Passive Community Members: Are They a Blessing in Disguise?Passive Community Members: Are They a Blessing in Disguise?

Passive Community Members: Are They a Blessing in Disguise?

Passive community members get a bad rap

Sometimes known as ‘lurkers’, passive community members never engage visibly in your community.

Community builders typically aim for more ‘power users’, ‘active members’ and ‘contributors’. They often try to convert ‘passive members’ into becoming more vocal.

However, passive members, just like active members, are a necessary and normal part of every community. It’s also normal for the majority of members in your community to be passive.

But what if passive members actually had some benefits over their more active peers?

Active members sound great on paper, but in reality, they are resource intensive

Active members require more time, effort and budget to manage, versus passive members.

At Learn.Community, we have 150 paying members.

Let’s imagine if all those members became active ‘power users’.

  • They attended every live event and asked tons of questions
  • They posted content in the community forum daily

Here’s what would happen:

  • We would exceed our Zoom limit for group calls
  • I would struggle to give such personal attention to members with questions
  • I would likely get overwhelmed
  • We would have to hire a Community Manager to cope
  • We would have to invest more in our infrastructure and likely upgrade our community platform plan
  • There would likely be an increase in community moderation
  • Members would likely feel overwhelmed by the sea of content appearing in their feed

All of this would happen without any direct positive impact on our revenue or our business goals.

Let’s compare some of our passive community members

Recently, I spoke with some of our very passive community members at Learn.Community. They told me via email how they were loving the community, watching all the workshop replays and learning lots from quietly reading the interactions happening from other members in our forum.

In short, they were happy with their membership, finding tons of value and continuing to pay each month.

And they required literally no additional resource from me.

From a pure business perspective, passive members are gold

I can produce content, host events and serve our active members in a sustainable way. However, in doing so, I’m indirectly helping plenty of passive members, who don’t require any personal attention from me at all.

I love working closely with our active members, but it’s reasonable to assume that one very active member will actually need more of my time and effort versus 100 passive members.

When I understood this, I realised that passive members weren’t the curse that community members make them out to be. Those passive members are likely allowing you to run your community sustainably. I’m grateful for our passive members! I’m grateful that they are self-initiated learners. I used to obsess over the idea of converting each passive member to become more active. This not only isn’t practical, it’s not realistic. It’s far healthier to meet people where they are. Be grateful for your passive members and your active members. Cater to both in your community.

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