Distinguishing Your Online Community Personas

By Erin York (she/her) posted Mar 07, 2024 10:51 AM


In the world of marketing, personas are at the crux of how we assemble messaging outreach and content. But did you know that there are also persona types for community? Community personas are archetypal representations of individuals within our online community. Each persona (and the people it represents) has a unique set of motivations, behaviors, and expectations. By understanding these personas, we’re empowered to tailor our strategies to meet each persona’s distinct needs.

In my upcoming Super Forum 2024 session with @Kristen Parody (she/her), we’ll be exploring community personas and some of the ways you can engage the full “cast of characters” in your online community. We’ll use characters from the show “Friends” to help attendees think through a more robust community strategy based on each persona’s needs.

Here’s a sneak peek!

Types of Community Personas

At Higher Logic, we typically see three types of community personas, which we think of as the three C’s of community engagers:

  1. Consumers: Seek information, entertainment, or inspiration.
  2. Contributors: Crave connection and recognition.
  3. Creators: Strive for self-expression and influence.

Each of these personas gives and receives value to communities differently, but the delineation is not always black and white. In fact, a singular individual can fluctuate between all of these personas depending on where they are in their career, how long they’ve been a community user, etc. – and we might even see some individuals who fit into different personas at different times of the year!

It’s important to understand how people ebb and flow between these personas so you can tap into their engagement based on what you’re trying to achieve in your community. One helpful exercise (like we’ll share during our Super Forum session) is to think of your favorite TV characters and assign them to characteristics within these persona categories to make the personas feel more concrete.

It can also be helpful to write down what you know about each of your personas, and brainstorm ways you can meet their interests and strategies you think will help get them more involved.

Let’s try it out.

How to Motivate Different Community Personas

Consumers are the silent observers—the lurkers and learners who absorb content without actively participating. They read posts, watch videos, and follow discussions. Their engagement is subtle, but their impact is significant. Here’s how we can support them:

  • Content Curation: Curate high-quality content that resonates with consumers. Share informative articles, inspiring stories, and thought-provoking discussions.
  • Encourage Liking and Sharing: Consumers thrive on validation. Encourage them to like and share content they appreciate. When they do share, recognize their contributions: a simple thumbs-up can make them feel seen and valued.

These more passive points of engagement are important because – as I like to tell my customers – if the community turned off tomorrow, this is who you would hear from the most. Your consumers still gain value from the community, even if they’re not the ones actively contributing to it.

Contributors are the backbone of our communities. They comment, ask questions, and share their experiences. They’re the lifeblood that keeps conversations flowing. Here’s how we can empower them:

  • Prompt Engagement: Ask open-ended questions to spark contributors’ participation. Encourage them to share personal anecdotes, tips, and insights by implementing an Automation Rule like “Keep the Conversation Going”.
  • Acknowledge Their Contributions: Respond promptly to their comments to give them a sense of validation. A sincere “Thank you!” email can go a long way. Highlight exceptional contributions to inspire others to uplevel their achievements or create an engagement program to award people for their contributions.

Contributors can be internal to your organization or they can be your external end-users. Striking a balance between internal and external contributors ensures that your community is being supported in its entirety.

Contributors can be a very transient persona: an individual might not be a contributor 100% of the time. Based on the topics at hand, their experience within their field, or simply the time of year, their level of engagement might ebb and flow. As a Community Manager, it’s important to think about when it’s appropriate to leverage these users and to do so mindfully – you don’t want to drain your top performers by relying on the same people over and over. Spreading the wealth among contributors makes them feel valued without them burning out from being leveraged all the time.

Creators are the visionaries—the ones who generate original content. They write original posts, answer questions and upload content. Their passion fuels the community’s growth. Here’s how we can nurture them:

  • Provide Tools and Resources: Empower creators with tools, templates, and guidelines. Help them unleash their creativity.
  • Showcase Their Work: Feature creators’ content prominently. Spotlight their achievements and celebrate their impact.

This is where high-level gamification can really shine. You can also  involve creators a little more fully than some other personas: have something you want to beta test? Tap them in. Considering a new community or community tactic? Invite them to join a steering committee. Creators – when handled with care – can help guide the direction of the community. This benefits your organization, and them! They gain a sense of community ownership, which can steeply increase how they feel the value of the community.

All Your Community Personas Add Value

A thriving community embraces all personas. When Community Managers thoughtfully and strategically engage each community persona, they can build an online community environment that can be sustained for years to come. As a Community Manager, think about what your yearly goals are. Is it to simply grow your user base? Consider how you can support users in being better consumers: building a content schedule is a great place to start! Who are those Creators or Super Users you can regularly rely on? Understanding who’s who in your community can help you partner with the right people based on your community initiatives. By knowing how to recognize and support each persona, you can build a vibrant ecosystem where everyone feels heard and valued. Let’s champion our community, one persona at a time!

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I hope you’ll join me, Erin York, and Kristen Parody at Super Forum 2024 for our Community breakout session on Thursday April 11 @ 4:45pm.

1 comment



Mar 07, 2024 07:48 PM

I'm excited for this session! I think defining and creating personas can feel overwhelming, even if you have been in the community space for some time.