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Hi Gary –
I thought I’d jump in to say that while we’d all love everyone in our communities to be consistently active, I think lurkers are okay. We all lurk at times and comment, post etc. when we need to or choose to. That personal choice is an important thing. No one should feel badly about being a lurker. If they are getting value from the community that is a good thing. What they choose to view will drive up the view count on content and make it more likely to display for others (search, recommendation widgets etc). There is some value creation as a by-product of their presence in the community. Everyone has a day job and knowing that, I think participation on Jivespace is pretty good.
Jive is a very important product to me but I don’t post on Jivespace every day. I am a member of 9 different online communities that are all important to me (others aren’t quite as important). The one I manage at my work has to be where I spend most of my time. I also belong to neighborhood online communities (2), sports communities (2), school communities (2), and of course Facebook (no Twitter for me).
What I find in all these communities is that there are connection moments which compel a lurker to participate. For example, last year I blogged in my internal community about a number of sessions I attended at the Web 2.0 conference. Some things in that blog connected with a number of lurkers in our community and suddenly there was a big comment stream and follow-up blogs by other people who had never posted anything (we have a Lounge where anyone can blog). The funny thing about that is that the blog wasn’t really “on topic” for our community. The overall community is about our company’s products, the blog was about some of the more interesting sessions I attended and my thoughts on them. Maybe that neutral topic was “safer” for them to start their participation – it was an ice breaker.
In the larger of my two neighborhood communities, most of the discussions are people asking for help, advice, recommendations etc. When someone posted “Can anyone recommend a hotel in Nice?” I had nothing (and I was amazed how many people did have recommendations!), but when someone wrote “Help, my 3 year old is the slowest eater ever!”, I was able to jump in (been there, dealt with that). This neighborhood community is incredibly active. Why? Actually I think we can learn some lessons from it in our enterprise communities. The people are very open, they relate to others as people (not experts, specialists, etc), no one is showing off and pretty much everyone has asked for help of some sort at some point – it’s a big part of why they joined the community. They have a large general forum where it’s okay to post just about anything, and a few other fora that were created based on consistently high traffic on those topics in the general forum.
Anyway, my reply is long so I’ll wrap it up. I think that if someone is either naturally a lurker or just never been compelled to participate (yet), they will need to have that connection moment or ice breaker. You can’t know what that will be for everyone and it’s important to know that it won’t be the same thing for everyone either. Lurkers are okay though – they aren’t a failure. :>
From: Gary Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 7:49 AM
To: Amanda Shenon
Lurkers vs. Participants
created by Gary Smith<http://www.jivesoftware.com/jivespace/people/grsnovi> in Internal Collaboration - View the full discussion<http://www.jivesoftware.com/jivespace/message/382476#382476
I agree: there is nothing wrong with "lurking" - I suppose my point was to generate some discussion about what various community managers thought regarding the breakdown posited. People naturally fall into various categories. Some folks who are naturally gregarious in person may be "shy" in an online scenario with the reverse also being true.
Gary and Amanda,
Great discussion on the topic of Lurking. We just rolled out Jive internally and aren't seeing the contribution participation we thought we'd see. However, we know we've got a lot of "lurkers" because our active user count is way up. The forseeable future problems are:
1) How do we communicate the value of Lurking? Persumably these people are getting value out of their lurking, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it, but it's definitely a hard metric to sell to management.
2) How do we ensure that the value of 5% top contributors expands? Eventually these top contributors will hit the limit of value they can provide to the community and need others to jump in. If for no other reason than to stimulate discussion....We don't want the community to have a stale or slanted view point on internal issues.
I'm Curious what your thoughts are on this.
I think there is some comfort in lurking whereas there may be perceived "risk" in participating - depending on how you rolled things out and what the message was.
Things that might help bump participation in your early adoption period:
- visible (and active) management participation
- interesting (and safe) discussions
- a higher degree of community manager "cheerleading"
It would be interesting to hear from some others here regarding their successful techniques.
Unless there is a continued benefit to those who have become your initial early adopters - they will eventually lose interest.
Are you using your installation for projects and groups? Have you seeded it with an interesting mix of initial topics?
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First, I do not like the term "lurker". Sounds like a mugger in a dark community site. These folks are readers or content consumers. Not all of the people in this passive group are passive. There are a number of peole that get value, use the content, pass it along, and tell other people to to to the community. The only way to find them is to do a survey. Since this is internal, you know who to ask. we are currently creating a set of questions for out next internal survey to try to determine the numbers.
I remind the community owners that people need a recent to visit and a reason to contribute. They need to want to do it. We also look at the purpose of the community. If it is an internal communication community with executive level items published, it wil be rare to have comments. If it is a project related community where the team is using it to document and do work, you will have a lively community.
One of our most active, both viewer and participation, communities is related to an internal tool which is being roled out. The site is related to the training, rrol out, issues/bugs, and help request. People have a well defined reason to go there and participate.
Also look at he content. The company culture needs to support asking questions and the content needs to let people know you are looking for a reply beyond, nice article.
Hi Mike - according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lurker
the term has been used (with a negative connotation) in this context since the mid-1980's.
I agree with your observation that participation will depend on your company's culture as well as the wording of initial posts which invite replies.
Gia Lyons just tweeted regarding a new Jive deployment which sent 100 internal invites out on April 6 and as of today they have 2200 active members (it would be interesting to know just how active and better understand their roll out).
- visible (and active) management participation