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It helps to think of chat rooms and message forums as micro-communities. For the purpose of this discussion we will focus on chat communities. A good-sized chat community in which data can be harvested is composed of 10-50 individuals. More than fifty, the data becomes unreliable. Under ten requires additional time to execute a short survey, due to the more involved nature of such a community.
As is the case in any group of people, there is usually one to two leaders - those that make the suggestions, initiate and carry conversations, and are typically the centers of attention (1). These individuals may not be representative of the interests and opinions of every person in the group, but when they have the floor, everyone listens and becomes susceptible to influence, regardless if whether or not the listeners are also active participants in the conversation (active defined as having participated in the chat community dialogue within the last 2 minutes).
In other words, if one leader initiates a topic other members of the group respond to, then the rest of the group, including the passive members, are prone to listen (or read). But the likelihood that the rest of the group will listen is increased by the mere fact that most communities are broken up into general and lifestyle interest groups, meaning that a conversation about Britney Spears' long-term viability as an artist will garner significantly more interest from a Britney Spear fan community than from a Wall Street Investors community (2).
As a result, a conversation
about premium cable programming within communities deemed relevant targets
will elicit responses from the community, historically as high as 98%.
Based on trial and error tests, al berrios & co. has determined that
if approximately 25% or more of any community is engaged in the leader's
conversation, then it is reasonable to assume that the remaining 75% of
the active consumers in the community are also being reached by the same
conversation, also assuming that members in that community are present
only because they have an interest in the general subject matter of the
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