Lurkers have earned a bad rep. They are the lepers in the social media community… outsiders who don’t participate…they lurk in the shadows quietly consuming content but, never contributing, never sharing. They are the plague in the social media world. Who needs that, right? Well…everyone…actually.
In a recent discussion at South by Southwest Interactive, the topic of lurkers was tackled in an open group session lead by some of the most influential community builders around. Some myths about lurkers:
- Lurkers are a limited audience: FALSE! Lurkers make up the majority of your audience, and they are talking about you whether you know it or not. How many websites do your read on a daily basis that provide really valuable content that you never comment on or actively participate with?
- They don’t contribute to anything…much less my content. WRONG AGAIN! Content should actually be catered toward you lurkers. They keep you from becoming complacent and just because they aren’t necessarily talking about you on your channels, doesn’t mean they aren’t talking. I know what you are saying, “How do I learn from lurkers and determine what they want?” These questions should not hinder you from providing valuable content to them and taking the conversation offline.
- Once a Lurker, always a Lurker: FAIL! Lurkers need to be nurtured and adequately equipped to become your contributors. Make sure they know you understand and care about them. They are your evangelizers…engage and leverage them.
Ok, ok…I know what you are thinking…this is all well and good, Meg, but ultimately I want to start getting these people talking and engaging with me.
I like where your head is…so, here are the how-to’s of turning Lurkers into contributors:
- Start engaging right away and actively reach out to them. Send emails outlining what content you are trying to provide with a direct contact for questions.
- Use metrics to determine what questions to ask, especially what “types” of questions. Reach out individually and ask how you can engage with a certain audience.
- Random acts of connections. You would be surprised at how far a phone call goes. It is not uncommon for community managers to reach out to members who never contribute to gather feedback and further develop the relationship.
- Create predictable components – schedule programs provide opportunities for members to get together and engage.
Ultimately, with lurkers or any component of your audience, you want to provide good content, pay attention, and listen to what they are saying…or not saying, and respond accordingly.