In 2006, Jakub Nielsen wrote: “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.”

In the past year, Mark Suster and Fred Wilson have blogged on the same topic.  They have seen the same ratios repeatedly in their portfolio companies.

What to do with the knowledge that this is a common ratio?  Borrow principles from a self-help program, of course!

1. Understand

Start by measuring your users engagement with your service.

The more details you can capture, the more you can gain insight into the different attributes and behavior of these user segments.

Ask questions of the data.   

How are lurkers and occasional users different?  What features do they use?  How do they move through the app?  What is the pattern of their interaction?  Look for users who transitioned from a less engaged segment to a more engaged segment... or vice-versa.   How did their behavior change prior to and during the transition? 

Ask questions of your users. 

Ask users who made a positive or negative transition, why?  Ask users who have not transitioned, why not?  

2. Accept

Not all users will be power users.   Build functionality into your service and adjust your business model with your occasional and lurking users in mind.  This is a point Fred Wilson and Mark Suster emphasize in their blogs.

The big point is to serve the customer (profitably).  Each segment of customers is already using your service.  Understand how and why and help them do better what they want to do.

3. Change

That said, it is usually better for your business, and has benefits for your customers, if users engage more deeply with your service.  So how can you deepen engagement?   This is one of the questions we will continue to explore on this blog.   Please join the conversation by posting a comment.