Is there a Uniform Community Value Curve?

i’ve been thinking for a while that some feisty social networking phd (read dahah boyd) should go out and research the community value curve. that is the exponential growth in value for communities with higher penetration. the idea is that at low levels of penetration, say under 5%, there is close to zero value to any community, but that at say 10% penetration it might be 10-20 points (on a 100 index) in value and at 30% penetration it might climb to 60 points and at 50% it might climb to 80 points. i’m wondering if there is a uniform law of community value that might hold true across all types of online community. this would be interesting as it might lead to a whole new analysis of customer or community acquisition. for example, if we knew where the inflection point existed we might find that we could afford to pay 2-5x the marketing cost for the first say 20% of a community, knowing that beyond this, our cost of acquisition might go to zero and the inherent value and stickiness might go up so high as to greatly extend the useful average life of any registered community member. based on this formula companies might rationalize much greater upfront investments to go after much larger communities like say whole cities.

if anyone knows of similar research let me know.

3 thoughts on “Is there a Uniform Community Value Curve?

  1. Well, I’ve been threatening to sign up for a PhD on online communities for 2 years now, but this is the first actual concrete thing I’ve felt like investigating.

  2. Mark,
    I’ve always thought the holy grail in marketing ought to be marketing to social networks, not the one to one relationship marketing that was popular years back.
    You’d want to add to the index other variables of communication and transaction — speed, reach/scope, iteration… I could imagine an application that pegs individual members of an online community for their authority in a given area. Send that person the marketing gook, and have their authority carry it into their network. Leveraging the indivdual’s voice would be much more effective than simply spreading the original marketing speak. Voices carry.

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