The Number 1 Mistake You Are Probably Making When Growing Your Online Community (And How To Fix It)



Every community has lurkers. They usually average between 60-80% of all members. That’s a significant chunk no matter how you slice it.

No matter how great of a community manager you are, you will never get even half of these lurkers to be regular, active contributors. So, why does just about every community manager (including myself) obsess at some point in time over the next tactic or full-blown strategy to convert more lurkers into active contributors. All you are doing is thwarting your community’s growth by obsessing over the wrong tactics and metrics. By catering all your attention to lurkers, you are effectively building a library.  Libraries are boring, and the polar opposite of a thriving online community.

[box type=”info” border=”full” icon=”none”]*If a library is your sole intended goal, take all of the content of your community and create a Knowledgebase. Zendesk, Uservoice and Salesforce all have great KB tools.*[/box]

However, as I suspect, you built a community for a variety of reasons and not just to aggregate knowledge in a static site to be searched. Here’s 3 tips for how to actually grow the number of active contributors creating valuable content on a daily basis.

Instead of catering to lurkers, you should invest all that energy and time to your newest contributors. That’s where you can have the biggest impact from the get-go. Here’s some tactical tips for how to do this.

Respond timely to the first post from a new contributor.

  • According to this presentation from Rich Millington, if a new contributor gets a response to their first post within 5 hours, they are significantly more likely to stay active and engaged in the community.

Optimize your response time. 

  • I would recommend blocking out a 15 minute interval every three hours, to start with. This way you can do a quick surface-level glance of your newest contributors and respond in a very timely manner.
[box border=”full” icon=”none”]You can set a reminder right in your Google Calendar. Or, you can create a Slackbot in Slack, an awesome group chat tool, which will automatically ping you when it’s time to check back into your community. [/box]

Seed questions that have low barriers to entry.

  • It can be intimidating for a newbie to comment right away, especially in B2B communities. Make sure you are seeding questions that anyone would feel comfortable answering. While these may seem a bit off-topic, the whole point is to get these people hooked in your community. Once they are hooked, they will start diving deeper into the meatier content.
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Some great evergreen content questions are:

  • Android or iPhone?
  • What’s your favorite blog post or video that you have seen recently?
  • If you could meet one famous person (past or present), who would it be and why?
  • If you could have one superpower (and only one), what would it be?

Follow these tactics, and adapt them to fit your specific communities. I can guarantee you will start to see more newbies turning into active members.

Need more tips for how to increase engagement in your online community? Download this FREE handy dandy checklist with 10 tips for how to build peer to peer collaboration in your community.

Download the community building checklist!

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About the author

Jessica Malnik