The Power of Lurkers: Why You Should Never Underestimate Them

Tim McDonald


May 15, 2023

Lurkers are a common phenomenon in online communities. These members consume content without actively engaging with it by liking, commenting, or sharing. It can be tempting to ignore or even kick them out, but doing so could mean missing out on a valuable opportunity.

First, it's important to understand who lurkers are. In internet culture, lurkers are people who read and observe online communities but seldom post. The term "soft lurker" can refer to someone who occasionally posts but mainly consumes content. On the other hand, "hard lurkers" are people who never post, comment, or engage in any way.

It's easy to see why hard lurkers could be viewed as a waste of space, but the truth is they can still add value to your community. Hard lurkers can share your content with others, including their social media followers, friends, and colleagues. They may also be more likely to recommend your community to others in the future.

In addition, hard lurkers can provide valuable feedback that you might not receive from active members. They may be hesitant to speak up in public forums but could be willing to share their thoughts privately. This feedback can help you improve your community and content strategy.

So how can you engage lurkers? First and foremost, don't be pushy. Lurkers may have their reasons for not engaging, and pushing them to do so could make them feel uncomfortable or even drive them away. Instead, make it clear that you value their presence and would love to hear their thoughts if they're willing to share.

Consider creating opportunities for lurkers to engage in low-stakes ways. For example, you could create polls or surveys that allow them to share their opinions without having to start a public conversation. You could also create private channels or groups where they can share feedback and opinions with you and other members.

Another way to engage lurkers is to highlight their contributions to the community. This can include recognizing their support in newsletters, social media posts, or even in your content. By acknowledging their contributions, you are showing them that their presence is valued and that you are interested in hearing more from them.

Finally, consider reaching out to lurkers directly. This could include sending them a private message thanking them for their support or even asking for their opinion on a particular topic. By reaching out, you show them that you value their input and are interested in hearing more from them.

Overall, it's clear that lurkers shouldn't be ignored or kicked out of your community. They have the potential to add value in ways that you may not expect, and engaging with them can help you improve your community and content strategy. By creating opportunities for engagement, highlighting their contributions, and reaching out directly, you can turn lurkers into active members who help to grow and improve your community. What do you think? Leave them, engage them, or kick them out? Check out this debate about what to do when we joined Gradual for a conversation with other community professionals.