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Most Online Communities Are Designed For Lurkers

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Most community platforms and strategies are sadly designed to attract lurkers.

Lurkers are individuals who visit a community to satisfy their informational needs, not their social needs. They don’t need to participate to satisfy their informational needs, so they lurk. 

Most communities have so many lurkers because they are set up to cater to information seekers. This is defines their strategies for growth, content and getting registered members. 


1) Growth

If you try to growth through mass-promotional means, you will attract a lot of lurkers. If you grow too fast, individuals wont receive any personal attention when they join. Good community growth comes through referrals and direct recruitment. You can influence both.

If you do promote then obey the basic principle of growing a community;  promote what’s happening within the community, not the community itself. Promote a live-chat, controversial discussion or upcoming event as opposed to The community for {topic} fans!“. 


2) Content

Focus on interactions, not content. Put interactions in the most prominent position on the platform. Great content will only attract active readers, not active members. 

The best content is about the members and interactions, it ensures members participate to satisfy their emotional needs. The best content welcomes newcomers by name and details. The best content talks about what members are doing and what’s coming up in the community.


3) Registered members

Most communities optimize the process up until registration. This results in a large number of registered lurkers (as opposed to unregistered lurkers). Communities need to optimize the process from registration to participation. This means ensuring that newcomers are given some current discussions they can participate in, have members introduce themselves to the newcomer and educating members about the culture of the community.

You could schedule messages the member will receive 1 hour, 1 day and 1 week after they join a community. Or better, have a topical sticky thread such as: How did you become interested in {topic}? and ensure all members participate in it. 

The process from registration to participate must be optimized. 

If you have too many lurkers, it’s probably because you’re trying to attract and retain lurkers. The better you cater to a member’s social needs, the more active members you will attract.

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