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Community Participation: Ladder or Pyramid

Lithium Guru
Lithium Guru

I'm attending Defrag in Denver this week and enjoying the opportunity to listen and learn.  One thing I thought you might be interested to see is a new version of the participation hierarchy that Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff presented in Groundswell.  Used to be a ladder, now it's a pyramid.  


Groundswell version:




Charlene's new version, as presented at Defrag today:




Li's full presentation is on Slideshare - enjoy.


ADDITION 11/7/08


I remembered that Jeremiah Owyang posted Gartner's version of the above in a blog post back in August:






























Jeremiah's post also generated a long and interesting comment thread -- go check it out.


Came across a chart from Forrester with 2007 and 2008 data (the ladder above is 2006):
Message Edited by JoeC on 11-10-2008 06:36 AM
About the Author
Joe is Lithium's Chief Community Officer. An expert in business-oriented online communities, he's helped more than 300 companies create successful communities. Follow him on Twitter at @cothrel.
Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Interesting new pyramid. I would have thought that people were more likely to comment on a blog or rate a product than to upload photos.
Honored Contributor
Honored Contributor



Thanks sharing this - it triggers some new thoughts and questions...


To what degree do these proportions, or pyramidal slices vary by culture (country / language), and participant age?


It seems that some modeling and a bit of forethought might lead to some choices on which languages / cultures will be higher value / leverage investments, and what strategies will be more effective for engaging.   At the risk of over simplfication, my evolving view is that social media is not 'one size fits all', although some seem to approach it that way. 



Lithium Guru
Lithium Guru

I agree Mark -- and you remind me that I neglected to mention in this post that Li and Bernoff have created an online technographic profile tool that allows you to plug in your the age range, country, and gender of your target population and generate a chart like the above for your specific audience.   For example, if your target pop is 18-24, the percentage of creators rises to 42% from the 21% average across all ages.

Lithium Guru
Lithium Guru

Another note - re country differences, the Universal McCann study that Li uses as the source for her pyramid has some pretty useful data -- for example, 92% of South Korean Internet users read blogs versus some 60% in the US.  

Message Edited by JoeC on 11-10-2008 07:01 AM
New Commentator
I think that as people become more comfortable with online community technology, their participation there will reflect their tendencies in group participation in general.  A subset will grow to become leaders based on experience and personality.  However at present, comfort with the technology is a major factor in the non-tech world.