If you interview any segment of community members you’ll discover the very real emotive reasons why people don’t participate more.
Lurkers, for example, give three common reasons for not participating:
- They don’t have enough time.
- They don’t feel they have anything to contribute.
- They don’t feel they are smart enough to share their knowledge.
You can tackle each of these.
Let’s assume lurkers say they don’t feel they can contribute anything useful. That’s the long-term perception you have to change.
In your welcome copy, your notifications, your personal messages, the copy on your site, and in your own responses, you need to ensure they know you need their questions more than their answers.
Insert copy to the effect of ‘we’re short of good questions, what questions do you have this week?’ (notice the emphasis on the need for good questions).
Segment lurkers into a separate mailing list and run a short campaign highlighting the kind of questions you need from them, why it helps the community, and how it helps them. You need them to know you want them to improve their skills, knowledge, and set of resources quickly.
Show more appreciation to people who ask new questions. Thank them for the question, highlight the impact it might have, get back to them on the resolution to the question, and be friendly and personal.
Think of this as a short persuasion campaign. You have to change how they think about their contributions to community. You don’t need their answers, you need their questions to help everyone.
Now interview another segment of members and do the same.