The top five reasons for lurking - research paper

  • 24 August 2020
  • 4 replies

Userlevel 5
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For those of you that enjoy reading research papers, here is one thats good - The top five reasons for lurking: improving community experiences for everyone.

Some good points, share your thoughts on this thread and share any research papers you read that you thought was helpful.

I was hoping to add the PDF but dont see a spot I can upload the doc in the menu bar.

4 replies

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Thanks for sharing this here with us! :) Unfortunately, my university account has been disabled a looong time ago, so I am not able to access the full paper. :( But what I can read from the abstract is quite interesting already!

By the way, I have checked and saw that attachments were only allowed for superusers. I have changed this now, so that everyone can share documents here! So thanks for pointing it out.


When I look at the reasons why people are not active, there are a some thoughts that come to my mind where a Community Manager can take action:


needing to find out more about the group before participating

Without reading the full article, I would interpret this as the visitor being unsure about how the group would respond to a topic or reply. I have a suspicion that some users are scared of becoming active as they fear negative feedback. Examples could be harsh replies by veterans (the standard “this has been asked 100 times before, use the damn search”) or not knowing if a question is suitable for the community.

I think Community Managers could often do a better job at adressing this. It could be a simple “learn about the community”-article, or other promoted content that highlights individual users or the general openess of the community to new members. The classic "introduce yourself”-topic could also help in mitigating this barrier as it shows the people behind the avatar.


thinking that they were being helpful by not posting

Now this one I found interesting, maybe you understood this factor better and can explain what is meant by this? I could only imagine that users have a fear of making things more confusing when they comment in a thread, or that they think the issue is their own incapability of using a product or a service properly?


not being able to make the software work (i.e., poor usability)

I hope this does not happen often on inSided communities. :sweat_smile: I don't believe many users don’t know how to register on a community, however there are some things that might act as a barrier. I sometimes see that the registration process via SSO (using the company login) is too complicated. When visitors need to invest five minutes to register, many will drop.


But I can imagine that sometimes customers are also unable to figure out where or how to post a question, as some categories do not have a categorization that is straightforward enough. On inSpired, we try to counter this with this sidebar widget which encourages users to overcome this fear, at least when it comes to asking a question:




not liking the group dynamics or the community was a poor fit for them

I feel that this is a tough nut to crack - the community should be a place for everybody to share their thoughts and challenges, but in reality visitors might not recognize it as their ideal spot to become active in. I think the best counter measure would be to be very clear and open in messaging to visitors, but I have a hard time coming up with a concrete example of how this could look. Maybe someone else has a suggestion or even an example?

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Thanks for enabling the upload option @Julian and for the summary above.

I’ve attached the document - enjoy!

Userlevel 6
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Great find, @aluciani!  With the rise of smart phones and ‘internet on demand’ since 2004, I’d love to see an updated version of this study. I can vividly imagine that lurking is a whole different ball game these recent years.

Reddit - one of the biggest community of communities wasn’t founded until a year after this study.

Facebook was founded the same year, but didn’t quite (yet) have the massive following we see today.

Twitter was founded in 2006, and also have a huge lurker base.

I would be really curious to see how lurking has changed both through big tech social media, but also on smaller community forums, since this really interesting research paper was written.

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Some interesting content I found and highlighted in another research paper - let me know what you think