Who are those people who attend your class but never talk, or who friend you on Facebook or Twitter, but never respond? And how do you get them talking?
Back in the mid-90s when I first went online via CompuServe (remember those days??), we noticed that for every 1 person who was interacting in the message forum, another 10 were logging on and reading the message threads, but never interacting. Back then, we called them “lurkers” — people who didn’t participate actively in discussions.
Fast forward 20 years, and we find that Lurker Ratio of 10:1 still exists – in online message forums, in my video classes and webinars, in mastermind groups, and any other place where groups of people congregate offline and online. In some places, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online social media forums, the lurker ratio is closer to 100:1 — for every 1 person who participates, there are 100 people just reading and absorbing the conversation.
There are a number of reasons why people don’t comment on Facebook or blogs: too busy, nothing to add, feeling shy. That’s what the “Like” button is for on Facebook: if you don’t want to leave a comment but you want to still let the folks know that you’re interested, you click the Like button.
Jakob Nielsen calls it Participation Inequality. I see it most often with “remote” groups of people who meet online or through teleconference or video conference meetings.
But here is what I think is most important:
We ALL have something to add to a conversation — our feelings, our experiences, our knowledge, our questions. What comes from within counts for a lot with me. I love when people leave comments on my blog and when they interact in my classes. And let’s face it: the whole point of a mastermind group is to brainstorm together, right? Conversation brings value.
In your business, you want to build connections and relationships with your customers, students, group members, and your entire audience. Being aware of the lurker ratio when you’re using social media for marketing — as well as in your classes, groups and online message forums — will help you gauge the quality of your connections and relationships.
For all types of classes and groups, here are some guidelines:
- In live, in-person classes and groups, the lurker ratio is much better. There’s something about being face-to-face in a sharing environment (especially with a good teacher or mastermind group Facilitator) that brings people out of their shells and encourages them to participate. In my live classes and groups, I’d say that for every 100 people who attend, 30-40 will be lurkers.
- The larger the group, the larger the lurker ratio. Social psychologists call this phenomenon social loafing.
- The longer the event, class or program, the lower the lurker ratio. (Sometimes it takes while to get people warmed up.)
- If you want high participation in your classes and groups, you have to build in interaction into your plan. Don’t wing it: plan it. Design discussion-starter questions that get the group talking within the first five minutes of every meeting.
- Pay attention to those who don’t ask questions or make comments. Call on them by name, or say, “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t commented yet.”
- If your class or group includes an online message forum, set some rules. For instance, in some of my classes I’ve set this rule: each week all students must post one new message and reply to two messages that someone else has posted.
For social media engagement:
- Studies show that you get 65% more engagement if you post before noon, as compared to afternoons and evenings. My experience confirms this with my audience: they’re much more active in the morning on social media.
- Don’t just post thoughts, ask questions, too. Instead of simply saying, “Hard work yields results,” consider adding a question to that statement, like, “Do you find this to be true for yourself?” Invite responses and comments.
- Comment on other people’s posts. It’s a two-way street. If all you do is post your own articles and thoughts, but never respond to someone else’s blog posts and Facebook posts, why should they communicate with you? It’s all about building relationships.
- Engagement isn’t just commenting. Make sure you put links in your blog posts to other blog posts that are related. When someone reads a blog post and clicks on a link, that’s engagement, too.
- Respond back. When someone responds to your blog post or social media post, respond back and acknowledge it. They need to know you heard them.
- Let them see you. Too many small business owners hide behind their content. They post links to articles on Facebook and Twitter, but they never share any of their own story. I don’t mean those “I used to live in a box but now I live in a mansion” stories…I mean everyday stories about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re reading or watching, and even what you’re eating. Give them a window into your personal life. Yes, you can keep most of your personal life as private as you like — telling them you made Chickpea Burgers for lunch isn’t an invasion of privacy, it just plain fun! 🙂
If your lurker ratio is still 100:1, take heart — it still means that for every one person who responds to your post, 100 are reading what you write!
These are just a few of the tips to get people to join the discussion. I’m sure you have your favorite ways of getting your audience involved, yes? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts!
P.S. If you’re a lurker, I’d love to hear from you. C’mon, fess up. Just one comment and you’ll be an official EX-lurker! 🙂