In your attempts to get super-social with your fans, are you ignoring the silent majority?
The so-called 1/9/90 rule posits that on a social media network or review site, only 1 percent of users will actively create content. Another 9 percent, the editors, will participate by commenting, rating or sharing the content. The other 90 percent watch, look and read without responding.
In other words, there's a vast silent majority of customers, potential or active, who don't make a peep. Nevertheless, they are reading your content or reading about you. While engaging with the outgoing 10 percent is important, there are three steps you should take to make sure you are still promoting to the customers who read, but don't participate.
1. Put up a good front for the 90 percenters
Many of these people will find you on search, either on a social media, review sites or via traditional search. On review sites, don't obsess about the number of reviews you're getting, advises Luther Lowe, Yelpmanager of business outreach. He's found that participation on Yelp definitely follows the 1/9/90 rule, with most people searching listings to decide which businesses to patronize.
"We argue that the key metric for determining whether you have a successful presence is not the quantity of reviews but the quantity of page views—how many people looking at the page every month. If you had one review but a thousand page views, your business would be doing really well," Lowe says.
To attract those who read but don't write, you should make sure that your business has a rich profile in all the right places: review sites, Google Places and your company website. Provide plenty of content and information that lets searchers understand what makes your business unique or better than your competition.
In surveys of Yelp users, the company has found that most look at three different business pages before making a decision. Lowe advises, "Focus on how to maximize that traffic and make sure it increases over time. Are you putting your best foot forward?"
2. Use the 1 percent to understand the 90 percent
"You can find fun, creative ways to use the 1 percenters to help identify the 9 or 90s, maybe through some polling activity or surveys," says Sean McDonald, principle strategist for Ant's Eye View, a social media strategy consulting firm. "This 1 percent trusts you and hangs out with you for a reason."
Find out what that reason is. You can ask these highly engaged users what other communities they're involved in and what value they find in their own. You might also ask them for feedback on your content or services.
If you're working to increase your total base of users, fans or community members, it's important to show some love to the 9 percent, the ones who comment once a month or stop by to leave a single review, McDonald says.
It's a bit of a juggle, he adds. If you always highlight the 1 percent, the 9 percent may feel there's no hope to move up; if you add too many to the top tier, the 1 percent may feel their cachet is disappearing and leave.
McDonald advises giving that 1 percent of power users recognition and privileges to encourage them to stick around. Feature them in your blog or on your homepage, give them access to special content or a VIP forum. Give them even more perks if they refer others to your site.
3. Keep in touch after the flame has cooled
Remember that people's participation changes over time, says Don Rainey, a general partner in Grotech Ventures, a private equity investment firm. If you're focused on that 1 or 9 percent who are currently active or were active in the last quarter, you're missing an important part of your fan base.
"Someone who reviewed your business last summer and loved the place is still your audience," Rainey says. "Often, people in the 1 percent will migrate into the silent 90 percent, but they're still your best customers."
Say someone comes to your restaurant and loves your hamburgers—and says so on a review site. She'll certainly come back for another hamburger, but it's doubtful if she'll write another review: "Yup, hamburgers are still just as good."
"To the degree that anybody buys something and gives you a review, it's a relationship," Rainey says. "Next, move it to an ongoing electronic relationship by capturing an email address. Someone who said she loved the hamburger at your place is susceptible to an email that says, 'Come down, have a hamburger and get a free Coke.'"
In other words, in addition to trying to engage your customers to participate, you also should follow your audience members as they quiet down again.
Small businesses actually have some advantage when it comes to igniting that 90 percent, McDonald says. "You may think, 'Why should I bother, because it's only 25 or 50 people?' On the other hand, it's so much easier to get in there with 25 people to nurture those relationships that will help you grow 10 times bigger down the road."
Image source: Ant's Eye View