Help Your Community Members Come Out of the Shadows

Posted by Alok Chowdhury on Jun 16, 2016 12:03:17 PM

3 minute read

Help Your Community Members Come Out of the Shadows

According to Heidi Cohen, lurkers compose about 55% of your community, with only 30% of your members actively contributing. As much as they bring traffic into your forum, do these lurkers bring value to your brand?

For us at Vanilla, a forum’s value is measurable only when its members are engaging with each other as a community. As a community manager, you want your online community to talk to you and each other.

However, not all members of your online will be actively engaged. You want them to share their experiences with your company’s products and services so that you will know how to improve their future experiences.

Activity and conversation is a great way to reach a bigger audience, which is your primary role within your community.

This is your community. You head this family, proactively. As the face of your company on your community platform , you need to look at the bigger picture. Stop for a moment and think…could these lurkers be converted into active members of your online community?

Now, before you dismiss lurkers, a study conducted by MIT Sloan classifies lurkers into their active and inactive categories. The study shows that active lurkers “use and propagate information gained in outside environments.” They are said to be influential to the brand outside the online community with estimates active lurkers comprise half of all lurkers. Not a bad number, right?

With this in mind, what can you do to entice your lurkers to actively engage in online conversations?

1. Create Avenues for Engagement

With your analytics tools, you can follow the online behaviour of lurkers to see what pages they access on your forum and what threads/discussions they pay more attention to. The material that they read on a regular basis could give you the idea of the content that you need to create to reach out to them.

2. Encourage Them to Post Something

Some lurkers may be afraid of starting the conversation, or they think that whatever they have to say isn’t that important. They could also be waiting for someone else to initiate the conversation so that they can follow. You could solve this by encouraging everyone to post something, even if it isn’t related to your products. Ask them to introduce themselves or post a photo of their favorite thing about your company. This first conversation could be the icebreaker to get them contributing regularly.

A great way to get engagement can be through contests, offering an incentive that is attractive to your audience.

3. Keep Building Your Audience with Influencers

As mentioned before, with only 15% of your community actively posting, it may make more sense to grow your audience so that encompasses a larger pool of members. The best way to help build your audience is a partnership with key influencers who can not only drive you community members but also encourage new members to engage with your brand. For example - Reddit.com has regular AMAs (Ask Me Anything) that can get lurkers to interact. We’ve even listed it in one of our posts about community promotion.

4. Enable Sharing on Social Media

Ensure that your information can be shared on Twitter or Facebook. Where some lurkers may not actively engage in conversations, they could share within their social circles, which could direct attention back to you.

5. Build Interest With Email

Keep your community informed by sending them an email newsletter to alert them to what is new on your website. Make the content for this email catchy to get their attention and encourage them to look at your site. Once they are there, the conversations should start.

A community manager has their work cut out for them. It is one thing to create an online community; keeping them engaged is an entirely different thing. When you keep the ideas fresh, you bring in new energy that gets them talking. The task is to keep them interested and to use your existing community to reach further to those that are yet to fully join the ranks of your community.

Topics: Community, Marketing, News

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