Lurker Alert: The Art of Audience, Student and Mastermind Group Engagement

Posted by on Jul 06 2016

Who are those people who attend your mastermind group or 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 “virtual” 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 mastermind groups, here are some guidelines:

  1. In live, in-person classes and mastermind 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.
  2. The larger the group, the larger the lurker ratio. Social psychologists call this phenomenon social loafing.
  3. The longer the event, class or program, the lower the lurker ratio. (Sometimes it takes while to get people warmed up.)
  4. If you want high participation in your classes and mastermind 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.
  5. 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.”
  6. If your class or mastermind 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!  🙂



41 comments for now

41 Responses to “Lurker Alert: The Art of Audience, Student and Mastermind Group Engagement”

  1. JamieNo Gravatar

    I’m a lurker! There! I’ve said it and feel so free now! 🙂

    Actually, in one-on-one events I am never quiet- in fact, I work really hard on not over-participating. In the on-line world, it’s more difficult for a few reasons:

    1. The blogger (or FB’er) may not be asking relevant questions or initiating a discussion that I have an opinion about. Especially if I am a newbie, I’m more likely going to try to absorb the information.

    2. If there is a discussion that is relevant to me, I look to see if the “moderator” really cares about an answer or seems to just be generating a discussion to drive their traffic numbers up.

    3. I’ve noticed that on many blogs, there is not a lot of cross-pollination between commentors- the discussion seems to be between them and the moderator and not also with each other. Which is disappointing, because we have a lot to share with each other.

    4. It’s easier and faster to skim content then to sit down and take the time to write a thoughtful response. Lame, I know. 🙂

    I bought a workshop ‘how-to’ book from you within the last two years and haven’t put it into practice yet. In the meantime, I read many of your blog posts. I admire your work and am getting to a place to implement your suggestions. “Lurking” works for me. 🙂

    Thank you for all you are doing!

    02 Apr 2011 at 8:02 am

  2. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Yay, Jamie, you’ve emerged from lurkerdom! 🙂

    I like your four points, Jamie. Especially with blogs, it seems to me be best ones are the ones that give great content AND have lively discussions. Not just between the blog owner and one person, but among the people commenting. But all that takes time for each commenter to read each OTHER commenter’s posts. I’m finding Fridays and Saturdays are the best days for me to find the time to read blogs, read comments, then comment appropriately. Busy, busy, busy.

    But I don’t think it’s “lame” to skim content. We’re all time-constrained. We can only give just so much attention to the wealth of information out there.

    Best of luck with designing your workshops!

    02 Apr 2011 at 8:59 am

  3. CherylNo Gravatar

    Thank you for your candid post on “lurkers”. Since it seemed like your preference was for less of those to exist, I am commenting! I appreciate you sharing your expertise and opinions and in this post, your tips at the end to up the participation in your own groups.

    02 Apr 2011 at 11:04 am

  4. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Hey, Cheryl, I’m glad you for your comment! I love the lurkers, but I also love the deeper conversations with people. I think some people prefer to be lurkers (and in some situations, I do, too), but I also believe that some people simply want to be INVITED into the conversation. My husband’s like that: he’s very polite and wouldn’t dream of stepping into a conversation without implicit permission.

    02 Apr 2011 at 11:59 am

  5. Kathryn RobbinsNo Gravatar

    Okay, you busted me! Hi, my name is Kathryn and I am a lurker. =0( But, I am also a huge fan!

    It’ true, many of us stay quiet for different reasons. I’m quiet, because I compare myself to the “big dogs” and find myself becoming overwhelmed by what I need to learn and implement. I’m a natural techno-tard, so taking the Internet by storm isn’t easy for me. Being good, or even great at what you do isn’t enough and that is disheartening. I know my industry like the back of my hand, but translating that information to digital marketing makes me want to cry. I know – I know, I can hire people to do that for me and I have, only they don’t always get the concepts right and charge more to fix what they didn’t get right in the first place. There is only just so much start up money to go around, so I try to do the things I know I can – like purchasing Karyn’s ebook on building a simple usable business plan for a small business. Worth every dime! I started with that and have been building as much and as fast as I can. Thank you Karyn for leading the charge and holding our hand!

    02 Apr 2011 at 11:11 am

  6. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    I’m here for you, Kathryn! 🙂

    Guess what? When I compare MYSELF to the big dogs, I get overwhelmed by what I need to learn, too. I think we’re all like that.

    But then I always go back to “the why.” Why am I doing what I’m doing in the world? Why am I in this business versus any other business? Do I need to have a mailing list of 700,000 people in order to help just one person? Does it honestly matter if I don’t have a million Twitter fans? 🙂

    One step at a time… 🙂

    02 Apr 2011 at 11:56 am

  7. RobinNo Gravatar

    Laughing lurkers love your post!

    I always read your blogs because they offer good insight and tips. But, I have to agree with Jaime that it’s not always appropriate to comment if I have nothing new in particular to offer or the topic isn’t relevant to me.

    The internet is crowded with words and I try to only offer more when I have value to add. 🙂 Keep up your good work Karyn!

    02 Apr 2011 at 12:13 pm

  8. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    I’m so glad you commented, Robin! Nice to know there are living, breathing human beings reading my blog posts. LOL! 🙂

    02 Apr 2011 at 12:28 pm

  9. Audrey SeymourNo Gravatar

    Something I’ve learned in the case of leading teleseminars is to give people an easy way to participate at the start, to warm them up. Maestro Conferencing works great in that way because you can get people engaging by voting, or by talking in breakout groups first. Then they feel part of the group and are often less shy about sharing in the big group. Or, alternatively, give everyone an easy question to answer that takes a short answer.

    03 Apr 2011 at 2:38 pm

  10. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    I agree, Audrey. When we design classes, we should have several, easy “warmups” built into our classes to get people involved without asking them to take too much risk. I always remind people that I love for my classes to be interactive, setting the expectation early that I will be asking questions as well as answering them.

    04 Apr 2011 at 8:38 am

  11. Laurie SheppardNo Gravatar

    Karyn, as usual an excellent blog topic and well written. Love the stats too.

    As I co-organize a group on (a social and business connection site for those wanting to join groups and meet new folks), I run into this “lurker” problem quite often. It’s particularly frustrating when members sign-up and even pay a base fee to participate, but then they don’t RSVP to attend an event and they stay in the shadows. Or, they may RSVP, but not have the courtesy to let us know they’ve changed their mind and won’t be coming.

    Anyone planning an event for others always appreciates having the number of respondents match the actual numbers of those who attend to be able to plan for this accordingly.

    I learned quickly that scheduling events in my home wasn’t satisfactory because it caused more unnecessary setup and cleanup work, whereas having events in a public location meant I could still enjoy whoever showed up.

    Bottom line, I’ve come to better accept the nature of folks uncertain scheduling. Even so, it would be far nicer if people wore their leadership hats more often, not only committing to events and attending them, but generating activities themselves.

    03 Apr 2011 at 3:08 pm

  12. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    It’s particularly difficult, Laurie, when food is involved, or handouts have to be printed. Knowing how many people will actually show up to a live event/class is necessary to make the correct preparations.

    I think there are a lot of people who pay to be part of a group (either an in-person group, a telegroup, or an online message forum group) who don’t actively participate. This is why a lot of membership sites fail: the group size isn’t large enough to allow for the 10:1 lurker ratio, so when you only have 100 members, and only 10 “talk” in the group, it makes for a very one-sided conversation.

    04 Apr 2011 at 8:42 am

  13. KatherineNo Gravatar

    Interesting “lurker” info. I always have opinions but often don’t share as just too busy. But you’re right – even a five word comment response from someone on my own work let’s me know I’m reaching people! thanks!

    03 Apr 2011 at 7:48 pm

  14. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Katherine, I hear you on the “busy” thing. There always seems to be too much to do! And with all the information available to us, even when we see a blog post or an article that educates and inspires us, we often don’t have the time to write a reply.

    I watched a PBS show called “1900 House.” They took a real family and put them into a historically accurate house from 1900, and asked them to live the 1900s lifestyle for 3 months. The women couldn’t believe how BUSY they were…and they thought our ancestors had a simpler life. 🙂 Whether it’s 1900 or 2011, we still have 24 hours in a day, which we will inevitably fill with the things that are valuable to us. How many times have we said to ourselves, “Well, something’s got to give! I’ll do X and not Y.”

    04 Apr 2011 at 8:45 am

  15. Nelda ChoateNo Gravatar

    Hi Karyn, Knowing you and that wonderful laugh of yours, I found myself chuckling out loud while reading the “lurker” post. Your approach was your usual direct, but entertaining sharing of information.

    I, too, have had lurkers in my classes – just did not know the ratio was so high. I’ll remind myself to follow your tips and continue to work on interacting on my calls and programs.

    I love to listen to ways people take my program material and make it their own – and pulls them out of the corner to share!

    Thanks for all your input. We appreciate you!

    04 Apr 2011 at 10:34 pm

  16. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Hey, Nelda,

    Thinking back on a recent teleseminar I did where there were 35 people on the call, I’d say about 6 participated regularly, another 8 participated sporadically. What I found interesting was if I have a class of just 8 people, nearly all of them participate, especially if I say, “There are only 8 people on this call.” Next time I have a teleseminar of 500 people, I’m going to say, “There are only 8 people on this call,” and test to see if I get more or less interaction. LOL!

    05 Apr 2011 at 3:18 pm

  17. Cena Block from SaneSpaces.comNo Gravatar

    Well done Karyn!!! HAHAHA – I…. am NOT A LURKER… I’m a TALKER!!! Thanks for the sensible post and for the fun.. Chick pea burgers huh? never tried those… never considered they may even be fun!!>>>? You rock!

    09 Jul 2013 at 3:59 pm

  18. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Cena, you’re one of my favorite non-lurkers! 🙂

    09 Jul 2013 at 8:56 pm

  19. Helga MatzkoNo Gravatar

    Thank you, Karyn for “confronting” one of the lurkers and my absences of responses.
    It reminds me a bit of being a mother, knocking one’s self out to please all the kids/husbands etc. and never receiving much acknowledgement and recognition. Rest assured I do read all your material and appreciate your thoroughness and dedication to you work. I promise, not have to, to respond to the various postings of interest. Speaking up in a class? A bit more of a challenge.
    Thanks for challenging me. Hugs, Helga

    10 Jul 2013 at 9:36 am

  20. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Hi, Helga,

    I remember when you came to class in Pennsylvania, you spoke up just fine! 🙂


    10 Jul 2013 at 9:39 am

  21. Gitte LassenNo Gravatar

    Nice to know the lurker stats, Karyn, it is good to remind ourselves that even though we don’t hear from our readers/listeners they might still be with us.

    There is one more lurker-y act I have noticed that I want to share. I often use facebook events for promotion. A very small number of those who join the event through facebook end up showing up.

    10 Jul 2013 at 10:18 am

  22. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Gitte, I hadn’t paid too much attention to posting events on Facebook. Thanks for the reminder!

    11 Jul 2013 at 7:47 am

  23. PaulaNo Gravatar

    Hi Karen,

    Great article, I am a semi lurker. I enjoying reading others content. I do posts minimally, however, I have so much content and stories, I am not sure what to share.

    Thank you for inspiring article.

    10 Jul 2013 at 10:20 am

  24. GabrielleNo Gravatar

    Great article and discussion. Thanks, Karyn! Wonderful reminder that even if very few are participating and giving feedback, there are quite a few at least partially listening (and benefiting) from what we teach and share.

    I love your blog and classes, and you’re also one of the top business coaches I tell my colleagues / mastermind partners about because of your straightforward and useable info. Thanks again! 🙂

    10 Jul 2013 at 12:14 pm

  25. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Thanks, Gabrielle, I appreciate that. 🙂 I’m often telling people about your services, especially the QuickBooks training.

    11 Jul 2013 at 7:50 am

  26. pauletteNo Gravatar

    Hey Karyn, admittedly I am a lurker – working my way out of that tendency. It’s much easier to post comment when I resonate with the content and it’s useful to me. Which leads me into a very big THANK YOU.

    I created a meetup group for women entrepreneurs to support and hold each other accountable – the response was so amazing & I started to get overwhelmed and knew that I had to get straight in my head what my vision was. You came up in Google. Your articles on Masterminding & marketing were instrumental in helping me. I had the 1st meeting this morning and the energy was so freggin’ amazing! Essentially, I said it was between a mastermind meeting and a weight watchers meeting – without the weigh in’s.

    I really appreciate the emails and your insight. I hope you don’t mind if I post the link to your 10 Biggest Marketing Mistakes pdf. Very awesome info.

    Again thanks,


    10 Jul 2013 at 1:38 pm

  27. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Hi, Paulette, congratulations on your mastermind group success! I feel there’s a massive need for mastermind groups on all sorts of topics. People want to have a supportive environment where they can share ideas and create (and implement!) action plans. Bravo to you!

    11 Jul 2013 at 7:52 am

  28. YvonneNo Gravatar

    I appreciate your blog. Proud lurker that I am, it’s important to understand that some speak only when they have something to say. Eclectic information is essential to my intellectual processes so I’m a voracious absorber. Being an introvert I need to let the brain work its magic on patterns, interactions and design.

    11 Jul 2013 at 12:51 am

  29. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Same here, Yvonne. When I’m a student, I absorb information deeply…and then it has to rattle around in my brain before I’m ready to discuss it or share it.

    11 Jul 2013 at 7:53 am

  30. HazelNo Gravatar

    A really fabulous article Karyn. I don’t get on many teleconferences anymore but I always read what you send and always glean great tips and ideas from your posts and emails.

    As I embark on the new venture for women of 55 + I’m adding to your stairway to wealth and I start teaching teleconferences again in August, it’s interesting to read what women are thinking.

    I love the information on lurkers it explains a lot and also gives me something to add to what I’m teaching since it’s all about mindset.

    Thanks for the great work and ideas.


    12 Jul 2013 at 4:40 pm

  31. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Thanks, Hazel, good luck with your new venture!!

    17 Jul 2013 at 9:12 am

  32. Joanne SprottNo Gravatar

    OK, you’re on! Haven’t been lurking because I didn’t know your blog existed until TJ Phillips of sent me an email.

    Nice one. To be filed for reference, particularly for classroom stuff, since I’m about to launch a book indexing how-to class. I will definitely take your advice to give folks plenty of specific opportunities and triggers for conversation.

    ‘Course I’m an extrovert, so it’s not so hard for me, but there will always be introverts who just want to absorb. Nice to know they are there, actually. In my work with volunteer organizations, I noticed that only a small percentage were ever active, even in face-to-face situations. Just the nature of humans.

    Thanks again. Definite keeper.


    12 Jul 2013 at 10:00 pm

  33. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Great to “meet” you, Joanne, I’m glad you found the article helpful. I read somewhere recently that introverts are about 30% of the population. I’m not sure how accurate that it, but when you add “extroverts who are too busy to respond” or “extroverts who are thinking about what you said,” you can see why the lurker ratios are so high. 🙂

    17 Jul 2013 at 8:42 am

  34. LornaNo Gravatar

    Hey Karyn,

    Your awesome article prompted me to admit I am a “Lurker” here:) Juggling and multi-tasking to get things done is my main reason.

    Thanks for all the amazing value you offer! I am a beneficiary of your work. I started following you to get a handle on delivering Masterminds effectively. I am happy to say I have delivered two already and getting set up for a third!

    I also experienced that having fewer people on a call increases participation. I had a mastermind with 7 and made a point of calling names to get everyone sharing. With a mastermind of 4 everyone shared more easily without my prompting.

    I’m going to integrate some of your tips to up my social media engagement.

    07 Jul 2016 at 1:18 pm

  35. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Hi, Lorna, welcome out of Lurkerdom! It’s great to hear from you and congratulations on your mastermind groups! I have so much info to share, to watch out for new blog posts coming soon. 🙂

    07 Jul 2016 at 3:44 pm

  36. MalinNo Gravatar

    Thank you Karyn!
    I admit I’m more of a lurker…. And I see the importance of participating and commenting on other people’s blogs, articles etc to create engagement and establish communication myself. I do plan engaging questions to get people to participate in my leadership trainings, and haven’t made that connection before reading your post.
    I find the social media tips very useful.

    Thanks again!

    07 Jul 2016 at 4:20 pm

  37. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Hi, Malin! I’m glad you found the tips helpful. If you know how to create engaging questions in your training classes, you’ll be great at creating them in your social media and blog posts!

    07 Jul 2016 at 4:47 pm

  38. Sarah ArrowNo Gravatar

    A great read and superb advice Karyn. I’d like to add leave room for conversation. This enables the lurker (like me) to add to the conversation.

    08 Jul 2016 at 12:18 pm

  39. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Agreed, Sarah, “room for conversation” is a great way of putting it.

    08 Jul 2016 at 12:47 pm

  40. Mary ReitzNo Gravatar

    Great article, Karyn! Love the social media engagement tips.

    09 Jul 2016 at 8:26 pm

  41. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    I’m glad you found it helpful, Mary! 🙂

    10 Jul 2016 at 7:39 pm

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