How to Build a Community for Each Member

Learn how to engage with the Five Types of Community Members in this interactive guide.

Community isn’t a

They say it takes a village to raise a child — well, it also takes all types of people to make an online community flourish.

One of the most unique and beautiful things about associations and nonprofits is that they often attract people from all backgrounds, creeds, orientations, races, ethnicities, and abilities, and rallies them around a common mission: to make their community a better place.

So how can association leaders understand their diverse member populations, be welcoming and inclusive, and give each of them an experience that keeps them active and engaged in the organization, and specifically, their online communities?


of community professionals admit to communities playing a critical role in achieving their company’s mission, and 64% admit that online communities have helped them improve business decision-making.


Building a community for every member

We believe that building an inclusive, engaging online community starts with asking yourself these questions:


are the top member 
types or personas of your community?


do your different types 
of members join your community?


are your member types’ favorite community features and elements?


can you keep these online community members active and loyal?

Once you start answering these questions, you can start building experiences that each member type will find valuable and usable, which leads to a thriving online community that is built for and by your members.

Your community will never be all things to all people, but it can be a safe and beneficial place for your top members to spend their time and build strong connections.

Your community should be


rather than


The top 5 community member examples —
and how to reach them

1 The Researcher

Who are they?

Researchers are ever-curious and pride themselves on not just having the most updated and meaningful knowledge, but knowing the places to go to find the best information. While they love a good stat and the latest data, they’re not always your Type A personalities. Research member types come from various backgrounds, and at the heart, they know knowledge is power and a precursor to action. They may not be your most active members, but they’re far from your community lurkers (members who you see online, but who rarely interact).

Researchers like:

  • Reliable information
  • Easy-to-find resources
  • Sharing what they know

Researchers dislike:

  • Old information
  • People unwilling to share their knowledge
  • Buried resources and information

Why do they love your community?

Researchers view your community as a source of consistent, reliable truth. These members are the ones most likely to read longer content pieces like articles or blogs, and they enjoy talking about them in discussion forums and sharing your thoughtful pieces on their personal social media accounts as well.

They love that your community offers a trusted source of information and peers and experts of topics they enjoy researching whether it’s the best restaurant in town or the latest stats on Alzheimer’s research.

What are their favorite features?

Researchers love organized discussion forums that allow them to find their topics easily. Since they view your community as a trusted, go-to source, they look forward to the content that you decide to feature on your community as the latest and greatest (blog, report, article, etc.), and they enjoy an easy-to-navigate resource or blog center.

How do you attract and retain researchers?

Create consistent content with relevant information, create a variety of content, including videos, they can digest and share, develop longer pieces they can sink their teeth into, and highlight stories about your members and your mission.


of users join online communities to discover new things.


2 The Connector

Who are they?
Connectors are the people who are always saying, “I know someone you should meet!” And it could be after you’ve mentioned something as casual as your new baking hobby or as meaningful as your struggle as a new parent. Some connectors are your typical networkers, others are consummate hosts. Either way, they love meeting new people and making new connections.

Connectors like:

  • An active newsfeed
  • Event calendars
  • Discussion forums with an option to direct message

Connectors dislike:

  • Closed groups
  • A community that isn’t mobile-friendly
  • Few opportunities to gather (virtually, hybrid, and in-person)

Why do they love your community?
Connectors are the heartbeat of your online community and are the types to take the most advantage of what your online community has to offer. They’re active across your newsfeed and your discussion threads, and they relish opportunities to meet and connect with others whether it’s via a webinar or an event.

What are their favorite community features?
Connectors love scrolling through the Newsfeed to get a sense of any new people or any new topics. From there, they’ll hop into discussion forums and check their inbox before settling on an events calendar. They also enjoy perusing your member directory and profiles.

How do you attract and retain connectors?
For connectors, it’s all about giving them the space to make the connections — and empowering them to deepen the connections they’re making within the online community and outside of it. Make it easy for them to tag people in posts, start their own discussion forums, plan local meet-ups, and plan social and networking events for them during annual meetings.

Want to help connectors take their connections beyond your events?
Check out CommUnity for Events.


of survey respondents said the main reason they love online communities is because they provide the ability to connect with others with similar interests.


3 The Scholar

Who are they?
Similar to researchers, scholars know that knowledge is power, and while your community scholars love interacting with resources, they really enjoy those formalized, official learning opportunities like courses and modules. They like expanding their skills and measuring what they’ve learned.

Scholars like:

  • Courses
  • Educational videos
  • Assessments/quizzes

Scholars dislike:

  • Buried information and knowledge
  • Lack of diversity of discussion topics
  • Lack of educational opportunities (sessions at events, 
 workshops, courses)

Why do they love your community?

Scholars are looking for authoritative topics and opportunities to learn from your leaders and their fellow community members. Even if your association doesn’t offer training courses, they know they can be directed to opportunities by people they trust.

What are their favorite community features?
Scholars like to switch up the way they learn information, so having traditional resources like blogs and articles they can read will appeal to them as well as infographics and videos. Consider starting a discussion forum for “Additional Learning,” and if you do offer courses and workshops, highlight those on the main community page.

How do you attract and retain Scholars?
An online community is a great way to offer short video tutorials on things your scholars say they want to learn. If you do offer more formal learning opportunities, consider offering certificates of completion, make it easy for them to share their learning accomplishments, and remember, they love a good quiz.


of community members admit to using communities as a way to learn about new topics.


4 The Advocate

Who are they?
Advocates are people of action. They’re cheerleaders for your team and their fellow members, and they’re crusaders for your cause to the outside world. They are the biggest believers in your organizations and view all your efforts — events, fundraisers, outreach, and your online community — as ways to further the mission.

Advocates like:

  • Event calendars
  • Stories about other members and constituents
  • Volunteer opportunities

Advocates dislike:

  • Plans without action
  • Difficulty getting involved (lack of communication, no clear 
 instructions, etc.)
  • Negative posts

Why do they love your community?
Like connectors, advocates will most likely be super users of your online community because they see many of your community features — like the newsfeed, discussion thread, donation portals, etc. — as opportunities to learn more about your mission and act on that information.

What are their favorite community features?
Advocates will spend time in the discussion forums diving deeper into the mission’s issues and connecting with people who could use their help. They like clear ways to contribute to the organization like clicking a button to donate or hitting “like” on a post calling for volunteers. They also are the members most likely to share fundraising information with their social networks.

How do you attract and retain advocates?
One of the surest ways to attract and keep advocates around is to clearly state your mission’s needs and make it easy to get involved. Create a discussion thread that you regularly update with volunteer opportunities or mission needs, and include a section on your community main page that says “Want to help? Get involved” and link to a form, an upcoming event, etc.

Video generates


more shares than text and image content combined.


5 The Entertainer

Who are they?
Entertainers forge connections by bringing light and laughter to your community. We know that sounds a little cheesy, but entertainers enjoy finding and sharing the positive and humorous side of life within their communities and like to bring joy to their fellow members.

Entertainers like:

  • Social hours and events
  • Games and quizzes
  • Multimedia posts (video, pictures, memes)

Entertainers dislike:

  • Repetitive posts and resources
  • A disorganized newsfeed
  • Negative posts

Why do they love your community?
Entertainers really enjoy the safe and protected aspect that an online community offers. They like that they can be themselves, find people who enjoy socializing and having fun together, and share a few laughs, even as they make serious moves to further your organization’s mission.

What are their favorite community features?
For entertainers, it’s less about specific features and more about your community’s culture and the capabilities for entertainers to share their joy. It’s important that they can share images, files, and videos. They’ll also be some of the first members to sign up for a virtual concert or trivia game (they may even offer to host trivia!) they love to see on an events calendar.

How do you attract and retain entertainers?
Entertainers are pretty easy to please. As long as you ensure they can share a funny video and picture on the newsfeed or in discussion forums and plan to feature fun guests and, yes, entertainers during your events.

Engage your online community, and grow your organization


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