Matei, S. A., & Bruno, R. J. (2015). Pareto’s 80/20 law and social differentiation: A social entropy perspective. Public Relations Review41(2), 178-186.


Unequal contributions to social media, whereby a vast amount of content is produced by a limited number of users, need a better, theoretically grounded explanation. The present paper argues that contribution inequality on social media can be considered a symptom of social differentiation, which can be detected via social entropy. A conceptual foundation for this perspective is offered, supported by an empirical example. We use social entropy to detect the evolution of contribution inequality on Wikipedia over a period of 9 years. The paper also offers suggestions for using the conceptual framework for better understanding social media contribution structure and functional roles for practical applications.


This article analyzes contributions made by 21 million unique contributors to Wikipedia over a period of nine years (2001-2010), for a total of 250 edits. Distribution of effort measured as amount of effort contributed to Wikipedia across all users is estimated using entropy, a measure of inequality, diversity, and structuration. Amount of effort is measured as a weighted estimation of net additions. Deletions and changes are weighted against net contributions, to obtain a synthetic measure of actual contribution effort.

Key Findings

  • Uneven online contributions reflect social differentiation.
  • 1% of Wikipedians generate 40% of the content.
  • Wikipedia Leadership is adhocractic: it changes, but slow and osmotically.
  • Adhocratic social media reach a steady state with a social order and leadership.

Implications for Practice

Online groups are not devoid of social organization. They are lead by functional leaders, people who contribute more than others and by this they shape the project. In trying to influence a social media project or to disseminate information and content among social media users it is important to identify functional leaders and to create a working relationship based on trust and ethical values with them.

Article Location

The full article is available for free at:’s_8020_law_and_social_differentiation_A_social_entropy_perspective

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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