Every community relies on a unique mix of participants to keep the forum alive and well. Recognizing the various roles and types of contributors enables those involved to better understand and interact with each other. All of these participants—whether quiet or clamorous—are important to an authentic community.
• The community manager: This can also be a team of people, but oftentimes an employee is designated as the go-to person for driving engagement, resolving issues, and making sure the community runs smoothly.
• The silent active: These people visit the site often to observe, read comments, and rarely vote on an idea or rate a post. Although not chatty in the forums, they may still be loyal fans—and have a strong probability of telling their friends about your company if delighted.
• The super user: Also known as an enthusiast, a guru, or a top contributor, this is the person who makes communities what they are. This person might be obnoxious at times, and might make you wonder how she finds the time to participate so frequently, but it’s thanks to her that your community will stay vibrant and active. Reward this person to make sure she sticks around. Lithium Technologies, for example, surveyed its customer base to gauge the value of a super user. Responding companies said she’s worth, on average, at least $50,000 a year. Have four super users? That’s a valuable team of enthusiasts.
• The negator: This person loves to challenge the posts of your top users. Although causing a fuss at times, a little ruffling of feathers will gear up your loyal customers to speak up on your behalf. From there, you can recognize the value of the community and its members.
• The inquirer: This person drives content by asking questions. You can never have enough of these.
• The influencer: In addition to being connected on social networks, this person has an impressive social graph. Find out who this person is— whenever he comments or posts, pay attention to the actions taken afterward. Influencers can spread the word about you all over the Web. Now you have to make sure they have good things to say. An influencer can also be a person who contributes valuable content—just not on the same frequency as the super user. The trouble is that you might not realize right away who the influencer is. For instance, Rob Howard, founder and CTO at Telligent, says that in his company’s own internal community an intern’s answers ranked higher to employees in importance and value than information posted by the company’s CEO.