Do you know where your lurkers are?

Lurkers are the silent majority; Creators, loud minority; and curators (or amplifiers) somewhere in the middle. Everyone with a role to play.

Cliques. Diehards. Fandoms. These people comment, who tweet and RT, who blog and reblog – the few that want to be heard. They produce videos for YouTube, presentations on SlideShare. They Stumble (Upon), the Flip (Board), they do more than consume content; they create it – often outside the ‘message control’ of the brand.

Control is a Myth

That ‘frenzy’ of fans pouring on the hype or screaming with hate, they’re the smaller number. See sports, politics, LiveJournal blogs, TripAdvisor. And because they’re the most vocal – even in the minority – they’re potentially the most dangerous.

According to McDonald’s, only a small percentage of tweets of their short-lived hashtag campaign were negative. Even so, pundits have been calling the brandjacking a major fail. Things went out of their control as McDonald’s got more than they tweeted for, but FWIW I’m not sure how this will hurt sales at the drive-thru.

Then there’s the sweet spot you want – vocal brand advocates that are the core of your business. You need to know your business’ Venn Diagrams for core customers and social sharers. More importantly is knowing where the two overlap, to determine what’s best for your brand and why in order to engage effectively. Otherwise, you wake a sleeping, noisy giant that doesn’t like you very much. If you can’t identify your audience, you also run the risk of only listening to that loud minority, missing out on so much more or optimizing would-be customers out of the middle.

Luring out the lurkers 

The trick is to produce the information that ‘consumers’ want to access and hear.”

As marketers, as communicators that’s a top goal: conversion. Turning a lurker into a commenter; getting a follower or fan to reply, share, comment and do more than just ‘like’ us; getting someone to sign up, register and ultimately, to buy.

We do that not just by broadcasting content, but by creating something that they want, by sharing it with them in ways that makes them invest and commit to it, want to share it.

Major minor audience.

There is something here, I just cannot decide what exactly. Is this a call to create? Sure. Certainly a reminder to think about which audience you target, where ‘influence’ really lives; I’m as easily swayed by a well-written Yelp or TA review than I am mainstream media or bloggers.

Mostly this is a cautionary tale not to get blinded by the numbers, good or bad. And to remember than for every fan or hater, there’s probably 10 times as many lurkers out there. Waiting to become your biggest nightmare or greatest fan.

How do you lure out the lurkers, get them more involved?


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13 thoughts on “Do you know where your lurkers are?

    1. A blog without readers, people to comment is a lonely place – a one-way broadcast. So getting people to comment, that’s one step towards building towards ‘conversion.’ Probably shoulda made that clearer – don’t think it happens overnight Judy. I know for me, developing relationships and interest takes time. Once I know someone, for example, say trust their taste after reading/commenting, it’s easy for them to convert me to watching a new show or reading a different blog.

      I think it’ll depend on the business; there are cases when a blog IS the business, so transaction (good word) metrics like comments and impressions are counted by advertisers. For most blogs, I think of comments a ‘gateway’ if you will, to further engagement like requesting/being receptive to the sales pitch. I also should have made clearer that comments aren’t the only way; plenty of people don’t comment, but they’ll write emails or DMs, give feedback that way.

      I lurker more than I comment, on PR, SM and all manner of things. This is all by way of saying that we should rethink our audience, our readers who don’t comment and not focus soley on those who do. Thanks as always.. keeping me thinking and on my toes.

    1. I lurk.. y’all may not see me commenting all the time, but I’m still reading, tweeting. It is time, other posts/stories pulling attention away, other tasks/priorities taking over. As a marketer though, it’s easy to get swept up in the hype and buzz when in reality, that’s often the minority.

      And FWIW you may write ‘great post’ whenever you feel like it. 🙂

  1. Thank you goes out to Judy who pointed me to this post. It was very well done, Davina. This is a topic that I have always thought about and pondered. From my perception I continue to see that there is a disproportionate amount of “creators” when compared to those who re-blog, re-Tweet etc. Of course, analytics and metrics that are based on popularity (re-Tweets, MTs, “likes”) are great, but as you mentioned, there is a need for engagement and something deeper.

    I personally believe there is a cyclical process that is evident in today’s social media world. We have this focus on popularity and metrics rather than a focus on content, engagement, discussion and connection. It is great if 1000 people share your blogpost, but if 95% of those shares are mindless “RTs”, has your content really connected with anyone? Is it yielding results for you or your business?

    You state perfectly that; “as marketers, as communicators that’s a top goal: conversion”. You hint at the fact that there needs to be something more than just reading/sharing/reading/sharing. We create or a reason and that reason is more than sheer popularity, especially if centred around a business model.

    I think your best line comes when you say that we “can’t get blinded by the numbers”. Unfortunately, I think this is what drives a lot of content today. This is evidenced by the style, topic and effort that is put into certain posts/articles. Your caution is well deserved, because without those who “create” and engage in discussion, we are left with little advancement.

    I really enjoyed this post.


    1. Tyler, I am really thinking about the squeaky wheels and the attention they garner. If you pay heed to the mainstream media, you’d think the entire world is FB and Twitter obsessed, when not playing on their iPhones and iPads.. but that is simply not the case. The world is made of consumers, lurkers – many of whom still have dumbphones.

      Oh the numbers, such a Catch-22. Those who count numbers think they count; those who expect a ‘successful’ blogger to have 400 RTs every time will look to those metrics as barometers of success, quality, expertise. But I can’t escape the fact that – no matter how well I may approach a subject, engage with others, etc. – my ‘best post ever’ may still be the fallen tree in the woods, unheard b/c there was no one there to hear/read. Without the numbers to help drive my content, I may be left out of some discussion.

      Which brings me back to the lurking consumers, outside the noise of the discussion but right there on the edge: reading, watching, searching. You’re correct, we need to create reasons beyond popularity in order to convert them, esp. for biz. Thanks.

  2. Davina, thanks for linking to my inaugural (PR and social media) post on Windmill Networking. But to put it into context, I was arguing that information might purely be consumed…and not commented. I’m pretty sure I commented on an earlier post that I see both PR Conversations and Windmill Networking as “resource” blogs, above and beyond commenters.

    Don’t get me wrong. Commenters are great. We take full bragging rights that James Grunig commented on OUR #PRDefined post, rather than PRSA’s or anyone else’s. Why? Because Jim feels “comfortable” commenting there.

    I’ve lifted the entire applicable section from Bytes from the PR Sphere:

    “One reason I wish it was media (information) social (engagement), rather than social media, is because at this stage on the interwebs, active user numbers suggest organizational reputation and value are more likely to be determined based on information (or content):

    * searched for research purposes or simply through curiosity
    * consumed (i.e., read, watched or listened to) and
    * debated amongst third parties (i.e., champions or detractors)”

    You can see that I listed the “debated” (i.e., commenters) third/last. That’s because, in my mind, it’s the least important.

    Go for the long-tail, Davina!

    Judy Gombita recently posted..Pink Ribbons, Inc. — Rage against the marketing machine’s “shiny, pink success story”

    1. I know debates and comments can be highly overrated, but one measure of ‘conversion’ and certainly not the end-all. It’s important to remember that people will read out of curiosity, consume and never engage, share, interact. They’ll lurk – and those could be our biggest customers. Long-tail indeed Judy, as slowly recalibrate this year. Thanks.

  3. Davina, I have NO IDEA. Seriously. And I can tell you as a lurker myself that force of habit can foil the best laid “marketing engagement” plans. But getting me to buy, though… That really isn’t so difficult.

    Because I’m lurking doesn’t mean I’m any different than the rest of your target market. It just means I’m less likely to want you know I’m part of your target market, for whatever reason. If I stay around long enough and you offer a delectable something delectably enough, I’ll probably be convinced and buy–just like the others–even if I never say a word.
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Why You Can’t Benefit From Escaping The Echo Chamber

    1. How many of us never say a word Shakirah? To compliment or even to complain? We just search, then X leads to M leads to J, we form and idea and then… go buy R because it was $10 cheaper with good reviews according to Google. Some terrible customer service experiences flipped me from lurking to commenting, as have positive ones – been using sites like TripAdvisor for years, well before FB connect.

      Being findable, searchable and approachable to those lurkers, that I think is something businesses should consider. I know for myself, I need to rethink some writing and assumptions I make. Not everyone is on the same page as I with much of this; no I don’t need to go ‘remedial 101’ but I do need to find better ways to include those ‘outsiders’ and perhaps, lure in more lurkers. FWIW.

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