Which Types of Community Members Rule Your Online Community?

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Let’s talk about what keeps a community alive: the community members. It’s helpful to think about your community as a small society; it’s comprised of people adopting different roles to ensure that everything runs smoothly. In this post, we explain which roles and responsibilities your community members are adopting.

Table of contents

Community Members Adopt Roles

A community really starts to blossom with a steady flow of incoming community members. 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 begin to naturally adopt different roles and responsibilities.

In order to manage your community successfully, you need take advantage of ‘the power of the crowd’ – so to say. This doesn’t just mean directing activities but also understanding who the players in your community are and how they contribute to its survival.

Four types of Community Members

There are various different roles that community members adopt, and these often differ due to personality traits. And although not everyone in a community fits in a certain role, there are a few member roles that are ruling your community. Let’s introduce them!

Community Member types

1. Community Manager

The formal leader of the community.

Every community needs a formal leader that listens and takes action to keep all community members happy. This is most likely the role you have! You’re in charge of day-to-day activities and making sure that engagement is high.

This role also requires a bird’s-eye view of the community. A community manager must understand what roles exist in a community and what kind of activity flow a community has. Keep in mind that some communities also have informal leaders. It’s best to try to understand why they are popular and how you can collaborate with them. We know managing isn’t easy, which is why we’ve listed some community challenges and their solutions.

2. The Dominators

The active core of all community interactions.

We all know the dominators in a community. 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.

You’ll recognize these members through their frequent posting and dominant voices. It’s important to leverage the energy of these members, and the best way to do it is by creating an ambassador program! This consists of reaching out to the active members, listening to their needs, and understanding how they can be used to drive engagement.

3. The Lurkers

The content consumers of the community.

Just because you can’t hear some of your members, doesn’t mean they aren’t an active part of the community. Lurkers often consume content, rather than create it. They are a large group composed of new members, members that aren’t comfortable enough to post, and those that drift in and out of the community.

You’ll recognize them by their membership, rather than by their actions. 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, then we would probably all be disappointed. But analytics tells us that there is a large, silent audience, sometimes with a pretty low bounce rate. This means that this audience and your lurkers are looking around and gaining insight. They found what they were looking for but just didn’t take action.

4. The Newbies

The new members of your community.

A healthy community will have a constant flow of new members. The newbies often require the most energy and time, since they don’t initially understand how the community works.

New members often provide a new opportunity for engaging members. You should have a foolproof onboarding process in place that welcomes them and explains how the community works. Often times, you will find that community guidelines are the best way to smooth the transition. We’ve previously written about how to set up great community guidelines!

Understand Your Community

It’s safe to say that you can find these types of members in almost every type of community. Their roles and tasks all lead to one goal: keeping the community alive. As your community grows, it’s in your best interest to understand your members and how they can help the community flourish.


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