Are you neglecting the silent majority in your community?

Lithium Alumni (Retired)


As a great community manager, you regularly review the visual layout and effectiveness of your community (especially if you are using a SAAS platform like Lithium's which offers new & improved functionality on a monthly basis!).  And, if you have a support community, you also look at the experience on your brand's complementary "help" or "support" pages on the main domain... or if more sales focused, on product reviews and/or shopping pages.  There are many goals, but they mostly boil down to conversion/engagement of one type or another; using online content, participating in peer-to-peer discussions or content curation, sales, etc.

The majority of your time is focused on engaging with those community members that actively participate (and rightly so!), interacting with each other and your brand, making their journey through your ranking structure. And of course your SuperUsers who contribute a vast amount to the health and interaction in your community are a big part of the community's success. However, you should also regularly review the behaviors and consider the needs of your silent majority, those first-time and repeat visitors who are not registered.

The traditional 90-9-1 distribution is often used as a starting point for the conversation around just how many visitors typically participate in a community.  And whatever your specific numbers are, it is a fact that the majority of visitors do not register.

Why should you care about your largest audience when they choose not to interact?

  •  This is your pool of "potentials" - what can you do to meet/exceed their needs and expectations, enticing them to cross the line and participate?  They came to your community for a reason...
  • This silent majority who can find the information they are looking for, whether it be an answer to a technical or how-to question, or opinions on products & services, provides a huge ROI to your business, whether from reduced direct support costs, sales revenue, brand affinity, etc.


I'll make a confession; when I worked for an enterprise company and we *finally* received budget and approval for a redesign of our community, I fell into the same trap.  Initially I focused on the home page, excitedly thinking through all the great content, features and interaction we would improve, especially for our active members.  Through a web analytics review, we found that >75% of visitors were coming to the community from organic search (Google mostly) and landing directly on a thread page, deep into our site.  Wow!  Actually pretty obvious, right?  Now how important is that thread and article page?

Put yourself in their shoes - I am a new or infrequent visitor, I don't bookmark your community, but now and then I need an answer or some advice; I use web search, and I land deep into your community experience.  What does this page look like, how does it help me do what I need to get done?

  1. Does it have clear navigational elements, so I immediately know where I am and how to move around in your community?
  2. Does it have site search?  (We realized our thread page did not have search, so visitors were exiting back out to Google rather than staying on the site.  This was a real *duh* moment for us Smiley Embarassed)
  3. Do you use our Recommendations feature, that shows similar content the visitor may be interested in?
  4. What do I see that entices/convinces me I should join the community because it offers what I need/want?

Have a look at a few of these metrics and see what it tells you:

  • Referring Traffic (direct vs organic search vs bookmarked)
  • Top Landing Pages
  • Bounce Rate on top Landing Pages (Bounce Rate is good if the page is intended to provide an answer, bad if the page is intended as a flow to other parts of your community.  Contrast with the Time on Site metric to determine good vs bad)
  • Even better if you can segment your visitors - New vs Returning, or see if you can "mash up" your community ranking classifications with your analytics tool and see specifically what a certain group in your community is doing - do this and you are becoming a true Analysis Ninja.

What discoveries have you made, or what other thoughts come to mind on this subject?


Photo by statixcprovided under a Creative Commons license 

Square.jpgBrian Kling is Director, Social Strategy Consulting, EMEA at Lithium Technologies.  Based in Zurich, Switzerland, he has extensive experience managing Social/Community strategy & programs for enterprise Customer Service & Support organizations.  He specializes in designing strategy and services to help brands better connect with their customers, by enhancing customer experiences that also align with business objectives. Formerly a Lithium customer, he joined the Lithium team in June of 2013.  You can find him on Twitter as briankling.

Honored Contributor

Great article Brian! 


I too hit that point where you stand there and think  "d'oh..." as you say it makes total sense but such a shame so many of us learn this lesson after the fact, hopefully people will see the points you have raised  and consider before a re-design is done.


I don't hide that our initial design was poor "very poor" as with your example we got budget and focused on the main pages, thankfully we did give the thread/topic pages some attention but not as much as I wanted as the focus was on the home and board pages. 


We now see about 30% of our traffic hitting the home page with all that great organic search traffic hitting a thread which does little to sell or tell the story about our community. All being well our 3rd attemp will address this soon and we will keep the silent army happy. 


Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Thanks for your comment @Fellsteruk , just got back from vacation last week (gotta love scheduled posts).  As we both attested to, it is an easy trap to fall into, since much of community management & strategy is focused around registered members.  Kudos to you for striving to be better each time!

Valued Contributor

What do you suggest that we should do to reach out to the 90%?

Lithium Alumni (Retired)


that's a great question! First off, recognize that a large portion of those 90% won't make the effort to register and begin participating in your community, that's just a reality. That said, the way to entice those that are "potentials" is to demonstrate the value your community provides, in a way that resonates with them. This can be as simple as a clear, pervasive message throughout your community on how to join, why join, etc. (even better if this appears only for visitors not logged in 😉


Images & pictures draw attention and capture interest - consider regularly highlighting members (pictures and words), both for their community contributions but also potentially for their other hobbies or interests. You might also highlight new members who can state why they joined. This gives visual and verbal assurance there are "people like me" to engage with.


Other possibilities - display how many members online (if you have a vibrant community), highlight interesting/popular conversations or offer additional ways to engage like Ideas or Blogging.


What are some ideas from others?

Valued Contributor

Will having contests help?

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Yes @KaiBoon that is certainly another possibility.  With contests really think about what your goal is, and how to structure a contest to meet it, both in what people do to participate and what people win.  Also what is interesting to your community - put yourself in their shoes, or ask some regular visitors what keeps them coming back.


A contest could be around creating content that is of interest to others, who then share the content further, which then accelerates promotion of your community.  What content do they create?  Can it be something that already ties into the goals of the community, or some type of content that has resonated previously, or expands an area you've been meaning to move into?


And then there's rewards.  This could be a special badge (have to be registered to get one of those 😉 or featuring the winner(s) or temporary special access to someone in the company or ??  Money or simple prizes are less powerful ways to garner participation.  Essentially what we're talking about is the proper application of gamification - if done well, it accelerates motivation and participation.  If done poorly, customers feel like they're being manipulated or coerced into doing something.  Many more articles on this topic here, if you're interested.

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