The Engagement Pyramid

How the 1% feeds off the attention of the rest.

The engagement pyramid is a simple yet powerful PR model.

We all care about our interests … to a degree.

You should be happy to get 1% to offer their engagement as creators. However, to launch a successful social media campaign, you must also attract contributors and lurkers—even if you can’t expect them to invest as much engagement as your top creators.

How do you raise the engagement bar for your campaign?

Table of Contents

    The Engagement Pyramid

    The engagement pyramid divides publics into three distinct groups:

    • Creators
    • Contributors
    • Lurkers

    Engaged publics typically distribute themselves according to a distribution that has been scientifically proven well before the advent of the internet and social media, and supporting sociologists have made observations for centuries. 1The 1% rule of online engagement is an urban legend on the internet, but a peer-reviewed paper from 2014 entitled “The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational … Continue reading

    Engagement Pyramid
    The Engagement Pyramid (based on the 1-9-90 rule).

    What you ask of your contributors must be considerably smaller (small ask) than what you ask of the creators (big ask).

    Example: If we ask creators to upload their best summer pictures for a social media campaign, maybe contributors can suggest creative captions for their favourite pictures? Now, if both creators and contributors are having their fair share of fun, why not invite lurkers to vote on their favourite photos and captions?

    When studying internet forums specifically, it’s not uncommon to find that 90% of users have never posted, 9% are adding to comments, but only to existing topics and threads (contributors), and 1% are actively starting new subjects and threads.

    Your Identities and Roles

    The 1% rule (or the 1-9-90 rule) is a rule of thumb and shouldn’t be applied to broad demographic populations but rather to publics, i.e. situational interest groups.

    We all belong to various interest groups—and our engagement in each varies.

    Engagement Pyramid | Communication Theories | Doctor Spin
    See How to Scale Social Media Marketing for more on the Interest Group Model.

    Online engagement relies on the dynamics of special interest groups of like-minded people. Coincidentally, bringing such like-minded people together is something that the internet does very efficiently.

    For instance:

    • I’m a 1% creator for public relations and photography.
    • I’m a 9% contributor to survivalism and prepping.
    • I’m a 90% lurker for gaming and astrophysics.

    I’ve used the engagement pyramid many times to explain how to harness maximum online engagement and why it’s crucial to attract clearly defined special interest groups.

    How To Increase Social Engagement

    The engagement pyramid hints as to why social sites like Facebook are powerful agents of social engagement:

    • Social algorithms typically develop special interest groups by connecting social graphs around social objects.
    • Social networks typically allow creators (1%) to publish, contributors (9%) to comment, share, and like, while lurkers (90%) will silently absorb information of interest. 2Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance from 1957 explains why handling contradictory information is psychologically challenging. Festinger’s theory on cognitive dissonance and … Continue reading

    So, how can your brand increase online engagement? Make sure that your campaigns cater to creators, contributors, and lurkers alike. If you fail to activate even one of these, your whole campaign could bust.

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)

    FOOTNOTES
    FOOTNOTES
    1 The 1% rule of online engagement is an urban legend on the internet, but a peer-reviewed paper from 2014 entitled “The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational Study” confirmed the 1% rule of thumb.
    2 Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance from 1957 explains why handling contradictory information is psychologically challenging. Festinger’s theory on cognitive dissonance and his theory on social comparison are two of the most influential theories in the history of social psychology.

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    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwerhttps://www.doctorspin.net/
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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