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Time to move on from lurking

I’m always curious about folk who are plugged into Social Media and passively watch without visibly engaging or contributing. It’s been referred to as “lurking” and I laid out some thoughts a year ago on a post called “Watch out there’s a Lurker about!”. In hindsight, the post was probably more about lack of community on some LinkedIn Groups… there’s quite an interesting write up on lurking on wikipedia if you care to read more.

Anyway, an exchange with @mervyndinnen on Twitter today has surfaced the question of whether “lurking” is a good or bad activity…  is it socially offensive?

Interestingly, the conversation with Mervyn showed an appreciation of lurkers as playing “an important role as conduits of content”. There’s a related article on this here pointing out an important nuance on lurking…

“just because no one is talking, it doesn’t mean no one is listening”

Yet lurking still has connotations of negativity and to some extent doesn’t seem to do justice to those who watch, observe and, in ways we may not see, pass on knowledge & content.

Let’s leave lurking to those who truly lie in wait, sneak and generally create mistrust.

For those good folk who choose to exist unobserved or unsuspected and distribute content, why don’t we appreciatively call them fans, spectators, curators or even browsers?

They are the informal pipeline distributing content by word of mouth in networks and within organisations. I think they deserve better than the negatives connotations of lurking and it’s etymological roots.

How do you see your valued, hidden supporters?

About David Goddin

Passionate about People, Performance & Potential. Amongst many other things David Goddin is a consultant, coach, facilitator & mentor with extensive experience of transforming business performance and organisational effectiveness as a Senior Executive in large organisations. As the founder and Managing Director of Change Continuum, David now works with companies and business professionals who want to increase performance, accelerate change & unleash potential.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “Time to move on from lurking

  1. Interesting and timely! I met someone today who wants to get onto social media to find out what it is, how it works etc. but she’s very nervous about using it – earlier this year she suffered a phishing scam (telephone). And she’s at the stage in her career where she’s winding down, so her objective is to learn, to see what kids in her profession are doing.

    I advised her to lurk but please think of her as a learner and spectator.

    Like

    Posted by Dan_atSurveylab | December 6, 2012, 8:03 PM
    • Thanks for sharing that story Dan – timely! To watch & learn, spectate, observe would all seem good advice. Is she a lurker? Doesn’t sound like it to me… I wonder if assuming a role of “lurker” would be more or less encouraging & useful than say assuming a role of “observer”?

      Like

      Posted by David Goddin | December 7, 2012, 6:54 AM
      • I did use the word “lurk” when I suggested to Annie how to explore twitter. She didn’t seem to think this was negative but I agree, observer is much more encouraging.

        I pointed her to a friend in common’s article http://mac.publicinvolvement.org.uk/2006-10-Oct/LoveaLurker.php that relayed (way back in 2006) “In most online communities, 90% of all users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little and 1% of users account for all the action”

        I suspect it’s a little more complicated now with bots, sleeping/inactive followers, automated follow-backs, lurkers and observers, the active and the loud. Or something like that!

        Like

        Posted by Dan_atSurveylab | December 7, 2012, 9:46 AM
        • Interesting article Dan and I’d heard of the 90/9/1 split. The key aspect I’m starting to unpick here and I think this reinforces is contribution. Just because you don’t visibly contribute in the place we post or discuss doesn’t mean that those in the 90% are not contributing – we just don’t easily see their contribution.

          Fundamentally if we move away from the language of “lurker” and talk about say valued observer or spectator perhaps we’d encourage the so called 90% to behave in that way!

          Like

          Posted by David Goddin | December 7, 2012, 10:33 AM
      • I did use the word “lurk” when I suggested to Annie how to explore twitter. She didn’t seem to think this was negative but I agree, observer is much more encouraging.

        I pointed her to a friend in common’s article http://mac.publicinvolvement.org.uk/2006-10-Oct/LoveaLurker.php that relayed (way back in 2006) “In most online communities, 90% of all users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little and 1% of users account for all the action”

        I suspect it’s a little more complicated now with bots, sleeping/inactive followers, automated follow-backs, lurkers and observers, the active and the loud. Or something like that!

        Like

        Posted by Dan | December 7, 2012, 9:47 AM

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