You probably have seen them before, driving engagement but not adding any visible contribution to your network; The Lurkers. Some might think Lurkers are useless to your Collaboration Tools like SharePoint and Yammer. In this blog post I will explain how Lurkers actually add value to your organization!

In online communities, most members just view and consume information. But what is a “Lurker” and how do you become one? According to the Longman Dictionary, you are lurking when ‘you read what other people are writing to each other, but you do not write any messages yourself’. At Tryane, we define a lurker as a member who has not shown any contribution but did visit the network. Among these members one can make a distinction between active and inactive Lurkers. The difference is that an active Lurker will use the information he has acquired in the community for other purposes outside of the online community. These people are the ones who add value to your organization.

The greatest value of (active) Lurkers can be found externally to your ESN (Enterprise Social Network).

  • Although they do not share their information online, they have a strong influence in the offline environment. Active Lurkers will share the knowledge they gathered online with their colleagues using other communication channels like emails, meetings, or even during socializing time (lunch, coffee break).
  • Remember that Lurkers do acquire a lot of knowledge from the online community. Consequently they will use this information in their daily working activities which can eventually save time and enable better decision-making. Here you can think of a document or link that is shared about competitors for example, which may help the marketing department in creating a positioning strategy.
  • As mentioned in a blog post by the Yammer team on the Office blog, ‘Today’s lurker is tomorrow’s poster.’ A new employee that just started using Yammer will probably not be active on Yammer in their first month. First they will get acquainted with the network and the other employees before they start posting, linking and sharing.  Other reasons that might withhold lurkers from becoming more active include the culture, personality, time constraints and more. 
  • Your activities are dependent on why you use the network. If you use the ‘competitor’ group to retrieve information on the competitor’s products, there is no need to post a message right. While you might show activities when you use Yammer to ask a question in this group, for example ‘is competitor X active in the Chinese market?’ Probably lurking will not give you the answer if the question is not asked. Therefore it is good to be Lurker not only because of the three preceding point, but also to consume information!

Although you cannot directly ‘see’ the added value of Lurkers in your community by a like, comment or share, it does not mean that they don’t add value. The contrary is true, they do add value. Not only do they use the knowledge they acquired in their own work, they share it among their colleagues and surroundings in the offline network, and keep the content in the community relevant.