The article found here describes “that community feel”… one step to getting a random lurker, who stays around awhile, to feel welcome and register. In this article I’ll take this concept a little further and make a few more points about how to make a lurker register.
Please note: I’d like to stress that I’m not showing you how to attract your average “10 second” visitor (you do know that you have only 10 seconds on average to get a user’s attention, don’t you?); this topic has already been covered more than enough, what with attractive styles, prominent “Register” links and the lot. This article is focused more on guests who stay around for about a minute or two and read some of your posts and articles. I'm not writing about any aspect of the layout, or anything to do with the actual forum itself; while it may be a good idea to create an "Introduce yourselves, forum lurkers" thread, this articles is not focused on that. Instead, it is only to do with the content (posts). If you are looking for an article which describes forum optimizations, please look to Kathy's Turn that lurker into a poster thread.
Firstly, I can’t stress enough: Avoid groups of close friends. In fact, no two people should appear to know each other on the forum. As soon as a lurker sees a post with “Hey Phil… what Maths grade did you get in the exams?” their chance of registering is nearly nil. You need to welcome everyone and make them feel that they are already part of the community before they even register. Unless their name is prominent in their username, signature, or their post (like a username of JamesD), don’t use any first names. It creates the impression that the lurker is an “outsider” and that he isn’t welcome; that this is a forum for a group of 10 friends.
Another tip is to avoid pointless threads, such as “Name a related word” or “Name the next letter in the alphabet”. One forum I saw even had a thread titled: “Who can make the last post in this thread?”. :cookoo:. Such threads, while they are guaranteed to increase post totals, are not going to attract guests into registering. If you absolutely need, for whatever reason, to have such a thread, make it in an area where it doesn’t increase post counts.
The main two reasons why people register are to download attachments, vote in polls or to use other “passive” features of registration; and most importantly to participate in a discussion or debate. Most of the time when I found myself registering was when there was a point that was quite clearly wrong information and I needed to correct that person. Obviously, I’m not saying that you should make wrong posts for that purpose, but it may help to make a “Quick Register” box next to each thread where users only have to enter a username, a password, email, and if you want a verification code. Obviously, there may be problems with implementing this (not having to agree to the TOS) but these potentially could be solved by making the user agree to it after clicking on the “Post” button for their first thread.
One last point is to stimulate discussion. All very well to create a nice, long, informative article, but users won’t reply or register unless it encourages them to reply. Perhaps bringing up a slightly controversial issue which has been recently in the news which is relevant to your subject matter will encourage lurkers to contribute.
I hope this article has helped you!