Lots of businesses using Social Media today are obsessed with public participation and how to get more of it. While that is a huge priority in Social Media Marketing, I often have to sit down with clients and have the “Lurker” talk.
In Internet culture, a lurker is a person who reads discussions on a message board, newsgroup, chatroom, file sharing or other interactive system, but rarely or never participates actively. Research indicates that “lurkers make up over 90% of online groups” **Wikipedia
Most businesses are dismayed at the lurker to active user ratio. I was even told by one “I don’t care about the people that don’t participate, I only care about the people who do” <insert error buzzer here>
The Lurker/Participant Ratio
90% of users are Lurkers (people who do not actively participate in Forums/Groups/Pages etc.)
9% of users are casual contributors (people need a question answered or comment specifically to something that is relevant to them)
1% of users are active users (sometimes referred to as power users) contribute approximately 91% of user content
Why do Lurkers Lurk?
We have all “Lurked” in some form or other when we surf the web. After all, have you posted a comment on every site that you have been to that gives the option?
Lurkers enjoy reading conversations and stories that other posters have contributed to the site for entertainment or educational purposes or searching out expert advice. Imagine having a problem with your computer and using Google to look for an answer, when you click on a link to a board where someone else has asked the question and another person has answered it so you do not need to post a question because you have found what you’re looking for. Great examples of these sites are Yahoo Answers and eHow.
Some lurkers do not post on a blog, forum or Facebook Group/Page for more personal reasons such as
- they do not feel competent in the subject being discussed
- they don’t want to be called out or ridiculed for their opinion
- they have poor writing skills (kinda like me)
- they are cyber-shy and don’t want to post publicly
Getting Lurkers to Participate
- Have a discussion or “sticky post” asking people to introduce themselves and make sure to thank every last one of them.
- Create content with participation in mind including some fun and entertaining conversation starters, polls and questions.
- Create a culture of participation. Give out “bonuses”, “prizes” and/or awards for 1st time posters and people who post multiple times.
- Administrators and Moderators of boards, groups and pages should rule with an iron fist when it comes to negative and demeaning comments.
It is important to remember that you will never get all Lurkers to participate. It is human nature so stop fretting! Some people are listeners and some people are talkers; but they are all important!