If I build it will they come?

30 April, 2008

Over the last couple of days Tony Karrer has posted some interesting musings on the lack of engagement in conference social networks he has encountered. This got my attention as one of my major deliverables for the year is to create a social network for an upcoming conference!

He talks about the 90 / 9 / 1% rule which states of 100 potential users:

  • 90 will lurk (read with no active participation)
  • 9 will participate in a limited fashion (maybe rate or comment periodically)
  • 1 will regularly post content

The bottom line being:

To get 10 active content contributors, you need an audience of size 1,000.

He makes the picture even more depressing by reminding us that a large proportion of those 1000 potential users are unlikely to ever even register for the social networking system!

So how do I manage to create an active community? Firstly I have numbers on my side we have over 10,000 individual delegates attending the various local versions of the conference, so by the maths described above I’m looking at around 100 creators…that’s not a bad starting point (and to be honest I’d be pretty happy if we manage that), but really we want to get that 1% a little higher.

I think (perhaps hope is a better word) we can, if we can interlink the social network with the conference program and the exhibitions in the trades hall.

So what am I proposing? 4 words:

  • Promotion
  • Education
  • Integration
  • Support

The ‘extended’ features, need to be promoted from the first item of marketing collateral to the last. A consistent message articulating a clear value proposition must be heard be everyone who registers for a session.

We need to educate our delegates on how to make use of the tools, I’m thinking captivate presentations on demand and perhaps even live webinars and demonstrations at the conference.

We’ve got tightly integrate the social network into the program. Presenters will be encouraged to post follow up discussion, resources or further reading online at the conclusion of sessions (within a couple of hours – that means we need good infrastructure on site). Several sessions should to be ‘optimised’ around feedback obtained from delegates via the social network prior to the event (and this needs to be promoted in the marketing material). We should also organize networking events to allow online social networkers to meet f2f.

Finally we must support delegates so that they feel comfortable to contribute, if we leave them to their own devices, we’re going to be disappointed. Community mentors need to be identified to welcome new members, answer questions and explain the lay of the land.

That’s my list, the big questions are, can all of these initiatives be pulled off? If they can, will they make any difference? Finally do a bunch of finance people really want to network online? They say they do but theory is very different to practice.

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3 Responses to “If I build it will they come?”

  1. V Yonkers Says:

    Mick, you might want to look at the work Ruth Brown did on developing community in distance learning courses (JALN). I think many of the principles she found in her community building analysis will fit some of the activities you propose. The one factor that she identified was vital was an event that made participants feel as if they were part of the “group”. I find that successful conferences are those that include events that make you feel as if you have a shared experience. Of course, many attend a conference never intending to share the experience with the person next to them. However, if you have a sense of connection through shared experience (either online or face to face) it will lead to the sense of community which will have you follow through in your commitment to the community after a conference.

    What is difficult is trying to identify what the key event may be. Sometimes it is a horrible experience, sometimes it is working together for a common goal, sometimes it is a shared insight at a presentation. Unfortunately, Brown does not indicate that triggers that point. I guess that it the organizer’s job!

  2. micktl Says:

    Hi V, thanks for the tip, I’ll be reading through it on the train home tonight!! I certainly agree that people need to feel a part of the community if they are going to be comfortable to contribute.

    I’m hoping that through bringing the content onto the social network and bringing the social network into the content we might be able to create the feeling of community. Hopefully by integrating the community and the conference the separate feeling of the network will be reduced.


  3. […] and are moving into the content / community phase. We’re also moving into this phase on the conference social network project I have been working on. This means I’m hitting a rather scary time, I’m moving […]


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