Types of Online Community Members - dummies

By Deborah Ng

Knowing how the different personalities work together and interact can help you manage an online community properly. The online world isn’t too different from the offline world. Though many people try to reinvent themselves online, their true selves eventually emerge. Anyone who spends a lot of time in online communities can easily recognize the different personalities and hierarchies within the group.

A few personality types are so easy to spot that you’ll recognize them in any community. Here are a few of the recognizable community member types.

  • The Lurker: You rarely hear from the Lurker. She likes to read all the conversations and takes what she needs from each discussion, but she rarely participates. Maybe she’s shy, lacks confidence, or is more interested in observing than in participating. Every now and then, she surprises everyone by voicing an opinion, but most of the time, you don’t even know she’s there.

  • The Newbie: Newbies (new members) often don’t know where to start. Newbies may introduce themselves to the group and then do their best to find ways to fit in.

    Their participation may range from tentative while they find their bearings to very active as they respond to every message posted within the past few weeks. Most members welcome newbies and do what they can to make them feel at home.

  • The Regular: The Regular is a familiar personality in the online community. Everyone knows her face or recognizes her avatar — the image she uses to portray herself online. Because the Regular is so active, other community members may feel that they know her and trust her judgment — most of the time.

    Sometimes, a Regular is rather outspoken or gives bad advice, so other members take what she says with a grain of salt. Suffice it to say, The Regular is a familiar face, someone who you will see every day at your favorite online haunts.

  • The Leader: Whether self-appointed or through mutual respect, the Leader is someone who has been with the community for years and truly knows his stuff. When he offers his two cents, people listen. Sometimes, the Leader is someone that the community has chosen; at other times, the Leader is a legend in his own mind.

  • The Elder: As a pillar of the online community, the Elder isn’t necessarily active anymore, but she’s held in high esteem. When she does participate, members hang on to her every word. The Elder has been with the community since day one. Not every member may agree with or even like the Elder, but no one will say a disparaging word about her.

  • The Expert (aka the Know-It-All): Every group has an Expert — someone who knows everything about everything. The Expert has been everywhere and seen everything. He did it all long before the other members did and thinks that he did it better, stronger, and faster. The Expert doesn’t have many friends but doesn’t seem to notice.

  • The Elite: Forums and communities that rank their members by how long they’ve been around or how often they participate have a clique of Elite members. Though an Elite member mingles with the newer members now and then, she keeps pretty much to herself.