How many groups should you join?

It’s a busy day, and you’re a busy person. Just how many groups can you realistically participate in on your enterprise social network? Pick a number and we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Answering the question about active group participation is important from a community management perspective. It means you can start to set expectations for your colleagues, and for yourself. The number of groups on enterprise social networks tends to only grow over time, and even if you once in a while do a big clean up, the number of groups will then start to grow again. What follows is that people are members of multiple groups. That, of course, begs the question: How many can you actively participate in?

To answer this question, we’ve looked at group memberships and active group participation for 17,000 people across two different organisations over a three-month period. We only looked at people who had been active. Active group participation means that you have, over the three-month period, either posted, replied/commented or liked a message at least once. So-called ‘lurkers’ were excluded.

The most appropriate statistical measure that can answer our question is the ‘median’. The median is found by lining up all 17,000 people ordered by the number of groups they participate in, and then locating the person exactly in the middle. This is a better measure of what most people would experience as ‘normal’, as the average/mean is impacted by a few people, such as community managers and corporate communications people, who are often members of an extraordinarily large number of groups. So, what is the median number?

The median number of groups people participate in: 2

The median number of groups people are members of: 19

The group participation distribution frequency looks like this:

In other words, people are members of almost 10 times more groups than they participate in, and that means most groups will have a very large ‘gallery’ of inactive members. As a group leader you can now set your own expectations about how many group members you feel should really participate. SWOOP has benchmarked more than 140+ organisations which includes more than two million people and 27 million interactions. We now know that even the most collaborative large groups only get to about 25% of active members posting, replying and liking. Set your expectations accordingly.

Another reason why setting expectations around group participation is important is that it can be very overwhelming for a new employee to determine what ‘normal’ is. Faced with a directory of hundreds – if not thousands – of groups many may feel there is an implicit expectation that participation in lots of groups is required. Advising people to only pick a few seems to make sense.

At a personal level, the 10x factor is also important if you rely on a newsfeed to keep you up to date as the newsfeed is likely to be cluttered with updates from groups you may not really be interested in, but still a member of.

Some immediate takeaways and suggestions:

  1. If you feel your newsfeed is cluttered, then review your group memberships and consider leaving the ones that you aren’t interested in any more.
  2. Don’t feel like you have to participate in lots of groups even though they exist. Participating in two groups is normal – don’t panic! Don’t let the ‘fear of missing out’ lead you to join too many groups which you’ll never participate in anyway.
  3. If you manage a group, it is unrealistic to expect that everyone in your group will be active. Remember that only a small proportion of your members are likely to actively interact. If you’re on SWOOP you can check how much you rely on this smaller ‘core’ through our ‘Influencer Risk Score’. If it’s too high, then you need to work on spreading the load and get some of those inactive members activated.

For more compelling data-driven insights about what ‘good’ or ‘normal’ look like why don’t you try SWOOP?





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