As part of the 90 9 1 theory of forum participation, getting visitors to convert to being a registered member (the 90) is one thing; once a visitor has registered then the challenge is to convert them from being a lurker into a poster or participant (the 9). A certain number of visitors will join to ask a question or to respond to a thread; whereas others will join to because they see a benefit (see the 90). What strategies can be used to convert the 90 into the 9:
- Forum content is the key. The content has to be such that they want to participate. Nurture threads so they are valuable (treat threads like a baby).
- Use the inactive user reminder modification to send an email get them back to the forum if they have not logged in for x period of time. I use 3 and 9 months and that is all (no point spamming them with any more).
- A weekly newsletter is sent updating activity in the previous seven days (I use Commbull for vBulletin).
- The use of headers reminding them that they have not yet posted and inviting them to post in the introductions forum; or reminding them that they have not posted in a while.
- Make the Introductions Forum a safe place for people to make their first post. Use a Welcome Committee to engage with them.
- Use competitions, such a caption competition, to encourage people to come along and post in the thread. Competitions can also be used to create a buzz.
- I designate all members with one post, the user title of Welcome New Poster, to make them feel welcome and we welcome their contribution.
- By default, have the instant notification by email when a post is replied to activated – so they know to return to read the reply and consider posting again (also consider editing the content of this email).
While there are strategies to use, it is not necessarily a problem that the lurkers or the 90 are a large group. As long as the forum metrics are looking healthy, there is not really an issue. These people are still viewing your site. They are part of the traffic that you can monetize and sell advertising views for and they can still click on pay-per-click advertisements. The next challenge is to convert the poster (the 9) into the regular poster (the 1).