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Research at Lithium Lab Part2

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Last time I talked about what got me interested in social analytics and what is the big community topic that is currently taking up most of my brain cycles. This time, let me give you a bit more detail about my current projects at Lithium Lab.


My research at Lithium focuses on a couple of key areas. First, since a community is all about the people, the first area of research focuses on understanding user behaviors. The goal of this research is to understand the complex interplay between different groups of users through social network analysis (see figure below) and discover the dynamics that drives a healthy and successful community.


social graph


Currently I am particularly interested in two groups of users

  1. the superusers,
  2. and the lurkers.

Superusers are obviously interesting because they contribute so much and bring so much value to the community. But why do they contribute? What is their incentive? No one comes to the community as a superuser. Yet, in every community, we observe the rapid emergence of influential superusers. Can we accurately predict who will become a superuser soon after they join the community?


Lurkers are interesting in their ownright because there are so many of them. The majority of the audience - up to 90% of the users - could be lurking. What keeps them engaged even though they don't participate? Can we incent lurkers to change their behavior and start to participate and move up the rank ladder, maybe ultimately becoming a superuser?  That is surely a holy grail for community managers.


business value.jpgAnother area of focus is research which aims to derive predictive models for business value. The goal of this research is to discover all the mechanisms where the Lithium platform can bring value and then quantify the actual value they bring to the business. There are many mechanisms that our community platform and services can bring value to our client. Just to name a few, for example: call deflections, word of mouth (WOM), collaborative innovation, crowd sourcing, even lurking can bring certain values to our client. Some of these mechanisms, such as call deflection, are well understood and their ROI are readily quantifiable. But the value of WOM, and lurking are less tangible.


Currently I am working a model that quantifies the value of WOM in a community. This is along the road to quantifying the value of a superuser. Superusers actually come in many flavors (product experts, advocates, brand evangelists, opinion leaders, etc) and each type of superusers brings value through different mechanisms. More importantly, different community needs a different mix of superusers. For example, a support community probably needs a lot of product experts and some opinion leaders; where as a marketing community would need more advocates and brand evangelists. What is the optimal mixture of superusers for any given community?


With all that said, I hope you are excited? I certainly am. I am hoping this will give you a little more context for the live-chat at the Social CRM Virtual Summit. I look forward to seeing you there and chatting with you on November 11th. Remember if you haven't registered for the Virtual Summit, I highly recommend it - and you can sign up here.


About the Author
Dr. Michael Wu was the Chief Scientist at Lithium Technologies from 2008 until 2018, where he applied data-driven methodologies to investigate and understand the social web. Michael developed many predictive social analytics with actionable insights. His R&D work won him the recognition as a 2010 Influential Leader by CRM Magazine. His insights are made accessible through “The Science of Social,” and “The Science of Social 2”—two easy-reading e-books for business audience. Prior to industry, Michael received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley’s Biophysics program, where he also received his triple major undergraduate degree in Applied Math, Physics, and Molecular & Cell Biology.
1 Comment
Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Hello Patrick,


Thank you for the comment. These are great tips for community managers. I couldn't agree more that you should never give praise that you don't really meant. Once that gets into a habbit, the community will lose credibility at the beginning, and eventually lose trust from their users. When that happens, that is one way that I've seen communities failed. So be honest and sincere!