June 15, 2015

The Rise of the Social Media Lurker.


It’s not the people you can see on your page that will support you the most, it’s the ones you can’t.

While planning a charity world record attempt recently, I spoke to a friend who works in market research about how best to bring attention to the unpopular subject of suicide. Unlike depression, which was once taboo and is now thankfully getting lots of great airplay, the subject of suicide is still very confronting and hard for many to talk about.

So she let me in on a huge secret: the people liking and commenting on social media are a tiny percentage of the people who actually care. There are legions of people in the shadows, who are truly interested and invested. They are just mostly invisible online.

According to Vision Critical, there are three types of people who use social media. The standard marketing terms for them are Enthusiasts (me!), Dabblers and Lurkers.

1. Enthusiasts – 29 Percent.

These are the people we see on social media every day, posting five times per week or more and who are actively connecting with the output of others. I definitely fall into this category—if I like something, I “like” it. Enthusiasts post up to 85% of all social media content, but make up only a tiny 29% of any audience.

I like to think these are the people first on the dance floor at parties and jumping into pools with clothes on.

2. Dabblers – 19 Percent.

Dabblers are people who are present and like to see what’s happening, post two to four times per week and may or may not engage further, even if they adore something. Making ten percent of total updates, dabblers make up 19 percent of an average audience.

In party terms, they’d be socializing and chatting but not making a scene and possibly leave quietly without saying goodbye.

3. Lurkers – 52 Percent.

Lurkers are fascinating and increasing en masse. Posting once per week or less and contributing only five percent of all social media posts, Lurkers make up a whopping 52 percent of any total audience. That means over half of your audience will never, ever comment or like something on your pages—even if they adore it.

At a party, I imagine they are probably speaking with people they know and having a lovely time meeting new ones, whilst watching all that goes on with interest. My sense is that these are the more introverted majority, who are no less supportive but just like their space.


While I feel the term “lurker” is a disservice (doesn’t it bring up images of creepy Peeping Toms?) it does help me understand why loads of people tell me they have been cheering me on silently from the sidelines, and I had no idea. It also explains why when I was once leaving a company, a kind colleague told me he had prayed for me every day when I was ill years earlier. This lovely man was definitely a lurker.

So what does that mean for all of us humans, searching for a sense of belonging and reaching out to audiences we can’t see?

It means social media analytics that are only based on likes or comment type interactions are basically obsolete. If we are focusing on likes for a sense of how much reach we have, we are missing the majority of our adorers.

It means we are much more loved than we think.

For anyone struggling right now (Mercury retrograde/shifting of seasons/loads of change) this should serve to bring hope. We can know that for every interaction we receive, every expression of love and support, every kind word—there are 59 percent more sitting back and sending us that energy in a different way. Just because we cannot see them, does not mean they are not there.

They are lurking.


Author: Crystal Davis

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Mike Licht/Flickr

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