At the heart of any online community are the community members. But not all members are the same. Think of your community as a small society: it is composed of a range of people with different roles, responsibilities, priorities and commitments. In this post, we explain what types of members you are likely to find in your community, and how you can engage different member types more effectively on different levels.
Different types of community members have different roles
Anthropologist Lori Kendall found that members of virtual environments “have intact social systems and highly charged social relations” (Kendall, 1999). Hence, members do a lot more than interact and create content. They also adopt different roles and responsibilities.
In order to manage your community successfully, you need take different member needs and unique behaviors into account. This doesn’t just mean tailoring your messaging but also understanding who the players in your community are and how they contribute to its survival.
Seven types of community members
At Open Social we use the Community Experience Pyramid, a framework we developed to help understand the community experiences of different types of members and how to engage them at their level. Here they are:
These visitors are not active members yet. They are also often called ‘lurkers’ and frequent the public parts of your community platform.
Despite their silence, they are an important part of every community. For example, if bloggers were to measure the popularity of their posts by purely looking the number of comments, they would probably all be disappointed. But analytics tells us that there is a large, silent audience, enjoying the content. This means that these lurkers are looking around and gaining insight. They might have found what they were looking for but just haven’t converted to active members yet.
Consumers can quickly turn into Followers. These type of members are getting notifications, newsletters and new information in their feed. They are part of the community ecosystem, but they aren’t necessarily actively engaging with the content.
New members are often Followers who don’t yet feel comfortable participating. This type of members provide an important engagement opportunity: you should have a foolproof onboarding process in place that welcomes them and explains how the community works. An onboarding process is also a great place to give members a few easy tasks to get involved through, such as introducing themselves with a short personal post.
A healthy community will have a constant flow of new members. While you might actively be promoting your online community, the best way to get new members is through word-of-mouth and social endorsement by existing members. Endorsers are members who are excited to be part of your community and are telling the world about it. They can be considered your ‘influencers’, often sharing community content on social media and other external channels.
Participants are active members, taking part in conversations, liking content and joining events. These members have ‘familiar faces’ and often have an overview of all the ongoings in a community. They are your core when it comes to activity and set the pace for online interactions. It takes time and commitment to get members to this level.
To help you turn your members into engaged participants, you can take a look at our free eBook: 31 Community Engagement Ideas
Creators are the lifeblood of a growing community. While your community managers might be working hard to publish new content and keep members involved, members who organically create content make a community feel alive, active and exciting! Creators aren’t all blog post writers, however. They can be creating:
- Blog posts
- Photo albums
- Community spaces
Member- or user-generated content is extremely valuable for a community. That is also why Open Social focuses so much on creating community features and extensions to help members create content more easily. These include:
You might find that some members are already managing small sub-communities or groups within the larger community. It’s important to leverage this involvement from your most dedicated and committed members. The best way to do it is by creating an ambassador program or to promote these members to community co-owners, moderators or managers! This is an important step for helping your community start self-organizing and create organic growth.
An easy way to do this using Open Social is to change the member role setting for specific members, giving them more access, permissions or access to tools.
Every community needs formal leaders that listen and take action to keep all community members happy. These are usually people from the organization who are responsible for the community platform or are dedicated community managers.
These members require a bird’s-eye view of the community to make sure everything is running smoothly. Keep in mind, however, that community leaders are not like kings or queens ruling with complete sovereignty. The community belongs to its members, and as such it might also have informal leaders.
Understand your community members
It’s safe to say that you can find these types of members in almost any growing community. One thing is important to remember: not all members are the same and should therefore be engaged in different ways. If you want to find out more about using the Community Experience Pyramid you can watch our webinar on the topic below:
And if you are ready to take your community experience to the next level? Download the guide below: