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90:9:1 Breaking the Social Media Engagement Rule – The Lurkers, Commenters and Creators galvanised by the children’s charity CBSM Kimilili in Kenya.

On social media platforms 90% of people are lurkers, 9% are commenters and just 1% are creators (Nielsen, 2006). This is a widely used rule in social media. Pretty amazing isn’t it? However, when you start to think about it, it sort of makes sense. Take a look at your Facebook posts; see how many of your friends have commented on a post and then using this rule you can get an idea of how many have actually looked at this post.

This tells us something about the human spirit. Most of us are lurkers; checking our friends’ photos and comments but only responding some of the time. In general, we are quite happy to sit back passively on the sidelines. Sometimes though, those lurkers and commenters can be galvanised behind a cause to become active participants too.

90:9:1 Social Media Engagement Rule (adapted from Nielsen [2006])

“All dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them…”

Away from Facebook, consider the wider implications of the social media rule for gathering support. Let’s take a look at a children’s charity called CBSM Kimilili in Kenya. One year ago, two young women travelled to the small town of Kimilili in western Kenya to teach at the local school. On their arrival, Agnes Kuehne and Alexandra Frick were shocked to see that the site had no toilets, no water, and a single classroom for all age groups.

CBSM Kimilili Agnes Kuehne with pupils Ima and Brilliant

However, by the end of the 4th week these two had, with donations from friends across the world, bought the land for the school, galvanised the community into building 3 additional classrooms, built a loo block, provided water access, fenced the perimeter, provided books, some uniforms for students, interviewed, employed, and salaried 2 teachers. Their website states “All dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them…”

CBSM Kimilili pupils at break time

Blogging: Alex & Agnes tell CBSM Kimilili’s story to the world

CBSM Kimilili relies on donations for its continued existence supporting the development of the youngsters in its care. During their stay, Alex and Agnes blogged each day telling the world about the little school, its wonderful pupils and inspiring staff. From an anonymous start, word spread virally on the Internet about this remarkable story. During their stay the blog was receiving over 200 hits per day. Through social media new friends and supporters were made and old acquaintances got in touch.  A friend of Agnes by chance stumbled across the blog and inspired by what he saw freely gave his time to design their homepage. Since July it has received over 9,500 hits. CBSM Kimilili’s social media usage of Facebook, blogging platform and website are the lifelines for continued funding and development of the school. It is those 90% lurkers and 9% commenters who, inspired by Alex and Agnes’ creative efforts are no longer passive but are actively helping provide schooling and support to the children of Kimilili, Kenya.

Alex Frick with CBSM Kimilili teacher Calvin

How will you galvanise your lurkers to become active participants?

In order to help your business, the question you should ask yourself is; how can you galvanise your lurkers? If you get it right, the rewards are great; these people can become active supporters of your business. To give you some ideas you may want to check out the blog and homepage of Kimilili – you may even find yourself contributing.

4th grade biology class: learning about plants

Further reading:

Agnes’ & Alex’s blog:

CBSM Kimilili homepage:

CBSM Kimilili blog:

Nielsen, J., (2006) “Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute” (Online) Available: [Accessed: 16/11/2011]

Russo, A., Peacock, D., (2009) “Great Expectations: Sustaining Participation in Social Media Spaces” (Online) Available: [Accessed 15/11/2011]

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