How Charming Your Online Community Lurkers Pays Off

With #AUC2016 only days away, we are thrilled to share with you all a series of guest blog posts courtesy of some of those who are sponsoring this year’s Aptify Users Conference in Miami! A big thank you to all of our sponsors!

This is a guest blog post by Christian Britto of Thank you for sponsoring, and we look forward to seeing you in Miami!

Why the Silent Majority Should Be Your Biggest Priority 

The classification and stigmatization of certain “types” of online community members is a fascinating topic. But as with so many concepts involving human social behavior (whether in-person or digital), delineating people can a dangerous game. When we get too comfortable with traditional definitions and the strategic silos they place people in, we overlook the true value of individuals and the potential to innovate within those traditional definitions.

online communityWe’re of course referring to the titular “Lurkers.” The silent majority that includes nearly everyone reading this right now—those of us who don’t regularly post or contribute content in online communities. This definition is too focused on what the majority of people don’t do while ignoring everything they are capable of.

Organizations with online communities need to start putting more energy into how they think about and engage with the nebulous “lurkers” category.  By doing so, they can learn more about what their community cares about, increase member engagement and revenue, and be all around more effective as a community.

The Conventional Wisdom of Social Community Dynamics

The 90-9-1 ratio of community participation is one of those traditional definitions that trip community managers up. It states that within an online community, 90% of participants are “lurkers” who don’t post or contribute any content, 9% are occasional posters, and the remaining 1% are super users.  

But should we actually care about that ratio? Are community managers latching onto a comfortingly “objective” statistic and focusing on the wrong thing?

member engagementMore importantly, why do we care so much about who is posting when there is so much more that actually matters? How many times have you heard an association executive brag about how many posts his online community had in a given year? Hopefully never.

The victories we tout are members engaging, ideas catching on, campaigns bringing positive change, and core purposes being fulfilled. None of these are a result of attracting more super users to post or comment on a forum.

You prove your value and engage by building relationships with people—something that is built on relevancy and frequency.

Forming Habits with Lurkers

Lurkers do everything that every other member does except press that post button.

They get a bad rep, but let’s remember that they constitute the majority of your community, so a habitual lurker is still a vital member of the community!

The important word here is habitual—that means that their value increases not by how many times they post or comment, but by frequency of engagements and micro-engagements (things like page visits, reading articles, and liking posts).

Turning an infrequent, garden-variety lurker into a habitual lurker should be your #1 focus. And the hook? Relevant, frequent content. You need to become an addictive source of original and curated information for them.

Lurkers carry intense value. A lurker can still:

  • Be a loyal member
  • Be a consumer
  • Attend events
  • Be a brand advocate
  • Spread ideas
  • Buy ancillary products and services
  • Donate

Habitual lurkers are still people who are strongly aligned with a specific message or interest, or else they would not continue to lurk and show up in the community.

Learning from Lurkers and Refining Your Engagement

Measuring micro-engagements of lurkers and analyzing the popularity of certain content can teach you a lot about what will really reverberate within your community.

Remember superusers, your diehard 1%, will stick with you no matter what (that’s what makes them super). While they are important, getting caught up with the vocal minority can easily distract you from the hugely important lurkers and occasional posters. They are the ones who are most likely to turnover because they are often ignored and have difficulty seeing the value in community.

If you’re able to focus efforts on turning your lurkers into habitual lurkers, you will see byproducts of their engagement such as revenue, membership, and event attendance sky rocket. By restrategizing our relationship with lurkers, associations can invigorate their entire online community—prioritizing the silent majority pays off.

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