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Last week, we talked about how to retain and "activate" new members after they make their first post.

And then @neil astutely asked....but what if you have members who are afraid to post? How do you get new (or even long-term) members to come into the sunlight and share?

First, we should all agree that there is value in members who read, but don't feel the urge to write or upload their own content. These can be happy customers, shy readers, or invisible fans who are raving about your community or your business to others, behind the scenes.

No need to call them "lurkers;" that sounds scary.

Those silent members could have amazing expertise locked inside them. They probably have life experience, education, or insights that would benefit everyone.

How to draw them out?

Ideas for Prompting Readers to Become Participants

Every community is different, so let's sort our ideas by what could potentially be holding the member back from participating.

Technology

  • Are there too many ways to post? If you've got several options available, consider narrowing it down so it's not overwhelming.
  • Do you have members who are used to other technology, like listservs? Enable "post by email" and allow them to simply post as if they're composing an email. That might remove all friction for them.
  • Make sure your welcome email and subsequent onboarding emails mention the value of making an initial contribution. Tell members that their first post will be welcomed and appreciated by the other members.
  • Consider rewarding members who create a lot of posts, or create content that becomes popular. Remember you can set up automation rules to give them a special title, auto-post a thank you, or notify you so that you can manually follow up in person!

Shyness/Fear of Looking Dumb

  • Do you have space for less serious conversation? Regardless of your community's area of focus, you might want to create a place for harmless engagement. It offers a less intimidating entry point.
  • Make your community a "safe space," which is reflected in how you moderate/screen content, how you present your guidelines, how you yourself engage with the members, and the types of content you highlight. Do you present your community like the Harvard Business Review, or like a corner coffee shop?
  • Use the "mention" feature to draw out community members who you know have relevant experience on a certain topic (see what I did in my own second paragraph here). Sometimes all the member needs is a signal from the Admin that they're valuable.

No Time

  • Provide an entry point that's not demanding, like a survey. It's much easier to vote on something (remember multiple-choice exams in school?) than it is to write an essay.
  • Ask a prompting question and elicit replies/answers in the forums. Take a look at your most popular content (check out your reports) and use that as the basis for the question, so you already know it's of interest to your community. It's a smaller "ask" to reply to something than to write your own new topic.
  • Highlight the use of reactions, first by incentivizing them in your activity points formula (maybe bump up their point value), second by telling community members about how they can be used, and third by using them yourself.  Reactions are relatively new to Crowdstack, so if your community pre-dates them, you may need to spread the word a bit!

Conclusion

I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of creative ideas. Please share your own thoughts below in the comments! How can we help each other get members to become more visible in our communities?

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Thanks Rosemary for the tips. 

I especially like the Survey idea. Once upon a time, we used them to actually "survey" members about issues/ideas, but now I see that it's also a good idea to provide a point of easy-engagement.  Update: We just posted a single survey question and got over a hundred engagements in the first two days  

One thing we've tried to do is assign "monitoring and response" duties to various members of our admin/moderator group so that every post gets responded to. These folks also help "seed" conversations using the theory that some people don't want to be the first to respond.

Thinking outside the box about what's in the box...

Been thinking about some sort of "Join the Conversation" pop-up (and pop out) prompt that nudges people to respond when they have LINGERED over a topic. Since a lot of javascript add-ons don't play well with Stack, it would be nice if Stack built-in something like that which visually invited people to respond.  

 

Maybe turn the "reaction" icon into a very SUBTLE color-changing gif -- which activates only when the reply/respond section comes into view.  A subtle contextual "glimmer" so to speak (that didn't repeat forever like the one below does).

rainbow-glimmerrainbow2

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