Marketing with online communities: Turning quantity into quality

Brad Feld's Post on the 80-19-1% rule in online communities is insightful and spot on. To give people a better sense of how I think about the rule and online communities, I thought I'd share some info about our perspective on managing the 1% hopefully growing to 19% at Judy's Book.

CityeditorMarketing at a start-up is tough business. Marketing at a start-up with an online community is really tough business. You need to be focused on traffic volume to be recognized as a vibrant player in the marketplace but diligently watchful over the activity contributed by that traffic to make sure it aligns with your business goals. In January, we launched a City Editor program for the most active members on Judy’s Book to kick off our first loyalty program. Since we launched, the program has accounted for a large amount of the post activity (approx. 20%) on the site—and membership continues to grow by 20% each week. Now that we’ve got a captive audience of loyal users, we’ve been experimenting with the best way to turn the quantity of content into constructive, quality content that has value to our tens of thousands of readers daily.


We recently instituted a new set of rules for the program. Here’s what we think is working:


  • Small rewards, awarded frequently: We used to offer a big reward incentive at the end of each month but few members went for it as they felt it was unobtainable. Recently we switched to offer small rewards each week and as a result content has more than doubled on our site in the past quarter
  • Tell them what you want: If you don’t tell them what to write about, the content will be fragmented and hard to monetize.
  • Provide direction: Even the most prolific writers run out of stuff to say. Give them ideas, suggestions and tips on new topics to contribute to your site to keep the content flowing
  • Give them a rule book: Inappropriate and harassing content is distracting to readers. Make sure your contributors play by the rules and dismiss anyone that doesn’t


We’ll probably lose a few members over our adoption of these rules for the city editor group but ultimately we hope (and think) that what we’re left with is higher quality contributors that can help us carry out the Judy’s Book mission over the long haul.