The three C's (or the 1, 19, and 80%) of social media (one more time)

Robert Young has a nice piece over at GigaOM about the “fat belly” portion of the long tail. It’s an idea I’ve been talking about for the past couple of months and I figured I would chime in here.

I break user up into the “three c’s” (old school!):

  1. creatives (1%)
  2. contributors (19%)
  3. consumers (80%)

In the Netscape/reddit/digg world:

  • a) The creatives are the ones who put in stories.
  • b) The contributors are the ones who add comments and vote.
  • c) The consumers are the ones who just ride on the work of the first two groups.

In order to get the consumers (the 80%) you need the creatives and contributors (the 1% and 19%).

In order to get the contributors (the 19%) you need the creatives (the 1%).

In order to get the 1% you need to motivate them somehow.

  • At Netscape we motivated them with compensation, recognition, and affiliation.
  • At digg they motivated them with recognition and affiliation.

Netscape is building the 19% right now, and in many ways we are an anomaly since we started with a large amount of traffic due to Netscape’s heritage. We brought in the 1% and they are doing an amazing job. We’ve got the 80% covered, and we right now we’ve been building up–and frankly educating–that 19% on what social news even is.

People in the web 2.0 bubble forget exactly how niche what we do is. The mass audience doesn’t understand what social news and bookmarking is. It’s gonna take another 2-3 years for them to figure it out. Just like it took 3-4 years for blogging to stick. However, I’ve seen this story before and it comes to resolution quickly.

Of the 19% we need to educate (and I say educated not get, since we have the users already), I’d say we already have 1/3rd up to speed. By the end of the year we’ll have explained this concept to the other 2/3rds. You can’t build a community overnight, it takes time. I have to say however, that I’m thrilled we got to 50,000+ registered members in < 2 months. We’re adding well over 1,000 a day and growing–we’re way ahead of our plan. As you can see looking at Netscape many stories are getting dozens to hundreds of comments, but not that many votes. It turns out normal folks are more interested in talking than voting–we’ve got to actually remind people to vote and explain to them how to find the “on deck” stories in the tracker.