Business & Economy Startups Knowing the types of people in your online community

Knowing the types of people in your online community




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Whether you’re a newbie group creator or an employee of a brand, growing an online community and maintaining a healthy level of activity is always a major challenge

In any budding community, its growth or stagnation depends on its members and their unique characteristics. This also means that your community’s growth will depend on how well you understand your members.

Here, we identify the common five types of members in your group and how you should best engage them to keep your community alive and thriving!

Early members

As the name suggests, early members are the first few hundred members or so who join your group when you first create it. These members will make or break your group, depending on how you handle the group (no pressure though).

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It’s also fun since you’ll be able to remember who these early members are, given the small size of early communities.

These people will also be the ones who invite more of their friends, so be nice! They are also good barometers of change in your group as they’re most likely to be the first ones who lament that “things have changed” in the group. Hence, it is common for early members to leave eventually due to changes in the group. Be sure to listen to them.

How to engage:

Engage early and engage often. There are reasons why they decided to join and subsequently stick around your online group and you should know exactly what those reasons are. You should manage your group such that they get what they came for. For example, if you’re running a dog-lover group, no point allowing cat content to appear.


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Lurkers are those who simply ‘hang’ around in your group. They’re primarily here to consume your content. While they do not subtract anything from the overall experience in your group, they do not add significantly as well. However, don’t underestimate their powers! These people form the bulk of your members and are the silent consumers of whatever activity present in the community.

Also Read: A guide to wading through the organic reach demise on social media

How to engage:

It depends on what you want to do with them. If you want to convert them into non-lurkers, you’ll have to talk to them to find out what motivates them. However, chances are that they take a more passive role in terms of participation, and that’s totally fine!


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Supporters will tell every single one of their friends about your group. Supporters typically love something about your group, be it the content, purpose of the group, or hell — it might be you whom they love.

How to engage:

They already love you, so the next important thing is to make sure they do not stop. Find out why they love your community so much and see if you can scale it.


Think you’re the leader of the community? Well yes, but no. You’re the manager, who manages the members and their energy. Leaders, on the other hand, are easy to identify. They are the recognisable members in the community because they drive a lot of activity in the group. You need a few of these Leaders in your community, or you’ll be stuck with a lifeless group.

How to engage:

As mentioned, you’re a manager and manage you must. Harness the leaders’ energies! Join in whenever there is a spike in activity to ensure that the activity is relevant. Initially, you’re the leader since you’ll be driving a lot of the activity initially but when Leaders emerge, it’s time to take a step back and let them shine.


We’ve covered the good, so now let’s talk about the bad — toxic members. There are two kinds of toxic members in your online community: the obvious and the hidden.

Traits of obvious toxic members include being excessively argumentative, not playing nice with others, mocking managers’ moves, etc. Toxicity may also occur when leaders are not well managed. In general, they bring the overall atmosphere down in the group, making it unfriendly for not just newcomers but other Supporters and Lurkers.

The more dangerous of the two is the hidden toxic members. Like a snake hidden in the grass, they strike at members of the community and out of your sight. A very common case would be sales-based people sending unsolicited messages privately to your members. When left unchecked, your members will leave the group after being harassed.

How to engage:

How do you engage hidden toxic members then? This is where you need to engage the community to speak up and report the offending member to you. It’s important to signal that you’re on the community’s side and that you would punish/remove offending members.

Also Read: Retail-targeted image recognition startup Trax close to being next Singapore unicorn

Not all hope is lost for these hidden toxic members. Is there a better way to win the hearts and minds of the community without being a pest? The right approach, which is also the hardest, would be to add value to the community by sharing your knowledge. This way, not only do you get to position yourself as a leader (and thus securing potential clients) but the community benefits from your sharing as well.

There you have it, five common types of community members in any online groups. By understanding these members’ types, hopefully you’ll have an easier time managing the community. You’ve got this!

e27 publishes relevant guest contributions from the community. Share your honest opinions and expert knowledge by submitting your content here.

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