social media lurkers

How Social Media Lurkers Can Boost Your Business

Tracking the effectiveness of social media has caused many a marketer to shake his or her head in frustration. How can we PROVE it’s effective so that clients will see the value?

While much has been written about tracking its value, I’m going to make another argument – maybe the most significant benefit of social media comes from the views we CAN’T track. I refer to these as “lurker” views. Lurkers – you know, the people who see and read your content – they just don’t like it, comment on it or share it.

While that can be frustrating, its benefit still needs to be taken into account. Why? Because the lurkers may be the ones hiring you or buying your products or services.

Why should we care about social media lurkers?

“Lurker numbers are huge,” says Arik Hanson, principal, ACH Communications. “Lurkers represent the most sizable, and potentially profitable, segment of our social audiences.”

Research shows that while lurkers make up more than half of a company’s social media audience, they account for only 5% of the data captured by social media analytics.

This may mean that looking at social media analytics alone can be limiting.

“There are powerful business opportunities in social media stalkers,” says Mark Schaefer, author of Marketing Rebellion. He refers to this as the “thunderous value of zero engagement.”

“Sometimes I find that ‘lurker views’ end up being the most valuable,” said Dennis Shiao, marketing consultant.

If that’s true, then why do many marketers measure the effectiveness of social media based on engagement? Schaefer says that while there’s no reliable research tying social media engagement to tangible financial benefits, “We sort of ‘feel’ it makes a difference — more engagement is better.” But is it?

Nielsen published an often-cited 90-9-1 rule of engagement,” Schaefer says. “It said you can expect a community or network to have 90 percent of its members lurking/reading, 9 percent contributing and 1 percent creating. Other research shows that an established and well-managed community can break down into 50 percent lurkers, 23 percent contributors, and 27 percent creators.”

If only a small percentage of your audience is engaging with your brand, is that the best way to measure the effectiveness of your social media?

“Having an effective social media presence is critically important to your business even if you have no engagement whatsoever,” Schaefer concludes.

“Remember that lurkers provide lots of value just by showing up and consuming your social media and content marketing,” says Heidi Cohen, marketer, author and speaker.

How can social media lurkers impact your business?

Now that we understand how valuable social media lurkers can be, let me give you some real-world examples of how they can boost your bottom line.

I have a client in the manufacturing industry who asked me to begin managing social media for them just over a year ago. While we can see the number of followers has increased and of course interaction is up, given that they were posting inconsistently prior to that, my client says he can’t necessarily track the value of it – yet he KNOWS it’s working for them.

How does he know? Because when he’s talking to the executive he reports to, that person mentions that he sees the posts. And seeing them, even though he’s not interacting with them in any way, helps him understand that the company is doing things. It has momentum. The posts help this particular company – out of the many companies the parent company owns – stand out. And that’s valuable, because the more it can stay top of mind for the parent company, the more successful it will be.

Then there’s my business. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run into a colleague at an event or have been chatting with someone online, and they’ll say something like this. “Oh, I see your content everywhere.”

Sometimes, it goes like this: “I follow you on Twitter and read your articles all the time – could you do some writing for us?”

Or: “I see your LinkedIn posts, and we could really use some help with our PR – can we talk?”

Now, I know they haven’t “liked” my content or commented on it – but they ARE noticing it and reading it. And in some cases, hiring me to work on projects.

One company I worked with contacted me based on my Twitter feed – “Your Twitter feed is top-notch – would you be able to help us with ours?”

Another time I was tweeting about a conference and the organizer saw it, noticed that I do PR and immediately got in touch about having me help with public relations and media outreach for next year’s conference.

There’s no doubt my social media presence leads to opportunities for me. It happens frequently.

Is there a way to track lurker views?

We know they’re valuable – but is there any way we can track lurker views? Keep a record of the anecdotal information. Every time someone mentions they saw one of your posts, write it down. Keep track of which platform, what they remember seeing and what action they took, if any. Over time, you may be able to track the value of these lurkers.

“They’re tough to quantify, and it’s next to impossible to explain to CMOs and SVPs the long-term business impact these lurkers can have,” Hanson says.

“But, just because these lurkers aren’t engaging, doesn’t mean they’re not buying.”

Don’t discount this silent audience. Remember to embrace your lurkers.

How can I help you with your social media today?

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3 thoughts on “How Social Media Lurkers Can Boost Your Business”

  1. Lurkers can be very valuable even if the will never become a customer. If they consistently consume your content they’ll understand your value, and they’ll refer you when they hear of a problem where you can help.

    A larger audience means more word of mouth.

  2. Michele–
    Thank you for including me in your article!

    Lurkers make up most of your audience, namely 90%. Therefore it’s up to you as the marketer to provide Calls-to-Action and off-ramps such as landing pages to encourage them to take the next step in the process.

    Of course, you get bonus points for measuring results!

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

  3. Michele–The 90% of your social media audience who lurk support your business by showing up and consuming your content. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

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