Participation Funnel: 7 Tips to Draw Lurkers into Crowdsourcing

I thought about a venn diagram this week: Lurkers ∩ (intersect) Crowdsourcers. Is there an intersection? If not why not? And how?

Let me first introduce the two terms for the sake of clarity.

Who are lurkers? :  Someone who observes and consumes but does not contribute. It used to carry quite a negative connotation, but in my mind at least it’s morphed into quite an affectionate term. I frequently see people say “I’m just lurking”. People have self-adopted the term in a playful way.

Lurking is the online proxy for “I’m Just Looking”. Or rather “I’m just serving myself”.

Google it. Hoover up.  Pop culture and the law of simple demand we coalesce around noun-verbs. Verbing is the official term.

The internet rule of 1:9:90 highlights that lurkers are the majority. The term Silent Majority is sometimes used, but that can’t be turned into a catchy verb – Lurkers Lurk.

I need to be 100% up front. I love lurkers. We all lurk. It would be impossible not to. We don’t have the time, energy, passion or conviction to be a contributor for every moment of our lives.

That’s what preserves participation as a special act.

It’s my belief Lurkers hold the key to the ROI of social. I invest time in social because of lurkers. They may not actively engage, but they are listening and taking action.

Lurkers consume your content. Lurkers are assessing your proposition purely on a self-serve basis. That is the new norm, so if you aren’t embracing lurkers you are missing out.

Who are crowdsourcers?: Someone looking to get help with their crowdsourcing project. Someone who is in need of help, someone who is looking for social contributions or funding.

Crowdsourcing in my experience is wildly misunderstood and therefore under-utilized. Few people have really run multiple large scale crowdsourcing initiatives to fully experience and master the art. It really is an art.

Crowdsourcers need crowds.

It may be counter intuitive to think that crowdsourcers need lurkers, but like it or not they exist and they account for 90% of the web and the world in any given moment or niche.

I love Venn Diagrams. Any chance to use a Union or an Intersect brings a smile to my face and I got thinking about Lurkers and how people needing help via crowdsourcing need to reach out and entice more people to participate. They need lurkers, the question remains – is there any overlap?


Lurkers ∩ Crowdsourcers

At first sight you might not think there is an intersection, but that’s what got me thinking.

What motivates Lurkers?

Headline for What motivates Lurkers?
Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
Listly Curator Listly Curator
Listly Listly
3 items   2 followers   1 votes   1.01k views

What motivates Lurkers?


Seeing others showing interest

What motivates Lurkers? | Seeing others showing interest

Getting curious and wanting to know more

What motivates Lurkers? | Getting curious and wanting to know more

Feeling the need to belong and participate

Feb 18, 2014
What motivates Lurkers? | Feeling the need to belong and participate

What helps Crowdsourcers succeed?

Headline for What helps Crowdsourcing succeed?
4 items   1 followers   0 votes   1k views

What helps Crowdsourcing succeed?


Show the Reward - WIFIM for participants

Feb 18, 2014
What helps Crowdsourcing succeed? | Show the Reward - WIFIM for participants

Show what’s in it for people to participate (why should they care)


Be Genuinely in Need

Feb 18, 2014
What helps Crowdsourcing succeed? | Be Genuinely in Need

Repeat their request for help with their audience (people need to believe in the need is genuine)


Having Early Wins

Feb 18, 2014
What helps Crowdsourcing succeed? | Having Early Wins

Be seen to be succeeding and building support (people love to back a winner)


Showcase Your Community & Engage

Feb 18, 2014
What helps Crowdsourcing succeed? | Showcase Your Community & Engage

Conduct an open dialog with their supporters to let other see (crowdsourcing is essentially community building)

Emotionally stimulating a lurker makes it hard for them remain on the sidelines. Caring and Lurking don’t make a good Venn Diagram. Shining a light on and publicly  engaging with your existing contributors/ participants makes it easy for lurkers to know you exist and get curious. It’s all about being seen to be doing the right thing. The question is can you entice them to want to belong to the larger group.

lurkers - participation funnel

Both these actions grow the sphere of passion for lurkers and the sphere of influence for crowdsourcers. The better this is done the stronger the intersect. These two worlds collide.

As lurkers get more passionate and curious they become more willing to consume content and to participate. Their sphere of interest grows. Their energy rises and their ability to remain invisible diminishes.

I got to thinking about 1:9:90 and I concluded its the wrong way round. 90:9:1 is more reflective of what I call the participation funnel. We move from left to right depending on our affinity with the topic of the content and how emotionally connected we feel with the people already involved in the activity.

1-9-90 inverted lurkers,commenters/curators & creators - participation funnel

As crowdsourcers engage in conversation and visibly muster support and are seen to be asking and needing help, others become more willing to throw their hat into the ring. Crowdsourcing is simply about throwing a great party – one that lurker’s can’t resist.

Tom Sawyer and whitewashing the fence always springs to mind in the context of crowdsourcing.


What’s fun and engaging to people is all a matter of perception, attitude and persistence.

People don’t want to lurk when they discover they care. Your job is to fulfill this longing. You can’t work miracles, people need to have a natural affinity, but you can impact their decision if they are on the fence. You can cultivate belonging and curiosity.

Lurking or not is simply a matter of personal preference and a scale of how much you care.

I’ve written a lot on lurkers. Here’s my list of earlier posts

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.