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The 1% Rule in Internet culture tells us that roughly 1% of your group creates original content on your social network website. 9% respond to that content, contribute to it, or share it in some way. The other 90% of your online community or audience are lurking. Most organizations are unclear as to what is really going on within their online community unless they implement a way to track inactivity or passive actions within the group.

But these findings don’t fit all groups. One of the reasons the number of non-contributors is higher than what is commonly accepted on the Internet is because organizations that create a private online community usually have more vested interest in getting their members engaged than someone who is hosting a group page on Facebook. For member organizations, it may mean the difference between someone remaining a member and someone deciding not to renew.

So, how can we get more of our members to actively participate in and contribute to our online communities? Well, it’s important to use the features your private online community platform offers, especially those that encourage engagement. Polling is one of those features. Here are some ideas on how you can get your community participating in polling more often.

What’s Behind Non-Participation in Your Online Community?

First, it’s important to understand the reasons why some members don’t openly participate. Lurkers, we’re talking about you!

Some People Are Busy

About 81% of people are skimming content on the Internet, not reading it. To expect this group to comment or create content is asking them for an investment of time that is simply outside of their Internet habit or practice.

Some Are Insecure

It has to be said. Creating content entails being intellectually vulnerable because your opinions are now being shared with a large group, including Internet trolls. You are inviting commentary and discussion. This can be nerve wracking for some people who aren’t used to that level of cerebral exposure.

Some Members Don’t Feel Qualified

If they’re new to the group or organization, and haven’t been made to feel welcome or don’t fully understand the social norms of the community, they may not see themselves as able to contribute in an advanced way such as creating content.

Some Have Nothing To Say

With most of the reasons above, you would be hard pressed as a community manager to sway any of these lurkers into creating content for you. Fortunately, the greatest area of possibility for engagement is not on creation but in contribution, which entails active participation and feedback.

Online Community Polling Engages Community Members and Turns Lurkers into Contributors

Let’s face it, everyone enjoys being asked their opinion about something. With a membership organization, the ways in which you can use online polling to engage your audience are vast. Everything from conference themes and a choice of host cities (once you narrow them down) to selecting award recipients. You can use polls for fun “get to know you” questions as well. 

For advanced data analyzers, you can also ask questions that appear to be “get to know you” questions, but you can use them for a broader application. For instance, questions about your biggest concern can be applied to creating content that allows you to better help your customers or members solve their largest problems. Polling can make you look like a hero.

Another reason polling works in increasing member engagement is because there’s a certain amount of anonymity that occurs with polls, even if they’re not anonymous. It’s not the same level of intellectual vulnerability that occurs with creating a post as mentioned earlier. With polls, you can supply your opinion without concern over anyone’s intellectual ego.

Polling is Also Familiar

Thanks in part to the large number of ways we can goof off using the Internet, most of us understand the premise behind polls and they’re enjoyable for us. Who doesn’t want to know who their Hollywood Heartthrob is or which 80s song should be their theme song? These inane forms of entertainment have conditioned us to see polls as a pleasurable thing to do and a nice stress reliever in the middle of the day.  

Popular Forms of Polls

If you want to engage your audience using this technique, try these types of polls in you online community:

Entertaining Polls

These have no practical application for your organization and can be as short as one question. They’re purely for fun and to get your audience used to participating in your polls. Look for lighthearted topics and questions. Topics that everyone would associate with – Do you prefer the beach or the mountains? Coffee or Tea?

The fun part about polls like this is that they provide a nice distraction for members. When the results are shared, they become a topic of conversation for the community. You may also see an increase in your poll being shared on Facebook or Twitter.

Informative Polls

Just as the name sounds, this is something where they’ll learn a bit about themselves or your organization. Again, sharing the collective results can be a lot of fun.

Conclusive Polls

These types of polls help you make a decision based on your community members’ preferences. They may not be as fun as the entertaining ones, but they provide key insights that help you serve your members better and make them feel like they are a part of your organization’s future.

Online Community Polls Takeaway

Engaging your online community is a full-time job, but interactive tools like polls and surveys provide an easy way to get members participating and interested in where your organization is going. People who feel listened to tend to be more engaged and invested on all levels. Getting your customers or members to make what they see as a small contribution can soon lead to higher levels of engagement.