The Community Club

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How do you feel about lurkers?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

How do you think about community "lurkers"? Is it worth actively converting lurkers to participants in an online community?

Inspired a bit by this comment on community health metrics, which brings up the nature of the role lurkers play in the community ecosystem.

If I had to pick one single health metric I'd go with pageviews. If those decline then you're either losing lurkers, or your regulars have fled and aren't posting anymore. That's the metric I look at on a daily basis. It's a bit of a lagging indicator, but at least it covers both sides of the creator/consumer spectrum and it's simple enough for everyone in the company to understand.

Discussion (8)

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mac profile image
Mac

Lurkers are incredible value to communities - love that example of page views to track the impact of them.

My favorite example of this is when we started doing AMAs in the Community Club Slack. We had about 400-500 members at the time, and after the first few sessions we thought they were failing because only 7-10 people would ask questions.

When we polled the community however, nearly 70% of responses (about 150 people at the time) mentioned that they found the AMAs incredible valuable, and that they often followed along with the Q&A. They just didn't have questions themselves.

As for actively converting them from lurkers to participants, I like to mostly focus on elevating those who are participating. I've found that seeing others 'succeed' in the community can be a great motivator to pull a lurker into the conversation.

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brendanhufford profile image
Brendan Hufford ✏️

Love that. A goal of community can be to give people transformational experiences, not just foster engagement for the sake of a metric.

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mac profile image
Mac

Such a great way of framing it! Community can be a real struggle from a metric perspective, because you have to balance hard and soft metrics like this.

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rosemaryoneill profile image
Rosemary ONeill

Yes I don't like to call them lurkers, I like to call them readers instead. If you're writing or sharing something valuable, you need readers, not just commenters. What if you were at a cocktail party where everyone was just talking at each other and nobody was listening?

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r_silvano profile image
Rachael

Finally a discussion I can de-lurk on ;)

I am a vehement defender of the lurker. The Lurker can have some really interesting motivations (and problem solving).

You could possibly bifurcate that question into two sections. Some of your lurkers are inactive due to symptoms like stage fright or lack of support. We often do try to 'convert" those folks (who perhaps show up to a New Member Call and seem really friendly just a little shy) by setting them up directly with opportunities to engage- low barrier (we do an intro thread once a month with the same question to get people to post even once).

The second category, touched on here by Mac, are that sometimes people just....like to lurk! What I try to do there is present these to our team as not "missed" chances but "hey look at how much these people REALLY like the library!" and focus on celebrating the behavior they do exhibit. Often I'll reach out privately to these users and engage them, knowing that they may just forever be content to lurk. They'll come to threads, read, get really important info to bring back to their work, and that still means our job is done.

Looking forward to seeing what others think!

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rosiesherry profile image
Rosie Sherry

I have a saying: lurkers are people too.

We are all different, we all have different things going on our lives, and different preferences on how participate.

I do like the idea of measuring pageviews with lurkers in mind too.

In the past few months I've tried some small meetups at indie hackers, more recently I went in with 1-to-1 meetups that people would self organize. I allocated two hours every Friday to speak to indie hackers for 15 minutes each.

The result? I'm booked up 6 weeks in advance now, after just doing it for a week. And now other indie hackers have jumped on board and there's a spreadsheet going for people to book 1-to-1 events with each other.

The lesson, design different experiences. Even small meetups can be overwhelming. Also, many of the people who I spoke to on the 1-to-1's apologized for being lurkers.

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tolstoshev profile image
Nicholas Tolstoshev

One of the best metaphors I've heard for community is this: A community is like a theater performance where you bring some of the audience on stage to participate. The lurkers are the audience that doesn't come up on stage, but who watch the entertainment and watch how you interact with the audience participants.

In my experience lurkers will rarely become participants. Most of the people who actively participate are the sorts of people who are predisposed to due to their personality and intrinsic motivations. To go back to the analogy, as one of the cast you have to know how to pick audience members who will be enthusiastic and entertaining, not the ones who are averting their eyes and hoping they don't get selected to come up on stage.

To that end, I put a lot more time on rewarding and reinforcing those who are already participating than I do trying to lure lurkers out of the shadows. It's about landing the big fish who will be that 1%, rather than trying to turn the small fish into big fish.

The only nod to the lurkers that I do is making sure I have low effort/risk participation options, like voting in polls. That's something that a lurker will be enticed to do, versus getting them to actually make a post.

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lee profile image
Lee Wynne

I was a lurker on Dev for over 2 years but I didn't half read those posts, I read the shiz out of them, especially Rails. I think a badge allocation might have motivated me to post for the first time.

@ben What's the ratio on Dev for members that post v those that might in the future?