What I publish is great, so why don’t you like it?

“My content is really very good, very fair, very perfect, but does not elicit any reaction”

Why is this? The answer is very rational and the solution almost ridiculous.

Warnock’s Dilemma

In the early days of Web discussion forums, a computer scientist named Bryan Warnock speculated about the lack of response to a message in discussion groups. According to Warnock’s Dilemma, this lack of engagement does not necessarily mean that no one is interested in the topic.

There are five possible interpretations :

  1. The message is correct, the information is clear and does not require further comment. There is nothing to say but “I agree with what he says”.
  2. The message is too long and detailed and nobody wants to waste energy on it.
  3. No one has read the message, for whatever reason (e.g. the algorithm)
  4. Nobody understood the message, but nobody will ask for an explanation.
  5. No one is interested in the message, for whatever reason.

A sixth explanation is also recognized: the subject is too complicated to be able to give any opinion with the knowledge we have.

This dilemma explains why polarizing publications or punchy headlines work better than accurate and true headlines, despite the fact that audiences don’t always view the rest of the content or click on the article’s link.

The 1% law

The law of 1 % is another explanation for the low engagement of your publications.

This theory by bloggers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba states that less than 1% of a group actively contributes, 9% participates occasionally, and 90% is passive and never contributes, merely observing.

Put another way, up to 10% of your audience has the potential to actively engage with your posts.

Conversely, it can also be said that 90% of the content on the web comes from 1% of the participants. Obviously, certain brands or topics attract more socially active people. Consequently, the ratios are not always the same, but the same rule applies.

Easy ways to break that 10% barrier

It’s impossible… or almost.

Getting 10% engagement is probably the best result a brand can get. However, there is a relatively simple way to get more engagement: have a larger audience. This means broadening our target, buying promotion or putting more effort into outreach. Remember that the people who react to your posts are mostly in the 1%, but sometimes also in the next 9%. So out of 100 people, you have a potential of 10 people to engage.

10% is a huge success.

Why is it important to know these rules?

Content creators and their clients need to moderate their expectations in terms of engagement versus reach. Your real influence is not limited to that 10% of people who are active, quite the contrary. The other 90% are probably fans or potential customers who are still interested in your content.

Take this publication from a Sparkling client. It’s a publication that got an interesting reach (about 1/3 was sponsored) and some success in terms of engagement .

Despite its reach (47,000), only 4.15% (1970 people) had a reaction, comment or share. If we calculate on the basis of clicks, we are talking about 8.84%. We consider this publication a success. Finally, if you take out all those who are interested, there are still about 40,000 people who have been exposed to the message and may take action. We must not neglect this invisible audience, not necessarily disinterested, but which does not wish to reveal itself socially. Consider that there are many discreet users in the audience who do not participate, but who may still be interested.

Context is everything

Finally, it is important to understand that good content is only a small part of a publishing strategy. The context (time, platform, audience, etc.) and the way the content is delivered (headlines, images, keywords, etc.) are now much more important than the container on the success your publication can have.

A very good quality content with a boring coating will definitely miss its target. As you take the time to produce quality content, take the time to distribute it well!


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