Why are community members important? What kind of roles do they usually have? And how can you turn them into active stakeholders in your online community? If you are planning to build a new online community, you can find out everything you need to know about online community members and how to make them more involved in your online community here!
Why Do Community Members Matter?
Without people an online community can obviously not exist. But a community is more than just a crowd of users congregating online. A community is brought together by shared interests, values, needs, or a common goal. If your online platform users have no cohesion between members, then users will soon drift apart, abandon the platform, and leave you with little more than an internet ghost town.
Online users can become community members by being invited to join by a community manager, or signing up themselves. Invite-only communities are often more cohesive, because membership is more selective. But open communities that allow free sign-up are easier to grow. You can also have a middle ground by allowing members to sign-up by themselves, and then wait for approval from a community manager.
Wherever your members come from, they need to feel like the community is a sort of home for them and that the other members are part of a newly found online family. From the get-go there needs to be a sense of cohesion. This is why we recommend using a brandable online community platform like Open Social, instead of relying on something like Facebook Groups where members might feel a lesser sense of community.
As an example, take a look at Greenpeace Greenwire built with Open Social’s online community software. By being able to brand their community, and build a goal-driven community platform, they were able to bring together over 60 000 volunteers fighting for environmental causes around the world. Through creating a sense of unity, new members can sign up and immediately feel like they belong to a community, rather than being part of a crowd of strangers.
How Can Community Members Participate?
Member behavior usually comes down to two different types of participation: content creation and content consumption. The interplay between these two creates a circulation of new activity in your community that keeps it vibrant, alive, and attractive to new members.
Every member will participate at a different level, depending on role, status, personality, or any other factor affecting a member’s social behavior in the community.
But how do you facilitate participation if it isn’t occurring organically?
Once a member has joined the community, there are numbers of ways to instigate participation:
- Send each member a personalized welcome message! This sets the scene for positive interaction and helps ease the new member into the community.
- Send each new member a set of moderation guidelines. Participation does not always go smoothly; there are certain guidelines you can share to ensure mutual respect and fair collaboration. This can also help them understand what the different kinds of content are that they can create.
- Follow-up with new members regularly. Are they feeling comfortable? Do they have any questions about the platform? You can send general community updates, videos, or webinars related to the community, or just check-in.
Create content yourself. It can help spark participation if you or your community managers start creating content and encouraging participation with that content. Especially with a new community, you might need to jump-start it a little bit!
It is also useful to set up your community using tools and features that will encourage member participation. For example, Open Social offers features that encourages content creation and consumption, such as the unique Crowd Innovation extension. This extension works as follows:
- The challenge poses the question that has to be solved by the community members.
- The phases, which have a start and end date, move the ideas through the flow and include idea creation, editing, viewing, commenting and voting. This is where the evaluation takes place.
- The ideas are created by users to suggest solutions for the overarching challenge to suggest solutions. As users, you have the possibility to vote on your favorite ideas.
What Are the Most Common Member Roles?
Community members consist of different personalities, and therefore often naturally take on different roles. To grow your new community, you’ll have to understand that not all members are the same, and they can also change roles with time.
With Open Social, we categorize users using the following roles and accompanying permissions:
- Anonymous user: Users that have not logged in. They are not allowed to perform actions on the platform. They only have limited access to public content and are not able to see the profiles of members.
- Authenticated or logged-in user: Users that have registered for the platform. They can post comments, edit and create content, events, and groups. They can also join other groups and events.
- Content manager: Users who are in charge of the daily operation of the platform. They can delete and unpublish any content, posts, comments, and groups. Editing content is limited in order to guarantee that editorial rights remain with the original author of the content.
- Site manager: Users who are in charge of the configuration and management of the platform and are able to manage all user accounts.
- Group Manager/Event Manager: When an LU creates a group or an event, they automatically become the group or event manager. This gives them the extra permissions related to member management in the group or event.
Active and responsible community members, or members with a unique expertise in a subject relevant to your community, can be promoted to content, group, or event managers through Open Social’s User Role management tool. This is a great way to encourage users to invest more in the community by taking on new responsibilities.
Growing Your Community in the First Year
The first year for your community is the most important. This is the time in which new members join, test out the platform, and decide whether they will commit to joining your community. You often see online communities have a boom in membership when they initially launch, but then experience a rapid drop off, or eventually become completely abandoned.
Creating a successful online community relies greatly on whether your new members turn into a cohesive, involved, and invested community during the first year.
To help you accomplish this goal, we’ve created a 10 Steps for your first year of community building guide that you can download for free.
You can also follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog to get regular tips on building and growing an online community. Or if you want to find out more about starting an online community using Open Social’s purpose-built software solution, you can read more about it here.