“Optimise for your lurkers”: Engagement lessons learned by a self confessed lurker

This morning I saw a tweet from speaker at this week’s CMX Summit, Ben Leong that got me thinking. In the tweet he was commenting on something he heard at the summit.

“I like that approach: Optimise for your lurkers, instead of trying to force them all to become more active. Design to help them make their best possible contribution given the time, talent and motivation they have today.”

The reason this tweet stood out in my feed, as I scrolled through hundreds of messages on my timeline, was the use of the word ‘lurker.'

I am proud to report that lurker just happens to be a term of endearment used to describe me in one of my personal online group chats.

It made me chuckle as I reflected on the quote in relation to the group chat. In fact, I took a screenshot of the tweet and sent it to the group with a thank you for optimising content for their lurker!

Fast forward a little later to my morning commute and I pondered the concept a little more from a corporate communications perspective. How do we engage lurkers in our internal and external communication?

Here are three things I appreciate as a lurker that can apply to engaging lurkers in a work setting:

1. There is no pressure from the group for regular lurker participation

Everyone in my personal group chat knows I’m lurking and, while they no doubt craft their messages in the knowledge that I will be reading every single one of them, there is minimal to no expectation to regularly participate.

This is a good thing to remember when you are posting online or sending out communications to your stakeholders. Always remember that even though a lurker may not be directly engaging in the conversation, they are likely to be paying attention to everything you say and do.

As communicators we are repeatedly told that successful engagement is a conversation, not just a broadcast. But, when it comes to lurkers, perhaps it is more about remembering to take them into account in your stakeholder mapping when you design communications rather than trying to lure them into public conversation?

2. It’s ok to publicly acknowledge a lurker’s presence through your content

Following on from the above about not overthinking how to lure a lurker into public comment, there are subtle ways in which you can include lurkers in your content strategy.

For example, in mental health organisations, it is common practice to plan for social media posts to speak directly to vulnerable people, even though you may have minimal direct or public conversation in that particular forum with people who are struggling.

Sometimes it is about knowing what to communicate and when so a lurker can ‘see themselves’ in your communication without feeling as though their distance from public communication has been compromised.

In my group chat scenario it may be as simple as someone posting an article or offer of tickets to something they know I would be interested in.

3. Members of the group engage the lurker in side chats when it really matters

It’s not uncommon for me to be lurking in the group chat while simultaneously having a side chat with a member of the group.

When planning your communications, think about when you need to have the stakeholder engagement version of the lurker side chat.

For example, if you are managing a media launch, just sending out a media alert and hoping for the best is not going to get results. Yes, the lurkers you hope to reach are probably on your mailing list, but, if you need to them to take action, you will need to initiate a side chat. How can you personalise a pitch for that specific individual or group? When is the right time for that side chat? Before or after the wider communication?

Thanks for listening, I’m going back to lurking now.

Hey group chat, I’m watching you.

© 2018 Borrowdale Communications
Proudly created with



T: +61 (0) 406 149 099

Follow me

  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • Twitter Clean