Online Community Engagement: Understanding Lurkers

In a time where connection and belonging have never been more essential, online communities have the potential to offer members the remarkable gift of being seen and heard. These virtual spaces, with their vast reach and diverse participants, offer a platform where individuals can share, learn, and engage like never before. However, every community manager will run into the phenomenon of community members showing up but not engaging in the community.  Let's explore some of the dynamics that could be at play.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I sometimes wonder if the type of community and the members natural persona’s make a difference in the math. Perhaps there’s actually a bit of a sliding scale? If a community is a very mature long standing community, but it’s intent is more geared towards a shorter lifecycle, for example an earning an industry cert, “new members” might accumulate overtime, however as they complete the cert and move on, the majority may still also naturally move on as the core value of the space is no longer as relevant. Of course one would hope to retain folks as leaders and mentors, but at what ratio will that make sense?

In contrast with an “outdoors person” (for example) community, where it has a long use case lifespan for its members, that type of space may lean more towards a higher engaged/lurker ratio… ?

It’d be interesting to hear some thoughts on that… cheers.


Great topic to explore :slight_smile:

I’ll disagree with as much as I can in the interest of debate that allows exploration and imagination of alternatives and through the divergence enables analysis & convergence on some truths(?) - at least that’s the intent.

In doing so I expect to unmask more complexity than can be dealt with in a comment so I’ll just raise without resolving some things - we are really talking a subtype of sociology and that is a vast topic

  1. Great quote - and I’ll agree with it (oops!) But then every other arguement in the blog piece is, I think missing the/ a/ some point(s) about what vibrance is and I think “thriving” with "vibrant is a tautology. What anybody should ever want is a community that meets its goals. If it does that is thriving. The goal might be of an expanding community - but then that has its own properties and problems. It might be maximised value to the current members. Every member may define value in different ways but the aim could still be met

  2. The classification of uses isn’t the only classification concurrently possible. I hypothesize that it is not fit for the purposes here - vibrant community could be defined as one satisfying the wants of all users. One author and thousands of readers maybe vibrant - fantastic be high levels of engagement - engagement doesn’t mean writing contributions - in fact all writers and no readers is its own dysfunction. Every reader also an author may be vibrant, they might have a one-to-one read write or a 10 to 1 or a 1 to 10 ratio.

  3. Don’t force people into a role that they dislike! I’m an introvert, I don’t go to parties, because the extroverts insist that their view of the world over rules mine and I have to participate in their dances and things im uncomfortable with . I’d happily go along if I wasn’t forced to do what I didn’t want to do. Why are you trying to define vibrancy for your community as where all your readers have to be writers. You’re potentially creating an uncomfortable environment for the ones who want to read but don’t want to write so you’re killing off a quality that was attracting people - n’est pas?

  4. Of course the above point doesn’t apply if you’re definition of vibrancy is that all the readers are exposed to all of the opinions of all of the members - valid but not universal

I suspect when I read the three links in the OP I guess I’ll have some more points to make too


i hate to criticise but… :relieved:

i would like to suggest that perhaps rather than referring to “users that do not produce posts” as “lurkers” might be a good start, that term being one of the more unfortunate aspects of internet culture

wallflowers? :sunflower:

cat got your tongue? :tongue:


There’s a bit more discussion about that in the accompanying meta guide:

I’m a big fan of retiring it, though the argument that it’s a recognisable/searchable term is a tricky one to counter. But I’m still working to quietly phase it out where I can. :slight_smile:


sorry, couldn’t resist :joy:

in all seriousness though, thank you for the links to that discussion, it is really heartening to see these things being a part of the discourse

the wiki article is an interesting read. i guess when things are being built out and resources are scarce then read only activity is a burden to growth, and perhaps that is the origin of the pejorative aspect of the term

now that we are in an environment where there is way too much information and abundant resources perhaps it is time to use language to encourage some thoughtful restraint. certainly that is what draws me to this platform

keep up the good work guys :heart: