online community

Measuring Online Community Engagement

Having healthy levels of engagement is a hard nut to crack for any online community. Take note of the much-discussed 90-9-1 rule. Also called the 1% rule, or “Participation Inequality”, a term coined by Jakob Nielson, which refers to the imbalance of media creation in any online group: 90% are lurkers, 9% are editors, 1% are contributors. This concept/theory has also been similarly validated in real-world scenarios, ala the Pareto Principle. In relative terms the Pareto Principle claims an 80/20 split: 20% of the group members will contribute 80% of the content. Most community managers will say that the holy grail of engagement within a community is UGC, or User-Generated Content. If these paradigms are true, then it would seem driving higher and higher levels of engagement may be analogous to the futile uphill efforts of Sisyphus.

So if you’re kicking off a new online community, you may be asking these sorts of questions: What metrics define engagement? How can we measure those metrics? What is a healthy level of engagement and what are the ways to get there? Let’s take a look at a systematic approach in understanding the variables of engagement and developing strategies to reach your engagement goals.