Increasing your Dominant vs. Subordinate participation in communities

I had an interesting conversation with a customer (who runs a technology user community). Most of his users in the community are lurkers as we know. In this case its closer to 99-0.95-0.05 (Only 0.05% of his users contribute).The one metric they wanted to have improve is the contribution % of his community to a representative 90-9-1. I cant say numbers but going from 0.05% to 1% would be HUGE for this community. We followed a 3 step approach towards understanding the community and ways to increase its participation.

The one takeaway
: Community incentive management (rewarding community members) is a motivating factor for increased participation.

1. Basic community site survey: Since my company does consulting in this area, we looked at usability, brand alignment, measurement metrics and demographic analysis. This 3 day effort gave us insights into the details around the 0.05 % of the people who contribute and why they were passionate enough to do so.

2. Detailed user forensics: This involved looking at users from the perspective of time (when they post), where they post from (work vs. home), access methods (WiFi vs LAN), Location (Which part of US), what threads they post on, community competition (what other sites vie for their communities attention) etc.

3. User surveys and interviews: Conducted over 2 weeks we had about 25 community members participate from a sample size we targetted of 150. Range of questions from what would get them to participate more, to what time is best for them to add tot he discussion.

There were a range of suggestions for improvement, but they key we found was most users did not feel they got anything out of participation. There will be about 10-15 members in your community that do it for “the greater good” and from the sense of giving something back. To get the next 20% increase in participation we highly recommend you manage a good incentive system for your community.