Engaging the Voyeurs

I see you

“90-9-1”

One of my favorite statistics about communities is the one above which refers to the level of engagement in most online communities.

The user break down of the statistic looks like this: 90% lurk, 9% contribute from time to time and 1% are heavily active (or 1% Creators, 9% Editors and 90% Audience). This means that the bulk of your traffic and clickthroughs come from people that are just here to check out your community.

How to do you engage with someone who by their very nature is passive?

Adjust and plan accordingly.

Behavior is not something that can be changed easily. Humans as social creatures create and thrive on routine. Thus, if someone is a lurker? They likely will remain this way. You need to go in with the understanding that you are not going to be able to engage this audience the same way that you engage your normal commenters/community members.

Open the Gates.

What’s easier? Tweeting or writing a comment? The tweet is something that takes far less effort and is much less of a thought out decision. You don’t have to think to retweet. The same can be said with uploading a picture, leaving a reply or cutting and pasting a section of the post to share with your friends.

Lower your barriers for entry into your community. Allow members to scale their engagement in ways that they feel comfortable with. Most community members will

Scale Your Content.

You don’t have to talk about the quantum mechanics in every post. Really, it’s alright! Sometimes, stepping back and taking a new look at an old problem can serve both your newer readers AND your existing ones.

Figure out what problems you’ve been having and try and work through them out loud in your blog. Works wonders for me.

Reward Positive Behavior.

You need to reward participation every time it happens. Thus, always follow-up with a first time commenter via email, tweet or comment back (at a bare minimum).

However, don’t sacrifice your community at the expense of your core members. Remember, they are the people who built your community into what it is today.

Always Have a Call to Action.

End each post with a simple, relevant call to action. I’ll follow my own advice at this point: What other ways can you think of to engage voyeurs and improve your own community?

Image Source: Quinn Dombrowski

18 thoughts on “Engaging the Voyeurs

  • These are great ideas, Stuart – I especially needed to hear the tip about scaling one's content. I could post more frequently if I didn't put so much pressure on myself to make every post the alpha and omega of a given topic. I'm resolving to have more open ended posts in 2010 — here's to a terrific new year ahead!

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  • Interesting: your thesis assumes it's even possible to convert someone from one category to another. But is it? And should we be putting our effort there? Or would our efforts not be better spent trying to grow our enthusiasts–by leveraging our current 1% to get more folks into that category overall?

    While I think you may have a fighting chance of converting someone from the 9% to the 1% (and your ideas are great ways of doing this), what moves someone from the 90% to the 9% (if that's possible at all), is a shift that takes place on the part of the individual, and is beyond the realm of the average blogger.

    In other words, if the proportions can't shift, perhaps the scale can.

  • People in general are either a.) very busy or b.) very lazy. Other social networks play a big role in driving new voices to your blog. Do they comment? Sometimes. You have to leave it open ended, like you said. 250 words with holes that ask a lot of questions – probably will drive more conversation that someone who is preaching for 700 words. I get bored after 300. If you want to hold my attention? It better be damn good.

    I think these are all great ideas – and you really have to evaluate from time to time on what your readers want. How they react. How you react. It's a cycle.

  • I completely agree with this post. I've seen through my own network that people love to look at pictures. Twitter is great, but I know far more people who just love chilling on facebook and seeing their friends pictures. It really does say a thousand words. I say more “show me don't tell me” will always improve any social network.

  • Ooooh, I love that piece. You are so right in stating that there's no use in trying to change a zebra's stripes. A zebra will remain a zebra, right and a lurker a lurker?

    One thing that I will say is that this is much easier said than done though, especially for new community builders. I have encountered the same thing in so many of the online communities that I've been a part of and after a point just accepted and embraced what you mentioned in this post. Awesome, thanks for telling it like it is.

  • Ooooh, I love that piece. You are so right in stating that there's no use in trying to change a zebra's stripes. A zebra will remain a zebra, right and a lurker a lurker?

    One thing that I will say is that this is much easier said than done though, especially for new community builders. I have encountered the same thing in so many of the online communities that I've been a part of and after a point just accepted and embraced what you mentioned in this post. Awesome, thanks for telling it like it is.

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