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Major lurking problem



3:31 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The newer of the two boards that I run has been operating since May. About 160 members have signed up - so I assume there is an interest in the topic. Of those, about five have made between one and three posts - it seems none of these members are around very much any more.

I have one very active member who posts a couple of times a week and starts his own threads. I am trying to lead by example, so I also start a new thread every one or two days, contribute to my member's thread, raise issues, answer his questions etc.

The other 153 members? Squat.
Not a peep.

I'm generally of the opinion that people who want to lurk and not post should be allowed to do just that, but this is ridiculous.

I've even thought about offering gmail invites (when I next get given some) to members who make the best future contributions.

This is absurd. Why would as many as 150 people go to the trouble of registering and then never post?


3:39 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member trillianjedi is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Why would as many as 150 people go to the trouble of registering and then never post?

"There's nowt as strange as folk".

In my opinion you're doing everything right. Creating new threads regularly and making sure that other peoples are answered, commented on etc.

Other than that it's about useability and cosmetics. If you're using a particularly "busy" forum (I mean cosmetically), try cutting out a lot of the extraneous stuff and keep it nice and simple.

Here's a tip that worked for me once (surprising really):-

Try changing the "reply" button graphic to something that really stands out.

Experiment with the cosmetics a little bit, and continue to do what you're doing.

When you create your own threads, be manipulative in your writing - you want to word what you say to deliberately raise further questions and provoke response.



3:42 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

new members dont like a forum thats empty.

If you have a large number of forums with < 10 topics in, try consolidating some of the forum sections until things begin to pick up. This makes your forum seem less "dead".


3:45 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Doesn't sound unusual to me. One forum that I frequent has 12,000 paid members signed up (and many other people that visit as guests). There are probably 100 active posters.


4:07 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

hi ronin,
Can you give us some other statistics? How many page views do you get? How many posts are there? Are people viewing the posts that are there? Are your members coming back and logging in? Do you have to log in to view posts or just to reply?

It's a fickle world, and numbers mean a lot. Sometimes I'll find a forum that I think may be interesting, see that there are only 20 posts and just leave to find another one. It's also very rare that I set out to look for a forum. I find them by doing a search, finding content that I like, and returning if I have further interest. Usually I won't start to type in the URL directly or bookmark a site until I've stumbled on the site a few times for the answer to my questions or if the site really grabs my attention. If you don't have a lot of unique content, you're not going to get many return visitors.

I have no clue why they are signing up to just not post. Maybe you're doing a great job on presentation and people initially feel that your site is something they want to be a part of, so they sign up. Then they realize you only have 7 posters. Only having two names show up next to the posts is not a good sign. Try creating a bunch of fake posters and get the ball rolling. I wonder if Brett used any aliases. Is there a Brett Schmatke profile?


2:25 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

A useful thread: Pulling Forum Lurkers out of Hiding [webmasterworld.com].


11:54 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

That's a great thread, rogerd!

And a roll call thread is an excellent idea. I think I'll try that to start with.


11:01 am on Oct 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have a similar problem, while my forum is pretty active there are still around 70% of members that never post, I mean why register? I have set it to read all so you don't need to register to read it.... strange folk.


4:24 pm on Oct 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Maybe your lurkers are PMing or e-mailing members who post when they need info? Seems unlikely, though.

What about searching? Quite a few forums require registration to search and that would certainly explain a lot of non-posting registered members.

There must be some reason for the relatively high percentage of non-posting members - personally, I'd never go to the trouble of registering at a forum and providing an email address unless there was some benefit to registration, i.e., some content or functionality that required membership to access.


1:18 am on Oct 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

One thing that might be worth a look is what information appears on the forum profiles of lurkers, and how that is indexed in search engines. Are any of your members signing up principally so they can mention their own websites?

That said, your ratio of active posters doesn't seem all that unusual. Some of those people will have forgotten entirely that your website exists. A few others will have forgotten their login details but can't be bothered to email you to ask.


7:16 am on Oct 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I know how to recognise the spammers now and do check every knew member profile for website .... the spammy ones get deleted!

It does defy logic though as to why they bother registering if they're never going to post. I do try to add daily info and questions but it seems theres a 15% hardcore of readers that check daily and respond, and from the rest .... jack-all.


10:42 am on Oct 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Are the non-posting members returning to the site to read, or do they just vanish shortly after registering?


6:45 pm on Oct 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I run a neighborhood forum. I have 70 members of which only 9 post regularly. About 41 of those members have never posted. Everyone has logged on within the last 45 days, but we are a new forum too. I launched it on August 22.

Since this is a local neighborhood forum, I really can't use the technique of creating fake accounts to boost my post count. Luckily I really don't have to since the 9 of us are providing the forum fresh content.

One of the big problems I've run into is the forum members sending me PMs asking me about neighborhood issues or suggesting I post something. I always kindly ask them to post their own question or news and it usually works. I have also added text to my sig file suggesting they do just that, but we all know people don't read. :)

Another technique that has produced reasonable results is doing a PM to all pointing them to a hot post or something. That usually brings everyone in although they aren't necessarily posting. I'm hesitant to do this too much as I don't want to appear that I'm spamming my neighbors.

I also try to PM my neighbors when I see them online, asking if everything is going okay, if they are going to attend an upcoming neighborhood event, etc.

I also agree about keeping the forum clean and simple. Since I have a limited member base, I can't count on this group to be computer savvy. I'm always available to answer questions and try to give the impression that there is no dumb question or make them feel like they asked a very smart and technical question.

My husband himself is generally a forum lurker. He's a computer guy so it's not that he doesn't know how to navigate forums. He generally claims he just doesn't like to be social in this manner. Also, he's run across sig files advises users to not send PMs and always search the forum before posting. Perhaps good advice, but I think that my scare off a poster.

So, overall I'm just trying to be patient and hope that I can draw in my neighbors one by one by making them comfortable and having the forum full of things that are of interest to them.


8:08 am on Oct 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think a lot of them do come back to read as the forum is now more popular than the site. It is just strange that out of 500 members only 30 odd post regularly.

I don't really want to add anymore un-necessary categories and I do have a suggestions area (that gets largely ignored). Its a vicious circle, if there was more content then maybe more people would post but there already are a lot of members that could provide content but don't. Its been going for 18 months and only 7 people have made over 50 posts ... and one of them is me, 160 members have never posted and 120 have only made one!

Could do a lot better, I'm just not too sure in what direction to steer it.

Oh by the way Ronin, sorry for hijacking your thread ;-)


10:23 am on Oct 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Not to worry!

I wonder if there are some statistics out there which show what percentage of signed up forum members you can reasonably expect to become a) thread starters, b) regular posters and c) occasional posters. I suppose it would depend highly on the topic of the board.

I have set up an "Introduce yourself...!" thread on my forum and PMd everyone to invite them to come and add themselves. It's been two days so far and nothing.

My next tactic will be to invite some of the former posters individually to add themselves to that thread. That might get the ball rolling.

I wonder if part of the problem is that the board topic is industry sector based. People want to read information, but don't feel they know enough to make any comments themselves. But even so...


10:31 am on Oct 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

At the risk of not being taken seriously ..What you need might also be to read the thread here on forum spamming etc ..Cos inspite of what you would think ..a little self trolling of your own forums ..might stir some activity ..After if it gets outta hand you can always "ban" etc certain ..but it can give a sense of community to the lurkers ..enough to get them out ...

I remember some long threads here ..with lots of hitherto lurkers just answering provocative posts ...

Yeah .I know it can be playing with matches ..but if you want to warm up your fora a little...

just a thought ..


2:23 pm on Oct 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Deliberately provocative posts can bring lurkers out of hiding. If you advance an outrageous premise, say, "The Internet will be dead by 2008, here are 15 reasons why" you'll get your regulars piling in to refute the post and, more importantly, perhaps draw in some stirred-up first-timers. Just pick a theme relevant to your topic, and post under an different nick so your members don't think you have gone crazy. Or, if you want to do it under your own name, express it in terms of what you heard someone else say; perhaps you can find a controversial article to quote.


5:57 am on Oct 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Would it be a good idea to email everyone who has made one post or less (over 50% of the members) to encourage their input and state that their account may get deleted due to inactivity?

I dont want to be so harsh or delete members but I need to pick this board up a little.


10:38 am on Oct 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Nice idea, buksida, but I don't think it would work. I imagine that if people aren't posting through lack of inspiration, telling them their account is going to get deleted is not going to get their creative synapses firing.

I like the idea of a provocative post to get people to come out of the woodwork.

I'm astonished that after initiating the introduction thread and sending out a PM to the members a few days ago, there is still no activity on the forum.

Two more new members have signed up in that time, though.


11:02 am on Oct 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

would it help any if I came over and "trolled" it for you ronin ...?


7:20 am on Nov 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As a quick follow up I did email all the members that have joined in the last 4 months that have made one post or less. It seemed to work in bringing some of the lurkers out, the forum is a little busier now.


5:47 pm on Nov 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

That's good to know, buksida - even busy forums have large numbers of non-posters, and perhaps we could improve our forums by following your example. An email like that would also disclose a problem you weren't aware of, like, "I tried to post but it said I wasn't authorized". Usually, someone with a problem will contact you right away, but if it's a problem that affects only a small portion of the user base you might not find out unless you ask.


2:31 pm on Nov 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Sometimes posts aren't 100% clear, especially first ones, and when there is a language issue. Posting a response that clarifies it can help elicit further responses.


11:09 pm on Nov 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For what it's worth....

1) Send out a newsletter. You'd be amazed at how many members forget about that site they stumbled across last week. A newsletter will remind them. (I've actually had members tell me this)

2) And this isn't for everyone... depends on the type of site/community... run a contest. I ran a few contests where people garnered points by participating in the site. It worked like a champ! (If anyone wants any details on this, and what I learned over the course of a few contests feel free to PM)


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