90-9-1 principle applies to a single site or community. Let’s suppose we are talking about, for example. 90-9-1 says that 1% of its members create content. But our surveys might detect a TiVo community member who just reads the Tivo posts, but who is an enthusiastic Barack Obama supporter at Forrester’s surveys would call her a Creator. But with regard to, Jake’s rule says she’s in the 90% or lurkers. No contradiction, it just depends on whether you’re looking at a single site or across all sites. Since Creators (in the Forrester sense) include people who create content at any site, they add up to a lot more than 1%

Second, our groups are designed to overlap. Since we also identify Collectors (who organize content) and Joiners (who join social networks), there’s no strict hierarchy. Some Joiners are Creators, some Creators are Joiners, but neither group is a subset of the other. (When creating Social Technographics I attempted to create a hierarchy of behaviors, but carefully examining the data convinced me that was a mistake.) So we allow our categories to overlap. 90-9-1, which examines fewer activities, can accommodate mutually exclusive categories.

Third, 90-9-1 is a rule of thumb. For example, according to, only 0.16% of YouTube visitors upload content, far less than 1%. A community of Webmasters will have a lot more contributors than a community of senior citizens. Our surveys are actual data independent of site-to-site variation. (So I don’t get to create a nice neat rule, while Jake can.)

What’s it mean? It means that 90-9-1 is a good rule of thumb for sites, while Social Technographics is a good way to look at populations. And it also means that you should check the Social Technographics Profile of your customers first, to see how many of them are likely to contribute if you put them in a community. 

One thought on “Reconciling social technographics and 90-9-1

  1. Pingback: Do you overlap or divide? | Stuart Glendinning Hall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.