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Turning online ‘lurkers’ into customers

Social media can annoyingly sometimes feel like a one-way conversation. KARYN GREENSTREET discusses how to encourage commentary from customers in order to boost engagement and ultimately sales.

How many of you have ‘friends’ who scroll through your social media posts but never actually contribute to the conversations?

This may be acceptable – albeit a little frustrating – in a personal setting but it’s anything but ideal in a business situation, especially when retailers are using social media to ask for consumer opinions to help steer the direction of
a product purchase.

Who are these silent friends and followers and how can businesses get them talking?

When my business made the leap to the internet in the mid-1990s, we noticed that every time there was one person who was interacting in our message forum there were another 10 who were logged on, reading the message threads but never interacting.

Back then, we called them ‘lurkers’ – people who watch but don’t participate in discussions.

Fast-forward almost 30 years and we find that the lurker ratio of 10:1 still exists today in online message forums, video classes, webinars and any other place where groups congregate.

In some places, especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media apps, the lurker ratio is closer to 100:1 – for every person who participates, there are 100 people just reading and absorbing the conversation.

There are all kinds of reasons why people don’t comment on platforms like Facebook – perhaps they’re busy; perhaps they have nothing to add; perhaps they’re not comfortable with public commentary.

Most users are also accessing the internet through mobile devices, which are not conducive to typing long, thoughtful responses.

I love when people leave comments on my blog and when they interact in my classes. Conversation brings value and I love to hear people’s feelings and experiences as well as share knowledge and answer questions.

For businesses, the aim of online marketing is to build connections that can be used as a
start point for establishing relationships with existing and potential customers.

Being aware of the lurker ratio when using social media and other online platforms for marketing will help retailers gauge the quality of connections and relationships, all with an end goal of improving sales.

Here are some quick tips for boosting your online conversations’ sales power.

Be visible

Too many small businesses hide behind their content – they post links to articles on Facebook but they never share any of their own story.

I don’t mean clickbait stories like “I used to live in a box but now I live in a mansion”; I mean everyday stories about the business and its staff.

What did the team do today? Did a staff meeting or a group-building exercise just take place? Give audiences a window into the ‘personal’ side of the business.

Comment on other people’s posts

It’s a two-way street. If all a business does is post articles and thoughts, never responding to someone else’s blog posts and Facebook posts, then why should anyone communicate with it?

While it can be difficult for retailers to engage in conversations with consumers, there’s nothing wrong with contributing to other industry group forums.

This helps to build credibility amongst peers and also provides an opportunity to learn from others. Who knows? Retailers may then receive comments from industry stakeholders on their own content.

Ask and you shall receive
Too many small businesses hide behind their content – they post links to articles on Facebook but they never share any of their own story.

Remember to ask questions. Instead of simply saying, “Look at this new pearl necklace that landed in store,’ consider phrasing it as, “What do you think of this new pearl necklace that landed in store?” This invites responses and comments.

Engagement isn’t always vocal

In addition to making comments, engagement can involve liking, sharing and clicking. If using a blog, be sure to add links in blog posts to other related posts. Someone reading a blog post and then clicking on a link is showing engagement too.

Remember to include ‘sharing’ buttons on blogs so readers can engage by sharing content with others. On social media, actively encourage others to share posts by including a ‘please share’ message.

Respond back

This may seem obvious but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. When someone comments upon a blog post or social media post, please acknowledge it by providing a prompt response. Those engaging in conversation need to know they have been heard.

Retailers who embrace this advice should be well on their way to improving their lurker ratio and consumer engagement; however, if the business’ lurker ratio is still 100:1, take heart as it still means that there are people reading what has been written.



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Karyn Greenstreet

Contributor • The Success Alliance

Karyn Greenstreet is president of The Success Alliance, specialists in helping to mentor and nurture business mastermind groups. Visit:


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