One of a community manager’s biggest challenges is fostering meaningful engagement amongst members. Yet, in most communities, the overwhelming majority of members are silent.
In fact, the 90-9-1 rule estimates that in most online communities, 90% of members are "lurkers" who never contribute, 9% contribute a little, and 1% account for nearly all contributions.
As a community manager, it can be frustrating (to say the least) to witness an underwhelming response to your carefully crafted community content strategy.
Fortunately, there are several tactics to coax the silent majority out of their shells and encourage them to actively participate in your community!
What is a Lurker?
First things first. What exactly is a lurker? Lurkers are members who connect to the community and consume its content but don't actively contribute. (Don't mistake lurkers for inactive members who don't or rarely log in to the community).
Lurkers are happy to watch interactions unfold in the community and typically prefer to communicate one-on-one or in smaller groups.
How to get Lurkers to Participate
People may lurk for an infinite number of reasons—from social fear or not understanding the community's calls to action to not having the time or simply not feeling the need to contribute!
However, this doesn't mean that your community is destined to yield low engagement no matter what! Let's take a closer look at some ways to get lurkers off the sidelines and into the action!
Make calls to action clear
Members are more likely to get involved if you give them clear direction on how you expect them to interact with your content!
Create clear and compelling calls to action in your community, so your members know exactly how to get involved. Explicitly ask them to share their experiences, comment with their point of view, share advice, etc.
Create smaller groups
Members, especially newbies, are sometimes hesitant to get involved for fear of looking silly or because they are shy!
Create smaller groups within your online community to make posting seem less daunting! You could create groups based on skill level or maturity in the community.
A good starting group would be one dedicated to newcomers asking beginning questions. You could even offer the possibility to post anonymously to help combat the biggest cases of stage fright!
For more inspiration on creating a group strategy, download Hivebrite’s guide: Grow Engagement Through a Group Strategy.
Ask easy to answer questions and go "off-topic"
Sometimes members are held back because they don't know what to say. You can overcome this by asking easy to answer questions to spark discussions! Ask members to share anecdotes on a particular topic. Share your own experiences and ask members if they have had similar experiences. Express an opinion and ask your members if they agree.
Off-topic conversations can also be an effective way to help members connect and have fun. Consider changing the main topics of conversation from time to time to grab people's attention and lighten the mood!
Personalize communication and mix up content formats
Personalize members' experiences based on what matters to them. If you suggest content or start discussions based on what really matters to a member, they are more likely to get involved.
Find out what interests your lurkers based on their profile information or content they have already clicked then use this information to guide your content strategy.
Switching up your content formats could also increase community participation. You could run "ask me anything" webinars or even organize in-person events to help your members put a face to a name and encourage meaningful relationships both on and offline.
Celebrate first posts or contributions from non-regulars
Make a habit of congratulating members on their first post (and welcoming them again to the community).
If a non-regular contributor chimes in on a discussion or shares content, reach out to them to say how much you appreciate their input.
Be sure to respond to member questions promptly to demonstrate that you are listening and care about what they have to say.
All of this will create a more welcoming environment and encourage non-regular contributors and newcomers to get involved.
Reach out to your lurkers
Identify your members who actively sign in but don't participate and contact them to find out what’s stopping them getting more involved. You will more than likely find that many lurkers find the community beneficial but don't contribute simply because they have nothing to add.
You could also send emails to the lurkers to thank them for being part of the community and nudge them to take action. For example, ask them if they have seen the latest hot topic in the forum and ask what they think about it.
When reaching out to lurkers, ask yourself what the benefit is of converting them into active members. Is it to fulfil an engagement metric or do you think they can bring value to the conversation? After you have answered this question, you can focus your efforts on the lurkers that will bring the most value.
Are Lurkers Really That Bad?
You can't change everybody, and your community will inevitably always have lurkers.
However, this isn't necessarily a negative thing!
You don't need all your members to participate in your community for it to be a success. The right balance of active members and lurkers depends on your community and its goals. While it is important to encourage members to participate, the most important thing to focus on is delivering a valuable and exciting experience to all members (and measuring your community's success).
Finally, remember that though they remain silent, lurkers benefit from your community through listening and observing. They can help grow your community by singing its praises on other channels. A loyal lurker can still spread awareness for your community to their friends, and you never know, the people they bring in might become contributors.
Hivebrite is a comprehensive and flexible community engagement platform. It empowers organizations of all sizes and sectors to launch, manage, and grow fully branded private communities. Schedule a demo today!