Way too often people will assert that they do not participate in groups and forums as posters, but as “learners,” otherwise lurking or sitting on the sidelines, i.e., reading but not actively contributing. Frequently, they claim that they do not have anything to contribute.  Some people are so shy that they will send their comments and questions to others offline hoping that the person to whom they sent them will post or handle their concern without any public recognition of the sender.

However, moderators and active participators also ask where are the people who have signed up for this group or forum and are obviously reading it but not posting —why are they not posting and participating? Many groups’ conversations are carried by the few. These conversations are limited by virtue of what those individuals know or do not know, and what they chose to share.

Limited participation is not beneficial to any group or forum. It restricts us all because we do not have the benefit of collective thoughts, ideas, suggestions, knowledge, and wisdom. It is as though we are one body and yet only one small component is functional. We are hampered instead of enriched.  Everyone has something to contribute that is valuable.

We need to encourage everyone to post and to comment. We need to begin to draw out people who have something to contribute, but who are too shy or reticent to do that. We will all benefit from more participation and more interaction. So, how do we do that? Start by being an example as an active participant.

  • Ask questions that solicit responses, such as– What do you think about x, y, or z?
  • Ask questions that give information about you and ask for the perspective of someone in a different area. For example, if you are nurse and have a posting about donating blood on a health-related site,  ask for information about other experiences and other perspectives from donors, doctors, recipients, etc.?
  • Post things that are current or thought-provoking.
  • Ask for individuals to take the lead on certain issues you would like to explore–perhaps new people will step up to the plate and take the lead.
  • Post something about something you do not know about and about which you want to learn more and ask for information.
  • Diversify the discussion topics. Multiple threads (also known as discussion topics) stimulate postings.
  • Post things that will help others think, learn, and grow.  Post “What if” questions?
  • Ask for other’s opinions and take surveys.
  • Offer to help someone who is looking for an answer.
  • Write to members off-line and encourage them.
  • Quote members’ writings from other areas if appropriate.  Recognition is a powerful catalyst.

You can make a difference. Help ensure that others know that their participation is needed, desired, important, and valued.

What is your buzz about?