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Invisible Advances: Lookers Look & Lurkers Lurk

Posted on Nov 17, 2012 by in ThiNK First | 11 comments


What does it mean to be an onlooker? 70% of buyers have chosen your brand before you know their identity. Are you ready for that reality? How does our invisibility or anonymity change when we think about online (URL) vs real life (IRL). Do we think of lurkers differently than lookers?

Do we have a positive impression of lurkers. Are they Free-Loaders in our minds? Being a Lurker is far from free. Lurking is a time investment. We make lurkers work pretty hard. All that content skimming comes at a price. Of course you could work to simplify the like of a lurker. Forget Klout what your lurkability factor. How easy does your brand make it for lurkers to get close.

Just to level set, let’s be clear we’re all lurkers.

There, you can relax. We’re all safe here in our shared anonymity. We all should have no expectations.

Lurkers has become a hip and trendy term. People know they are lurking. It’s a badge that people wear with pride.

Window shopping for ideas, content, products or services has always been just fine. The internet should not change that. I know plenty of people want to go Cookie and IP Address mad. We can build technology to by pass that and consumers can hide behind a privacy shield.

We’re simply playing an intimacy game of cat and mouse. Call me old fashioned I somehow like the romanticism of outing a lurker by fair means not foul. I don’t want to tag you. You can declare yourself when you are ready. There’s lots of ways to contact me. You can follow me on Twitter or Listly or sign up for my blog or make a list.

At #IMS12 I recall a stat


70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live sales person – SiriusDecisions

Lurking is highly contextual. Our lurking preferences are highly niched.

We are insanely selective how and when we out our preference.

According Internet Culture,  1:9:90 is a ratio that describes our behaviour  A staggering 90% of us are lurkers. It makes total sense. We couldn’t all contribute all of the time. It would result in chaos.

I’ve gathered a lot of research on lurking on this list.

Feel free to add other content if you follow the topic

Headline for Lurker Research: Best Posts on 1:9:90 and Consumer Participation
48 items   5 followers   0 votes   671 views

Lurker Research: Best Posts on 1:9:90 and Consumer Participation

Lurking fascinates me. I lurk. We all Lurk. Then sometimes we participate. This lists collects research on lurking


Dec 25, 2011 - - 129
How to Get Lurkers to Engage | Heidi Cohen

While most people don’t want take an action for a wide range of reasons, marketers want lurkers to engage whether it’s with their website, content marketing or social media initiatives. (Here are 21 reasons people lurk.) Here are three lurker corollaries to help you consider how lure lurkers to action and five ways to get lurkers to engage.

Dec 25, 2011 - - 117
Social Media Lurkers—Who Are They and How Can You Engage Them? - CASE Social Media

Are you discouraged because you have tons of followers, friends and connections on your social media communities but conversations always involve the same people? Do you wonder why others don’t jump in? You are not alone. There’s a name for this phenomenon – the 90-9-1 rule.

Dec 25, 2011 - - 110
Building Community: the Platform Blog - Lithosphere Community

Dr. Michael Wu, Ph.D. is Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, digging into the complex dynamics of social interaction and online communities. He's a regular blogger on the Lithosphere and previously wrote in the Analytic Science blog. You can follow him on Twitter at mich8elwu.

Dec 25, 2011 - - 121
The Economics of 90-9-1: The Lorenz Curve - Lithosphere Community

Dr. Michael Wu, Ph.D. is Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, digging into the complex dynamics of social interaction and online communities. He's a regular blogger on the Lithosphere and previously wrote in the Analytic Science blog. You can follow him on Twitter at mich8elwu.

Dec 25, 2011 - - 129
How Can I Push You From Lurker To Participant? | Outspoken Media

I left my first comment on Chris Brogan's blog a few weeks ago. And if you want to know a secret, I was scared. Speaking up for the first time on a new community is often pretty intimidating. Don't get me wrong, I've been reading Chris' blog for years, lots of us have.

Dec 25, 2011 - - 125
11 Ways To Get Lurkers To Participate - The Online Community Guide

Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Limited, an online community consultancy, and The Pillar Summit, an exclusive course in Professional Community Management. Richard's clients have included the United Nations, The Global Fund, Novartis, Oracle, OECD, BAE Systems, AMD and several youth & entertainment brands.

Dec 25, 2011 - - 121
Heli connecting ideas » Blog Archive » Nomad, migrant, lurker, blogger or networker?

This time I'll put myself on a web participation map by using some blog posts that have touched me. First I take a post of Wolfgang Greller. He considers himself as a veteran moocer, a migrant that comes again and again, and seems to enjoy the way he participates.

May 12, 2012 - - 109
BBC - BBC Internet Blog: BBC Online Briefing Spring 2012: The Participation Choice

Video of Holly's presentation added 9th May 2012: In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're...

May 12, 2012 - - 106
Is the 1% rule dead? The BBC thinks so, but it’s wrong — European technology news

New research from the BBC suggests that one of the web's most common rules of thumb no longer applies -- and that online engagement has risen dramatically in recent years. But is its surprising conclusion based on a dramatic misinterpretation of the rule itself?

Nov 17, 2012 - - 129
Is the 1,9,90 Rule Outdated? - Only Dead Fish

The BBC have just released some interesting research around participation online. The findings (the result of a "large-scale, long-term investigation into how the UK online population participates using digital media today") have raised a little controversy since they seem to...

May 07, 2013 - - 105
Is the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Engagement Dead? [Data]

Is the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Engagement Dead? [Data] There is a rule that has floated around in the social media world for quite some time called the Rule of Participation Inequality or the 90-9-1 Rule.

May 24, 2013 - - 109
Learning to love your lurkers - Richmond Green

My husband is a Twitter lurker. In the three years since he set up his account, he's tweeted a grand total of 13 times. He regularly shows up on my SocialBro dashboard as 'inactive'. If I followed the advice of the many 'how to spring clean your social media account' posts that seem to proliferate around this time of year, I'd ditch him.

May 24, 2013 - - 131
Why You Should Embrace Twitter Lurkers

Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist and the chief social marketing officer at Collective Bias. In 2009, Rubin started using the term ROR, Return on Relationship™, a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database. His book, Return on Relationship, is out in August.

Dec 22, 2014 - - 99
(Re)humanising eLearning

For my 'Spotlight stage' session at Online Educa (15:35 on Thursday 4th) I'm exploring 'Re-humanising eLearning'. This is a theme very much inspired by Catherine Cronin's keynote at ALT-C this year in which she spoke, among other things, about the value of online identity and open practice.

Dec 22, 2014 - - 93
Is the 1,9,90 Rule Outdated? - Only Dead Fish

The BBC have just released some interesting research around participation online. The findings (the result of a "large-scale, long-term investigation into how the UK online population participates using digital media today") have raised a little controversy since they seem to indicate that the long-term model or view of participation online, the 1,9,90 rule, is outmoded.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 114
Who is lurking on your network The various forms of the insider threat

Tom Cross, director of security research, Lancope Recent news events such as the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden disclosures have brought the insider threat into clear focus. It is important to understand that there are various types of insider threats and that each one requires a different approach from an information security standpoint.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 105

Lurking is the number one activity on the Web...and is therefore extremely important to design for. The latest story on lurking at GigaOm (they are covering this topic nicely): Thanks to Quora, now you can't read anonymously Lurking is the number one activity on the Web.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 130
Thanks to Quora, now you can't read anonymously

Quora, which I believe is one of the most over-hyped startups, has introduced Views on Quora, which essentially shares which users have read each post. This is no different than the passive sharing that has been promoted by Facebook or Path.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 105
A Further Blow to Online Lurking: Quora Will Now Publicly Show Who Has Read a Post

Quora today is introducing a feature that shows which of its users have read each Quora post, and how they found it. It's another move by a social Web service to share passive activities, making the simple act of looking at a page on Quora something that other people can easily trace.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 125

They say that only 1 percent of people on the Internet create all the content, while the other 99 percent passively show up to view it. But these days, lurking is becoming much more of an active behavior than it was before, because even just looking at content is something that gets reported back to other people.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 130
Participation Inequality: The 90-9-1 Rule for Social Features

Summary: In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action. All large-scale, multi-user communities and online social networks that rely on users to contribute content or build services share one property: most users don't participate very much.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 98

Summary: The economic divide is a non-issue, but the usability and empowerment divides alienate huge population groups who miss out on the Internet's potential. The "digital divide" refers to the fact that certain parts of the population have substantially better opportunities to benefit from the new economy than other parts of the population.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 121
Elatable : Bradley Horowitz

As Yahoo! has been gobbling up many social media sites over the past year ( Flickr, upcoming, I often get asked about how (or whether) we believe these communities will scale. The question led me to draw the following pyramid on a nearby whiteboard: The levels in the pyramid represent phases of value creation.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 126
What is the 1% rule?

It's an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will "interact" with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.

Feb 24, 2015 - - 118
13 Startling Customer Service Statistics - Parature

In October, with 2015 lurking just around the corner, it's frightening to think just how much customer service and the customer experience are impacting the reputation and bottom lines of brands and organizations. While satisfying customer experiences can have scary-good results (increasing customer acquisition, retention, brand loyalty and advocacy), just a single poor customer experience can lead to the unexpected demise of even the longest customer relationship.

For those who consume, those who act and contribute help to filter the noise. Non-lurkers help lurkers sift through the noise.

That said, getting lurkers to de-cloak and engage is the goal of every marketing dude on the planet.

Just because it’s our goal, does not make it the lurkers goal. Far from it. This is not about us, it’s about each lurker and what they need. Delurking is simply a non scalable task. It’s highly personal. Delurking is very intimate. It’s trust exercise.

Every prospect arrives at your site knowing something different.

They each arrive with their own unique lifetime of perspective.

They come with baggage and we need to be ready, willing and able to accept them.

If you answer their needs, if you pique their interests, then you may just succeed in changing their status.

Wouldn’t that be fun on Facebook to have a relationship status with each brand. “Just Lurking” would be the first and the default option. Liking a brand does not break your lurker’s virginity. Facebook has managed to make that experience such a light touch that it carries no real meaning of value.

How many times do you hear people say “I’m just lurking”. Oddly that’s much more commited than “I’m just looking”, which is in response to a direct approach like “Can I help?”. We’ve all learned to thwart retail sales people. We cringe when we cut them off, but it just becomes a necessity of modern living.

People offer up “I’m lurking” when they crave an invite. It is the statement a lurker makes when in no-man’s land. They way be willing to the join conversation, but they don’t want to work too hard. They are giving you the tiniest thumbs up, the mildest signal of interest. You simply need to wave the white flag and draw them into a conversation.

Lurking is much more than the internet equivalent of “Just Looking”.

In the real world we can decline people’s advances. We can do that online too. We can bypass or decline people’s attempts for us to sign up and capture their oh so valuable email address. We can sidestep the “Talk to an agent” option. We’re adept.

You can ignore them in that moment when they say they are lurking, or make a joke. Have fun. Welcome them.

You can do it wrong. They can quickly withdraw.

Often all it takes is a simple welcome. They’ll take off their jacket and grab a drink and sit down and join the conversation.

All we want is a word, a sound, a signal. As marketers, we want an invitation. We want to know the light is on, there’s someone home and there’s a spark of interest. That’s all. Just a spark.

We use the metaphor conversation, because that’s all we want. A chance to talk.

Lurkers can feel like free loaders, but let’s be honest, we’re holding the party in their name. We’re here to entice them. Often times all the people that are talking are selling something. The real paying customers are often hard to spot. Conversation often takes place between vendors or experts. It’s a funny little dance.

Lurkers are who we’re targeting. It’s just easier to admit that’s our goal. Call a spade a spade. Name the elephant in the room and move on.

What do you feel when you lurk:

  • You are curious
  • You have question
  • You need information
  • You are just not sure
  • You don’t want to spend all day.
  • You don’t want to get trapped.

What do you feel when you are a lurker?

  • Discomfort
  • Ignorance
  • Curiosity
  • Impatience
  • Vulnerable
  • Needy

We always wonder if this is my sort of thing? Are these my kind of people? Am I making a good choice? Is this really what I need.

Often we lurk when we are preference forming. Preferences aren’t born fully formed. They arrive in pieces and we assemble them like an Ikea shelf. When all the pieces fit, we come out and express a preference.

Think about how you came to pick your neighbourhood, your car, your Kid’s school. It’s very hard to tell an honest tale. We get our sequencing wrong in our mind. We cite facts when it’s often emotion that got us looking for facts to back up and support our desires.

We only express when we are willing to share. That’s an important line. Sharing is commitment.

The act of sharing a preference validates us as individuals. Sharing an experience connects us emotionally to the memory. It’s like we make the moment more important. We are wearing a badge.

Sharing an experience is more than a like, sharing an experience makes it part of our story.

Sharing internalizes a concept and embeds it more deeply into our internal preference graph.

Sharing also possibly flushes out more friends who like the same things. We don’t really want to like anything alone. We want our friends to be like us – for right or wrong.

So what is your brand doing to make your story worth internalizing? What makes you worth sharing? Why will your former lurker’s friends want to care about you too?

Brands are the one that need to stop free loading. Loading stuff on consumers for free. Brands are the ones who’s job it is to entice us and make us care. The onus and the effort here is placed firmly on brands.

Brands need to figure out their story. Figure out the layers. Don’t tell the whole story. Find the hooks that entice the lurkers to ask for the next hook. Rinse and repeat.

Metaphorically brands are throwing parties and expecting people to turn up and participate. And there’s too much talk about the brand’s needs (to sell more product) and not enough about the lurker’s needs (to solve problems).

Sure individuals chose to unlurk, but brands create the space that makes that works for us.

  • Brands fill in our knowledge gaps.
  • Brands show us how normal our needs are.
  • Brands prove to us that there are others like us.

What are you doing to let your prospects unlurk and dare to express a preference?

What are you doing to speak to the lurker? What are you doing to get more lurkers to ask that first question. What are you doing to make them want to share.

The lurkers call all the shots: make sure when they’re ready to fire, they aim for you. Today they do all their homework before you even know their name. Be ready for their advances. They don’t have to remain invisible.

Lurkers like it that way. We can embrace this reality or fight it.

I’ve no doubt in my mind which type of company will win. How about you? Do you think about lurkers enough?

Image Credit : vonschnauzer

PS I’ve written more on lurkers. Follow the links on this list.

Headline for Nick Kellet Lurker Posts
8 items   15 followers   4 votes   757 views

Nick Kellet Lurker Posts

Everything I know about lurking that I dared to share.


Feb 19, 2014 - - 103
Participation Funnel: 7 Tips to Draw Lurkers into Crowdsourcing | UGC list creation, content curation & crowdsourcing.

I thought about a venn diagram this week: Lurkers ∩ (intersect) Crowdsourcers. Is there an intersection? If not why not? And how? Let me first introduce the two terms for the sake of clarity. Who are : Someone who observes and consumes but does not contribute.

Nov 14, 2012 - - 107
Lurkers are the silent majority. Ignore them at your peril

Lurkers exist everywhere. Lurking is how we learn. Lurkers is old news. Lurkers are the silent majority. Ignore them at your peril

Mar 24, 2013 - - 135
Snackers Are The New Lurkers

Your existing customer, your modern reader, your prospect: They are skimmers Hurried. Hassled. Commitment averse. They want snacks. Infosnacks. That want fast food for the brain. Don't take 500 works to make a point if 300 will suffice. You should know this. You skim. You guard your time. You like short sentences.

Nov 14, 2012 - - 131
Many Lurkers don't want to be lurkers. They want to be outed!

You need to be ready. You need bait. You need a hook! Blink and you'll miss a lurker. You'll miss the moment. You can entice lurkers to join your conversation.

Nov 14, 2012 - - 109
Listening to the Lurkers, The Silent Objectors. We struck Gold

We got to hear the Lurkers voice. If you follow my blog you know I love Lurkers. We got to talk to the people who didn't Listly and wouldn't sign up. Priceless

Nov 14, 2012 - - 130
The Invisible Third Mindset: Content Creation & Curating Conversations

If you read my blog you'll know I gnaw on the lurker bone from time to time. My friend Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu has a unique perspective on lurkers and I'll probably misrepresent his view. I'm writing my take, not his! Kevin has yet to write a blog post on "Invisible Third Thinking", but this might just change that.

Nov 17, 2012 - - 109
Invisible Advances: Lookers Look & Lurkers Lurk

Internet Culture says 90% of us are lurkers. 70% of buyers have chosen your brand before you know their identity. Are you embracing this new model?

Oct 24, 2014 - - 100
Do You Embrace Infosnackers, Entice Lurkers & Live in Real Time? #LAVACON2014 | UGC list creation, content curation &...

You can't fight the info-snacking culture. You can't fight the fact that today's consumer for the most part wants a self-service experience The 1% rule is the norm. 90% of people consume or lurk in any given situation. Are you experimenting with real time content or are you still thinking/acting like Guttenberg?

Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and


  1. @appellation Thanks for the RT Donna! 🙂 Hope all is well! @NickKellet

    • @SteamFeedcom Sure thing, and it’s looking good on two fronts but not getting too excited just yet 🙂

      • @appellation Haha, oh? 🙂

        • @SteamFeedcom Too soon to give details but hope to be able to share soon

        • @appellation Haha, ok! 😛 Hope it all works out Donna! 🙂

  2. Thanks:) @tamcdonald @Brendan_Charles Here’s some insights on @NickKellet when it comes to lurkers –> … I love it!

  3. @TruthDrivenLife Welcome! #LoveTheLurkers cc @NickKellet @Brendan_Charles

  4. @truthdrivenlife Hopefully we see you, or just know you are there, on @HuffPostLive 😉 cc @nickkellet @Brendan_Charles

  5. @NickKellet Thanks, Nick, for link – I will check it out! #usguyschat

    • @sandyhubbard my favorite Lurker post is the one I did on the “Invisible Third” inspired by input from @mediasres It’s his term #usguyschat


  1. Do the Work. Social Media is Work. | via @nickkellet - [...] No more lurking. [...]

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