Lurking is the online term for staying in the background and watching before participating.
Sounds sneaky, right? But, it really isn’t! Actually it is a smart move when you want to join established groups or communities.
Why should you be a lurker?
Do you frequent several sites, groups or “communities” where folks with like minds and interests hang out? Then you’ve probably lurked already.
When this gig started it was all about community, and it still is to some extent. But no one will argue that commercialism and taken a solid foothold. So much so that you do not want to be overly commercial in non-business communities.
Lurking allows you to not jump the gun with comments or opinions that may be misunderstood or not appropriate. Taking the time to follow the conversation first to see what direction it heads is always wise.
Besides the social networks like Twitter and Facebook, there are forums, groups and mailing lists for almost every topic of interest one can think of. These groups are communities that are tightly knit and get to know each other, by email address or handle name.
So showing up and joining is best done with courtesy and decorum. This approach accelerates you becoming part of the group while offering a positive impression to those that don’t know you — yet.
Lurking allows you to get a feel for the community that you would like to participate in. By taking a initial backseat you have the opportunity to get a feel for the group, what they feel is important and how they communicate among themselves.
You may find while lurking that a particular group may not have the type of discussions you want to participate in. Move on and find a community more to your liking.
Lurk Before Posting
Before even lurking, take the time to read the community guidelines or terms of service. Those are the rules you will be expected to abide by. If you do not agree with the “rules” then it’s best to seek out alternatives venues for participation.
To get a feel for the group and whether you think it will be a good fit for you to join in is accomplished by lurking. The last thing you want to be is a disrupter. You don’t want to blurt in, ask a question, make a statement or offer information without having an idea of the tone and personality of the group.
Lurking lets you know if the group is formal, easy going or more professional in nature. Lurking is also a courtesy thing. Especially when it comes to starting a conversation or asking questions that have been covered many times before.
Some members may not appreciate you posting without searching first — and some may be nicer than others in letting you know so. (Before asking any questions, always do a quick search first to make sure the topic has not already been covered.)
After poking around, lurking and determining you do want to join in the conversation, always include a brief and humble introduction of yourself to the group before you add your comments, questions or information.
Some forums and groups have an area just for introductions — be sure to take advantage of that opportunity. You’ll appear more friendly and helps other members get to know you.
For more tips to ensure that you have an enjoyable community experience, check out my article on List, Group and Forum Etiquette.