The Difference Between Total Users and Active Users

Yesterday I attended the Betaworks Brown Bag lunch and got to see Scott Heiferman (founder/CEO of our portfolio company Meetup) talk about the State Department sponsored trip to Iraq he participated in earlier this year. During the discussion that followed, I went off track and asked Scott to talk about SMUGs.

SMUGs are "successful Meetup groups". They are the groups that meet regularly and are highly active in the service. Meetup determined a while back that SMUGs are the most important metric for their business and they track SMUGs carefully and constantly.

Every web service has a core group of active users and a much larger group of total users. People talk about the "twitter quitter" syndrome where only 40% of all users are active. I am not going to comment specifically on that 40% number other than to say that it did not come from Twitter and I am not sure it is accurate.

However, it is absolutely true that not all registered users of Twitter, Facebook, Meetup, or any other social web service are active. I've had a Facebook account for at least four years. I've only been active on the service recently since I started using it as my social net for friends and family. For all the time prior to that, I was counted as a registered user, but I was not actively using the service.

It is not a problem for a service to have a large group of non-active users if they have a large group of active users. It's the latter group that you need to focus on. Over time, I've learned that many non-active users become active for one reason or another. But they don't become active by focusing on them. They become active because you focus on the successful users and make them even more successful.

Your best advocates are always your most active users. So focus on them, make them successful in your service, focus on growing that number, and the non-active problem will take care of itself.

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