Can you choose who is in your online community?


Originally published on

community members

What makes a good online community member?

The concept of choosing your community members may not have occurred to you before.

We (community managers) usually focus on changing the platforms, the questions we ask, the events we host, the community manager and other methods to improve our communities.

But remember, a community is just a group of people and every individual person counts.

This is especially important when taking the lean community building approach as you typically want to start off building your community with a select few members.  You’ll want to make sure those first few people make for solid community members as they’ll be getting the conversations started, and setting the tone for the future of your community.

But who should you invite first? Here are 5 things to think about when choosing people to invite into your community:

1. How excited are they about your vision?

The same way a company will get early adopters who will put up with more bugs and issues than their typical customer, a community should consist of people who truly believe in the vision of that community.

There will be awkward phases in a community where conversation ebbs, where they ask a question and it flops, where some people might abuse their privileges, and more.

The more excited your community members are about your vision, they more they’ll feel like they’re a part of something important, and the healthier your community will be.

2. How much value will they get out of the community?

This is a very important one.  You don’t want people who will just take value from the community without putting any in.

You also don’t want people who have a ton to contribute, but won’t get anything out of it. Neither of these will necessarily hurt your community, but if people see that others in the community are inactive, it doesn’t create a good vibe.

People who just take and don’t give value may not be a great fit for the community right away, but could potentially become a better member.

People who have a lot of value to give but nothing to gain will probably just not participate. I’ve seen this happen in entrepreneur communities. They succeeded at getting “big name” entrepreneurs to join, but these people are so busy, and don’t need to ask questions of other entrepreneurs, so they just never participate.

3. How social are they?

Assuming you’ve gotten to know these people before you invite them to the community, you should have a good idea of how social they are. Do they love to talk? Do they use a lot of social networks? The more social, the better. But be aware of #4.

4. Are they level headed?

Sometimes they might be social, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at talking to people. You want people who aren’t there to troll and who aren’t so over the top excited that it just freaks other people out. Online communities only work when the members know that every time they come back, they’ll have a good experience. Sometimes it can take just one bad apple to ruin the experience for everyone.

5. Do they already know other people in the community?

The right answer to this one can vary depending on your community. Sometimes it can be a good thing, because people who know each other will feel comfortable talking to each other.

Sometimes it can be a bad thing. An online community can serve as an escape for many people. A place to meet new people and speak freely. If there are other members who know who they are, they may have to filter what they say, and so their experience may be different.

If it’s a business community, you have to think about whether employees will want to be in the same community as their colleagues or bosses.

What do you think a community manager should look for in their community members? Be a good community member and leave a comment. Go ahead. It won’t bite.


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