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Michael Brenner is senior director of global marketing for SAP. He is also author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog and cofounder of social news site Business 2 Community. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 97 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Join The 1% And Become A Content Creator

03.05.2013
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 How does a company move from becoming a promoter of their stuff to a provider of business insights? How do brands become publishers without hiring entire newsrooms full of journalists?

Turns out, the answer is simple: take the knowledge, the expertise and the passion of your employees and focus that on answering your potential customers’ key questions.

As Marcus  Sheridan (aka @TheSalesLion) suggests: “They ask. You answer!” This means your company is no longer in the business of just making and selling products. Your company needs to become a supplier of education and insights to your industry!

The Content Challenge in B2B

Content and “becoming a publisher” is a huge challenge for businesses today. Especially in B2B, where many of our employees are stuck on the notion that our products are so complex and our sales cycles are so long that we have to spend a majority of our time and resources explaining why we are better. Most B2B Marketing folks continue to spend their time and money defining all the details of our solutions and imploring our prospects to chose us.

But today, we know that our buyers are educating themselves. They turn to the internet and their social networks to find answers to the questions they have and to find solutions to their biggest problems.

The 1% Rule of Participation Inequality

The first mention I could find of the “1% rule” comes from Bradley Horowitz who concluded while working at Yahoo that within Yahoo groups there were “creators, synthesizers and consumers.”

And he predicted that across the board in any large internet community, there would be a a similar mathematical content “distribution inequality” along the same segments:

  • 1% create all the content
  • 9% synthesize or share the content
  • 90% simply consumer the content
Wikipedia defines this as the 1% rule of internet culture or the 1-9-90 principle. SEO expert Jakob Nielsen modified this concept a bit when he defined the same numbers but classified the 1% as “heavy contributors,” the 9% as “intermittent contributors” and the 90% as “lurkers.” Many people have risen up to attack this principle based on the feeling that with micro-blogging and status updates on Facebook or Twitter, the barrier to content production is so low that the number would skew higher. But I couldn’t find a single study to refute this concept. The conventional wisdom is now that the numbers probably line up to the Pareto Principle, more commonly know as the 80-20 rule where 80% of the content in any social network is created by only 20% of the users.

Check here for a great discussion on the 1-9-90- principle on Quora where my new friend Sam Decker (@SamDecker) ranks as the top answer on whether these stats are a myth. Sam states:

It’s an over-generalization, but the message it conveys is accurate. The minority will contribute, more will share, and majority will read. . . you should build strategies to bring those numbers up, and create participation where the content created is valuable to the 90% of readers.

The Message For B2B Marketers

Whatever the percentage is, you cannot be just a content consumer.  You cannot be a “lurker” in your industry. You must either become a content creator, or at least participate as a content curator and distributor.

Not only is this true for B2B Marketers, I believe it is the mission of every business to grow the number of employee ambassadors. I actually believe every employee should be part of the 1% or the 9%. Help to tell engaging stories. Or help to share them.  And then encourage your customers to join in.

I think the new role of the B2B Marketer is part content marketing, part brand ambassador and part personal branding evangelist. We need to tell our colleagues that now is the time to build their personal brands. Now is the time to grow your social connections, to learn how to tell stories. And when you do, you can grow as a person while helping your company to grow as well.

Now some people think I’m crazy for suggesting this? What do you think?

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along
Published at DZone with permission of Michael Brenner, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)