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Community Member Types

There are many different personality types that crop up in online communities. It’s essential for Community Managers to be able to recognize the different personality types at a glance, and quickly understand how best to communicate with that person. Matching behavior to personality type helps community teams to move quickly and effectively, and helps when drafting communication that will address a variety of different users.

The Adversary

Adversaries are a subcategory of Trolls. Adversaries often attack both companies and people, and their primary intent is to wreak havoc and provoke an emotional response. One difference between Adversaries and Stalkers is that an Adversary tends to have a consistent online persona that they stand behind as their reputation, and ego, is tied up in it. They know they are seen as the villan, and actually enjoy promoting themselves as such. A difference between an Adversary and Axe Grinder is that Adversaries aren’t easily swayed in their opinions, whereas Axe Grinders are usually just disgruntled.

There’s not much point in trying to change and Adversary’s mind about your company or product, but a good (civil) response is still encouraged. There’s not a need to engage with them unnecessarily, and do not get dragged into an endless debate with them. If all they’re doing is causing trouble, with no intention of a productive contribution, it may become necessary to suspend their participation privileges after you’ve done your best to encourage a positive outcome.

The Axe Grinder

Axe Grinders typically don’t stick around long in a community. They tend to drop in to say something nasty, and then will hit the road as they’re not interested in engaging in a true conversation with your brand. Occasionally they’ll litter many conversations with a cut and paste of their original post

When communicating with Axe Grinders, show a sincere response and then ask them to clarify by providing specific points of feedback. You may find that you’re able to turn an Axe Grinder around as most of the time they just want to be heard, and have taken the opportunity to express their frustration in your community. If they never respond you’ve publicly shown that your brand cares and tried to engage, but the user simply wouldn’t take you up on the offer to help.

The Cheerleader

Cheerleaders are the opposite of Axe Grinders. They just can’t help but to see the good in everything, and are more than happy to let your team know by posting Praise topics in your community. They’ll likely post questions and give constructive feedback, but they’re always sure to contribute their fair share of the compliments. Occasionally Cheerleaders will respond to other users in helpful ways. Keep an eye out for these members as they may be a good candidate for the Champions badge.

When communicating with Cheerleaders, be sure to thank them for taking the time to leave their praise. Positive reinforcement will encourage the Cheerleader to come back and post in your community more often.

The Good Samaritan

Good Samaritans are some of the most valuable members that you can have. They are community gold. Good Samaritans participate in online communities because they like to help people out and get enormous satisfaction out of doing so. They feel good about answering others questions, and enjoy having conversations about a brand that they’re passionate for and a product that they’re knowledgeable about.

Good Samaritans are almost always Champions, and you might even consider talking with them about enabling a Management Seat for their account. If they care about your community deeply, they will feel honored to have such status. Regularly thank them for their contributions, and do not take their participation for granted.

The Hall Monitor

Hall Monitors are the community members who actually read the terms and conditions, and community guidelines that you have posted in your community. Though they are sometimes difficult (a trait that they often admit), Hall Monitors’ opinion can be extremely valuable. Ask for their opinions, and let them know that you value it. The Hall Monitor wants the community to be rigidly organized, and can sometimes exert a politically correct attitude that stifles conversation.

When communicating with Hall Monitors, show respect but try to keep the conversation flowing and light hearted in order to balance their overly serious nature.

The Hawker

Hawkers are those who drop into a conversation to help, but then just can’t seem to stop littering their responses with links to their site that, conveniently, is related to the conversation.  Community members like calling out people who are simply there to advertise, so encourage your users to report Hawkers to your community team. Be sure to have a clear policy in place against this type of behavior and strictly enforce it.

Give Hawkers one warning about their behavior, preferably in the community, and if they continue to pollute your topics then suspend their participation privileges.

The Narcissist

Narcissists tend to share a lot of ideas and suggestions, sometimes too many, in a short amount of time. At first glance they might appear to be a Sage, but the difference between the two archetypes is that with Narcissists, it’s all about them. They tend to be a hot flame that burns brightly, but then fizzles out, particularly once they realize that their multiple suggestions won’t be implemented immediately. Narcissists are not often big-picture people, and tend to focus only on one detail of the product that they feel strongly about. Their level of engagement, and the amount of detail they go into, is not sustainable for the long haul.

When engaging with Narcissists, thank them for their contributions but be sure to take care when setting their expectations. It’s likely that many of their suggestions will be valuable to you, however, be sure to explain the goals and priorities of your short term roadmap.

The Newbie

Newbies have likely never participated in an online community, and are unsure about the rules of engagement. They likely found your community through an organic search or via a widget that your company has embedded on their site.

Be patient and gracious with Newbies, and help to get them comfortable in this new environment. Try not to get frustrated if they are not tech savvy, or if their problems are due to user error. It’s important that they feel heard, understood, and not patronized. Work with them so they understand the role they need to play, or the responsibility they need to take to solve their problem.

The Point-Maker

Point-Makers may, at times, seem confrontational but they wouldn’t be in your community if they didn’t care about your company and its products. They’ll likely use the “me too” functions obsessively, or add a whole lot of “+1″ comments to the conversation. They enjoy pointing out if your company is wrong, if you haven’t done enough, or if you haven’t done what they think you should.

When communicating with Point-Makers, try and strip the emotion from the conversation and take their feedback seriously. If they’re right about something, swallow your pride and admit it. Point-Makers are naturally good at debating, so it may not be worth it to get deep into the details with them. Acknowledge their point, make sure they feel heard, and move on.

The Ranger

Rangers are natural archivers, librarians, catalogers, and connectors. They likely participate in a number of different communities, and are good at keeping track of who knows what and connecting people with each other. The Ranger does a great job of not only answering other customers questions and keeping up with the ins and outs of your product, but they’re also great at pulling more people into the conversation to help. Rangers also have an uncanny ability to find relevant topics, replies, or comments and reference it in conversation.

Engage with Rangers in the same way that you’d engage with Cheerleaders, Sages, or Good Samaritans. Thank them for their participation, and positively reinforce their good behavior. Keep an eye out for potential Champions as well.

The Sage

Sages are the community members who get what you’re trying to do, fully support it, and make it clear that want to help you achieve your goals. They provide a great deal of feedback, constructive critiques, but have provided this information in a truly supportive way. Sages also provide insightful explanations to other users, and are typically a great candidate for the Champion badge. Sages don’t always “just appear” in a community. You may need to groom them, and users may prove themselves as Sages over time by consistent participation.

Foster relationships with your Sages, and ask for their opinion whenever possible. Keep them up to date with happenings in your company, and make sure others in your company understand who these powerful users are.

The Stalker

Stalkers tend to be a sub category of Trolls. They will often obscure their identity, change it constantly, or create multiple identities in effort to present themselves as someone else. Stalkers often have a personal agenda against a company or employee, and will do the best they can to tear them down.

Depending on the situation, you may try communicating with the Stalker outside of the community via email, or even over the phone, but remember that anything you communicate offline may be posted online by the Stalker in effort to stir up more trouble. Usually, the best course of action against a Stalker is to avoid being pulled back into an intense debate with them. You may also choose to suspend a Stalker’s participation privileges, if necessary.

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