We’ve compiled a helpful list of definitions for some of the most common online community strategy/building/management terms and acronyms in our Community Glossary.
Read on to find simple explanations of community terminology.
It's pretty comprehensive, but community is always evolving, so if you have suggestions for any additions, please join the Guild Community Collective - the free community for community builders - and make your glossary suggestions on there.
Things that communities do. It’s that simple!
Does the community co-create? Meet for a purpose/specific outcome? Do you hold regular meet-ups, webinars, social events? Do you work together on collective projects?
For example CREO, a community for events professionals on Guild, crowdsourced a manual to help its community quickly get to grips with virtual and hybrid events at the start of the Covid pandemic.
A community management role. Community Administrators or ‘Admins’ will typically be in charge of managing access to a community, approving new members, assigning roles and permissions to users, promoting and removing members, as well as many other duties.
A Community Admin might not always be the public face of a community and can work as part of a larger team alongside community moderators or hosts.
Advisory or Advisor Communities usually comprise individuals selected to help the hosting organisation to achieve its mission, potential or growth through their valuable support and advice.
These communities are being built by an increasing number of businesses, charities and non-profits. Here's an example of an advisor community hosted on Guild.
Alumni Communities are powerful communities that can generate a massive amount of value for both organisations and individual members.
The word alumni is traditionally used to describe former students or pupils of a school, college, or university. Today, many business organisations use the term alumni to collectively refer to people who are former employees.
Businesses have recognised what educational institutes have known for decades - that your former physical place of study or work is a natural connective space, and that bonds and relationships formed there can create a powerful, long lasting allied force. Here's an example of an alumni community hosted on Guild.
AMA (Ask Me Anything)
AMAs are a form of question and answer-based session in a community, where members can ask questions in real-time to subject matter experts.
AMAs were first made popular on Reddit and are now a popular technique in many Guild groups and communities. For more information, read this post from a Guild community manager on how to run an AMA.
Community Ambassadors are friends and admirers of your community who will help raise its profile, and even recruit new members.
For example, university tutors and alumni may not actively manage University communities, but may point students and alumni towards them. If you invite someone to your community and they like it but it’s not for them, it can be worth asking them to share it with their network. Having a public page for your community can help with this.
This refers to tools, services and rules that take day-to-day community duties off your hands.
This can include approving community members, syncing your community data with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM), or sending messages, reminders or content round-ups to new members. You may use an Application Programming Interface (API) or a service like Zapier to do this.
An icon or figure representing a community member.
Some online communities accept or encourage the use of an avatar or a characterisation instead of a member profile photo or headshot. Often used in video games and early internet forums where anonymity over being present is favoured.
Some avatars can only be used or unlocked if a member reaches a specific level within a community.
A Business-to-Business or B2B Community is a group of professionals drawn together by a shared interest and held together over time by mutual support or benefit.
Online B2B communities are groups of people who share something in common AND share a digital platform to convene, collaborate and communicate, such as Guild.
Many of these communities will meet in-person to maintain social ties. There are many examples of B2B communities on Guild, such as the Renewd Network for subscription, event and membership professionals.
A method of illustrating the category, rank or profile of a member in a community. For example, a ‘Founding Member’ or a ‘Valued Contributor’.
Awarding badges can be used as a gamification or behavioural science nudge technique to encourage desirable community behaviour, such as regular posting or helping other community members. Badges can also signpost community moderators, hosts and administrators who can be approached for help, or they can highlight new members who may need more community support.
Community Admins may choose to ban members for breaching community rules or guidelines.
In some communities this might be the decision of the host, owner or admin, but there will often be a process in place to help the moderation team treat members fairly and consistently.
Banning can be temporary or permanent and it doesn’t necessarily need to have a negative outcome - if you are protecting the community as a whole, your core membership will generally appreciate fair but decisive action to keep a community on track.
An abbreviation for Biography.
Most communities, networks or groups will require some form of Biography or short summary of who a member is as a part of their personal profile. See also Personal Profile and Discoverable Profile.
Bumping is the process of adding a comment to a thread or post in a community to make it more visible.
Usually applied to older conversation threads that have may useful information, or if the original poster or the community host or manager would like to see more engagement.
CGC - Community Generated Content
Also known as Community Created Content (CCC). CGC is an example of community activity and is the co-creation of content from a community through collaboration.
Communities can create powerful, highly relevant and meaningful content. Each member can contribute different resources, skills, experiences and knowledge. CGC can be a way to bring a community together and help members to understand how much you value their presence.
For example, Comms & PR Pioneers and Digital/Marketing Pioneers communities on Guild generate lists of peer reviewed, favoured and highly recommended PRTech and MarTech.
The CREO event organiser online community collaborated on the creation of a rapidly published crisis guide for event organisers as the Covid pandemic took hold in 2020.
Usually refers to a live chat between individuals who are present in the community at the same time. Chat functions can be a community platform feature that allows quick, real-time discussions via audio or video options.
Chatham House Rule
Many professional meetings and professional communities, including those on Guild, operate under the Chatham House Rule.
It’s a single rule, not rules, which encourages open discussion but protects the identity and privacy of participants.
If in doubt, assuming that the Chatham House Rule applies is good practice in communities. If you want to quote something that someone has said within a community, ask for their permission. People are often delighted to help, may offer you additional information or support, and you’ll avoid any misunderstanding.
Chief Community Officer - CCO
Some community strategists and practitioners view the role of Chief Community Officer as the most senior executive role in the community profession.
As community becomes increasingly important for organisations, there is debate about where community sits, whether that’s marketing, communications/PR or customer experience/service. See the Community Trends 2022 report for more discussion around community roles and the term CCO.
Churn is when a member leaves a community. The rate of attrition, or community member churn, is the rate at which members leave a community. It is most commonly expressed as the percentage of members who leave over a fixed period – usually monthly or annually.
Whilst some would view this as a negative metric, communities should expect churn. It can also be a positive outcome, as members grow, learn and become more experienced or skilled. For example, a parenting community might churn members when their children reach a certain age and the community no longer feels relevant to their lifestage.
A learning community will churn members at the end of a programme.
Churn can be viewed as a positive challenge/opportunity. For example, it might be an indicator that it's time to set up an alumni community or develop mentoring within the community/programme.
Members who leave your community can even go on to become Community Ambassadors and recommend new members.
CMGR or #CMGR
CMGR is an abbreviation of Community Manager. It's used frequently on Twitter where every character counts. The #hashtagged version #CMGR pulls together all tweets intended for Community Managers. You may also see #CommunityManager used on Twitter and other social platforms.
Code of ethics
Part of, or an alternative to Community Guidelines. This sets out expected ethical behaviours and standards for both the community owner and the members of the community.
A community is a social unit or group of people who share something in common, whether that's an identity, values, location, religion, a shared goal, circumstances, roles or interests. Communities share a sense of place - that can be geographical or a virtual or digital platform.
Online communities are groups of people who share something in common AND share a digital platform to gather and communicate - read more about the history of online communities here - 'What is an online community?'
Community Advocates are the same as Community Ambassadors. They are typically highly engaged, positive members who actively influence existing members and attract new community members. This advocacy usually takes place through channels such as word of mouth or social media platforms.
Community As A Service (CaaS)
This term has two meanings. First coined by Kelly Strickel, founder and CEO of Remodista in December 2016 “Community as a service is a concept that allows members of an ecosystem to do business together while maintaining guardrails and parameters that allow the group to focus on a greater purpose for the betterment of all.”
In November 2020, Michelle Goodall, highlighted CaaS in the co-authored guide Community Based Marketing (CBM) - The new play in B2B marketing as "a service offered by consultancies, community specialists and agencies to provide businesses and organisations support with community strategy, building and management. This may include specifying or sourcing a community platform, establishing a community strategy, integrating and analysing data and providing day-to-day help with moderation, management, analysis and marketing."
Community Based Marketing (CBM)
Community-based marketing or CBM is the process of bringing people together around a shared practice or area of expertise in a community to create closer, and more valuable, relationships with prospects and customers.
First coined by Ashley Friedlein and Michelle Goodall in 'Community Based Marketing (CBM) - The New Play in B2B Marketing' in November 2020.
The rise of the Passion Economy, impact of the coronavirus pandemic and waning effectiveness of other marketing channels have seen B2B communities gain investment and gain a more strategic position in organisational and marketing strategies. For more, see our Community Based Marketing Best Practice Guide.
Community Champion / Community Hero
May also be used as a synonym for Community Advocate or Community Ambassador. Community Champions or Community Heroes are often connected to local grassroots communities, for example initiatives run to rally local communities around a cause or campaign.
For example, the OLIO app recruits community heroes to help reduce food waste in their local communities.
Community Guidelines are a published list of norms around behaviours and actions expected from members.
They may outline ethics, prohibited behaviour, and advice to encourage community contributions. They should ideally be quite brief, memorable and easy to link to in case administrators or moderators need to reinforce behaviours or processes. See also Code of Ethics.
A set of measures and analysis or a report on whether a community is thriving, struggling or somewhere in between.
There is no set of standard metrics. One community may be thriving with 30 members posting a couple of times a month, while another may be struggling with thousands of members posting daily. Community health must be measured in relation to your community purpose and strategy as well as member satisfaction.
A Community Host will typically perform a number of duties, including welcoming new members, prompting conversations, moderating discussions, as well as organising any in-community events.
They may or may not also be the Community Admin.
In Guild, the Community Host is the public face of the community. See the directory of some of the discoverable communities on Guild and check out who the Community Hosts are.
Increasingly businesses are focusing on building communities to drive growth and impact by incorporating various stakeholder feedback, opinions and insight through communities.
Capturing this valuable insight can shape strategy, values or even product and service innovation.
The types of community that typically power a Community-Led business include Advisory Communities, Customer Communities, Learning Communities, Internal Communities, Volunteer Communities…. the list goes on.
Some good examples of Community-led businesses and their community philosophies feature in our Building Better Business series.
Community-Led Growth is a strategy that an increasing number of businesses are adopting. At its heart are supportive communities, developed or supported by the organisation long-term, as a force to drive customer acquisition, expansion and retention. See also Community-Led Business.
There are various Community Lifecycle models that chart the different stages of a community. Richard Millington of Feverbee identifies inception, establishment, maturity, saturation and mitosis.
The World Bank’s Communities4Dev research also suggests five stages: ideation, initiation, growth, maturity, and division/decline.
All community lifecycle models reinforce the importance of understanding that community needs will change over time - and that you need to plan for these changes and take appropriate actions at each stage.
The role of a Community Manager is varied and will be different for every community. In large organisations they may be part of a team that includes Community Marketers, Operations Managers and other specialists such as Data Analysts or Content Creators.
In smaller organisations, a Community Manager can be responsible for everything from member recruitment and marketing to measurement and strategy, day-to-day moderation, engagement within the community, and even decisions about the community platform and supporting technology.
Community Managers are primarily “people people”, and the role in the context of community is usually seen as a behavioural one rather than technical or commercial role.
The term is also often used by social media managers to refer to a social media community manager.
A 2020 survey by Australian Community Managers found 170 different job titles in 184 respondents, so many people in organisations may be a Community Manager without having that specific title.
To join a supportive, free ‘community for community managers’ and access more useful community resources and discussions, join the Guild Community Collective. See also Community Host.
Community Marketers typically work with Community Managers or Community Hosts to amplify the work of the community and recruit new members rather than building or managing it day-to-day.
They may also create social media ads/posts, events, newsletters, blogs and other content that helps community members connect and showcases the effects of the community to a wider audience.
Community Marketers are rarely an exclusive role. Many have these community marketing tasks on top of additional roles, e.g. PR, communications, events management, social media marketing etc.
In larger community-led organisations and in more established communities, a Community Operations role connects the “front of house” Community Manager, moderators and administrators with the “back of house” creative and technical teams.
Similar to Marketing Operations within a marketing team, this is a strategic role with responsibilities for community reporting, improving processes, technology alignment, feedback and budgeting.
A community platform is simply the platform on which you plan to host your online community.
The choice will dependent on a number of factors that are important to your organisation, business or departmental aims and objectives and how you intend to integrate community into your broader ‘Technology Stacks’ such as MarTech, SalesTech, PRTech etc.
If data, control, mobile-first design and privacy is important, many people will choose a purpose-built community platform like Guild.
Community of Place
One of the 5Ps of community - a Community of Place or a Place-Based Community binds members together because of where they reside, work, visit or otherwise spend a percentage of their time, have visited regularly, or wish to visit regularly.
These online communities can be small neighbourhoods, towns, or workplaces. They can also be people connected by an event, gathering or any other geographically specific place that a number of people share.
You'll no doubt be familiar with your local community groups in platforms like WhatsApp, NextDoor and Facebook Groups. My local Facebook Groups in Walthamstow, East London have been wonderfully supportive to those struggling most through lockdown during the pandemic.
B2B Communities of Place tend to focus on physical or virtual events and meet-ups, such as physical member spaces or regular events.
See ‘What are the different types of online community?’ for the 5 Ps of community.
Community of Play
One of the 5Ps of community - Communities of Play form around a common interest or hobby. They can cover topics such as gaming, sports, arts, music, collectables etc.
Typically, they are developed by passionate fans and hobbyists. But there has been an increase in more individuals creating larger communities in newer online spaces with the intention to sell them and their audiences to the right owners. Communities of Play can also be created by brands. One example of a brand with a long established investment in multiple community types is Lego.
See ‘What are the different types of online community?’ for the 5 Ps of community.
Community of Practice
One of the 5Ps of community - a Community of Practice is a common B2B community category or type.
It’s a group of people who share a common concern, interest or passion, and come together to interact regularly.
These communities tend to link individuals together across official organisational boundaries and departments as they exchange knowledge and collaborate to improve an industry, sector or role.
Examples include the PRCA’s PR and Comms Community, a global Community of Practice for PR and Communications professionals at all levels across the world, or The Marketing Society’s private community of practice on Guild for senior global marketers or Legal Pioneers, a community of practice for progressive legal professionals.
See ‘What are the different types of online community?’ for the 5 Ps of community.
Community of Product
One of the 5Ps of community - Members of Communities of Product are focused primarily on discussing and learning about a specific product.
Communities of Product are popular in consumer industries such as beauty and fashion, where members benefit from being part of a loosely knit 'fan' community and receive member benefits via exclusive content, offers, events and product updates.
In Technology and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), product communities can also comprise millions of members, but also smaller, niche communities.
Salesforce’s Trailblazer Community is a global movement with groups in around 90 countries. ‘Trailblazers’ comprise all types of stakeholders including developers, partners, employees and customers. It’s a B2B mega-community!
But Salesforce also hosts communities for smaller stakeholder groups and niche groups on community platforms like Guild.
See ‘What are the different types of online community?’ for the 5 Ps of community.
Community of Purpose
One of the 5 P’s / categories of Community, a simple categorisation of community types.
Communities of Purpose usually have a big, bold ambition. An end goal and a high purpose.
Ideally, communities have a target date or timeframe in which to achieve the purpose that they community is committed to, whether that’s to eradicate single use plastics by 2030, to reach inclusion/diversity targets in an organisation or to eradicate the causes of a specific disease, whilst supporting those who live with it.
See ‘What are the different types of online community?’ for the 5 Ps of community.
This is the formal statement of the goals or aims of a community. It can also be called a Community Manifesto. All communities and community members benefit from convening around a clear purpose.
If you can’t sum up your community purpose in a couple of sentences, then your community is likely to lose direction. It’s the first factor in our Success Factors for Community-Based Marketing.
All Guild communities have a space to state their Community Purpose. Having a clear purpose will help you capture the attention of members who will be relevant, interested and engaged.
Purpose can also be the sole foundation of your community. For example to ‘improve social mobility in X profession/country’ or ‘collaborating for actionable change in race equality.’ Also see Communities of Purpose.
These often accompany or are a part of Community Guidelines.
Community Rules are a list of behaviours that are not allowed in a community. These are typically written in the negative, e.g. “No unsolicited selling”, to ensure that clear guardrails are in place for community moderation.
Whether it sits within your business strategy, communications strategy, marketing strategy or separately, a community strategy is the overarching direction and guiding policy around ‘community’ in your organisation or business.
This can include understanding and communicating where community sits, how it is resourced in your organisational model, your community goals, what value you will generate for the community and from the community, how it will work for the community members you want to serve, what type of community you want to build, and how you expect it to launch, grow and develop through the community lifecycle… and more.
Our Community Strategy resources and reading lists are good places to develop a greater understanding of community strategy and The Periodic Table of Community Strategy is a great place to start.
Community Success Manager (CSM)
A consultancy type role which has a parallel in Customer Success.
A Community Success Manager (CSM) often works for a platform or agency supporting the customer or community owner in understanding the technology and processes they need to run a thriving community.
Their role may include community member onboarding, measurement, marketing and management.
The community equivalent of 'greenwashing'.
Community Washing is building groups of people for unethical or exploitative purposes. It’s where a community isn’t part of a genuine, purposeful strategy. As community expert Venessa Paech identifies in this guide to community trends, community washing is: “a feel good, social spin on marketing or business activities that are ultimately extractive, even harmful”
An example of Community Generated Content or CGC. A Community Zine can be a physical or digital magazine that is created within a community. It is usually created for self-expression, rather than for profit.
It can be a collaborative output from a community or can be pulled together by community managers from discussions and content in a community.
Some community platforms, like Guild, enable communities and groups to separate discussion topics into different conversation threads.
Consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp don't have conversation threads, but have a continuous feed of messages. Threads were a key defining feature of forums, one of the earliest community platforms.
Threads make asynchronous conversation easier and can give discussions in communities a longer lifespan. Combined with a good search facility, conversation threads can add enormous value to your community by avoiding repeat questions - if you’ve ever seen the same topic crop up weekly in a Facebook Group, you’ll understand the benefit of conversation threads in communities.
A creator is anyone who produces pieces of interesting content in multiple formats. It is usually applied to a skilled, creative person or an influencer with a sizeable consumer audience on social media platforms. Some are able to make a living from being a creator. Others supplement their income with their content.
SignalFire states there are approximately 50 million creators worldwide. Creators can be paid to endorse brands or will have long term relationships in return for content production and distribution.
This is broadly termed Influencer Marketing and is worth $13.8 billion worldwide. This commercial relationship in many countries has strict advertising and consumer laws and will be regulated. The FTC in the US and the ASA and other bodies in the UK oversees creator/influencer marketing.
Creators have successfully monetised their knowledge, art, analysis or skills for many years through tactics such as guest blogging, live-stream gaming, advertising and brand tie-ups in social media.
Increasingly, creators are seeing the value of adding community to their social media presence and networks through platforms such as Discord and Guild.
Not only does this help them avoid doing daily battle with ever-changing social media platform algorithms to reach their audiences, but it provides an opportunity to explore additional revenue streams with members through techniques such as tokenising their communities – or developing loyalty by continuing private conversations in subscriber spaces.
For example, in sport, UCLA basketball player Jaylen Clark launched $JROCK, his own social token that gives community members special access to tickets, content, and merchandise. In professional services, consultant Simon Andrews has monetised his much-admired newsletter for digital, advertising and marketing by creating a “Salon” type community for AdTech and digital experts called Fix AdTech / Perfect Storm. Community allows him to strengthen ties with those who subscribe to the Fix newsletter, including clients, prospects and partners, but also to provide access as a subscription-based add-on to the newsletter.
Cross-posting is the act of posting the same content to multiple places. For example posting the same message and content to social media platforms and multiple groups on community platforms.
Cross-posting can be helpful as it creates more visibility and reach of content. But posting the same content in multiple communities which share members can cause frustration or even be considered ‘spam’.
Consider whether people have seen your information before and whether you need to tailor what you say for specific communities. It can be courteous to acknowledge that you’re cross-posting to avoid confusion.
A Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) is an investment vehicle which runs on blockchain technology.
DAOs is an internet-native business model. It's an entity that is owned and managed collectively by its members. Like a co-operative, everyone has a say and decisions are made through voting. Rules around spending are integrated into the DAO's code.
Cooper Turley, an investor and builder of DAOs, described a DAO as “an internet community with a shared bank account” in an interview with CNBC.
Like social media, communities are digital spaces where discussions can turn heated and comments can be made about individuals or businesses in the moment that could be considered defamatory by law.
A defamatory statement can be libel (published and written) or slander (published and is one which injures the reputation of another person by lowering them in the estimation of "right-thinking members of society generally."
Defamation laws differ across regions and countries, so please do refer to the relevant laws. Defamation is extremely rare in professional communities, but is important to watch out for defamatory comments.
Community Managers and moderators will be on alert for conversations and comments that look like they could descend into defamatory comments that would break the law.
Direct Message (DM)
Direct Messages are messages between members of a community which aren’t visible to anyone outside the conversation.
Also known as a Personal Message on some platforms. Typically these are one-to-one private messages between two individuals.
Some community platforms, like Guild, allow members to choose whether they make their profile discoverable, meaning they are visible outside of a community and will have their own public web page with its own URL.
The advantage of discoverable community profiles on Guild, like social media profiles on LinkedIn or unprotected Twitter profiles, is that they are indexed by Google and can provide information about individuals that they would like to be seen by others when searching for them.
Having consistent personal profiles across multiple spaces indexed by Google is a great way to maintain a personal or professional brand.
Google yourself now and see what comes up.
Do you need to join Guild and create a discoverable Guild profile?
These are inactive members of a community who haven’t logged in, read content or participated in any way for a period of time.
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s is one of Guild’s advisors. His famous research suggests that the optimum size for human groups is 150 - after this point groups tend to collapse or fragment as it is no longer possible for individuals to keep up with connections.
Community strategy often focuses on the quality of membership rather than quantity, and although the specific 150 number might not apply to every community, it is a useful principle to consider as a community matures and grows.
For example, what impact does additional members joining your community have on the inter-member ties that existed when your community was 150 members strong?
An example of a community member type or community role in the Community Member Lifecycle.
Within online communities, elders are typically thought of as established members who can help in many ways, including helping new members on-board and orientate. See Member Lifecycle.
Community engagement is a key metric for measuring the success of an online community, and looks at how frequently and meaningfully members are engaging, whether that’s in group discussions, one-to-one conversations, or other activities such as updating their personal profiles.
Community Engagement is not the only metric or even the most important one. In social media platforms, engagement is critical in order to beat algorithms and because the content is so ephemeral.
In community platforms, it’s much less important to focus on high levels of engagement as community members will log in and read, applaud, contribute when they are able to or have a specific need.
You can employ numerous tactics to increase engagement in your online community but like any metric you should make sure that you’re looking at the whole picture. See 'How to align community to your business goals.'
This is related to individual community members and can help Community Managers understand some of the reasons why individuals might join and participate in a community.
There are broadly 2 ways to consider what motivates individuals to join and participate in a community – Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators.
Any individual is very likely have one or more of these motivation types. It’s also likely that their motivations will change through their member lifecycle or even the community lifecycle.
Extrinsic motivators are usually external motivations that impact and show up in the environment around the individual, and provide some form of externalised reward.
For example, participating in and winning a community challenge or a quiz and getting some form of personal kudos, increased community status or a reward from the host. Or receiving customer support in a community that fits the need of the individual who asked and allows them to fix their issue.
Traditionally communities that rely too heavily on extrinsic motivators (like the retailer with frequent sales/discounts who damages their bottom line and their brand) can damage the health of a community and the bonds between members. See also Intrinsic Motivators.
First-party data is a category of information that a company collects from customers.
First-party data or 1P data is part of the multiple data types that marketers use and is broadly seen as one the most valuable data categories (zero party data, first party data, second party data, third party data). The collection and use of all data types is governed by different data laws in different countries and regions.
First-party data can be collected by companies through behaviours and actions across their websites or apps, including subscription data, social media and community data.
It can also include non-online information such as surveys, customer feedback, and other customer information in a CRM.
Many successful communities, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C, start with a small core group of community founders. This may include a cohort who can sometimes be called VIPs or beta testers, who test the community concept and create the right community atmosphere and behaviours.
Founders are an important community member segment. See also Member Lifecycle
Five Ps of Community
A broad categorisation of community types that we use at Guild comprising Communities of Practice, Communities of Place, Communities of Product, Communities of Play and Communities of Purpose. See 'What are the different types of online community?'
Forums were amongst the earliest forms of online communities where conversations took place in the form of posted messages and conversation threads and discussions, often within websites.
For example, Econsultancy.com's very early digital marketing forums in 2000 or thecybermoms.com, a forum on CyberMom, a US parenting site that billed itself as the '"Net for Moms with Modems".
Usenet was a platform of thousands of bulletin boards and forums, covering many topics. It was bought by Google in 2001.
Both Guild and Reddit are direct descendants of the information-rich and (usually) friendly, supportive world of Bulletin Boards and forums that many early internet users participated in. See this community timeline of the history of communities.
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. One of the key elements of community management is to help banish FUD in a community!
That might include providing a clear community purpose and great onboarding for new members, or whether it is eliminating misinformation and fake news from the community to ensure high levels of community trust and satisfaction.
This refers to adding elements of gaming to encourage engagement, participation, recruitment or other desired behaviours in your community.
This could include member rankings and titles, badges, formal or informal awards such as unlocking status avatars, “thank you” or applause counts through to statistics on a profile - such as member number, join date, number of posts or connections.
Iceberg Effect / Iceberg Theory
There’s much more of an iceberg’s mass under the sea that what can be seen above the water level!
The Iceberg Effect is the term for the theory that the visible activity of a community only accounts for a small part of the overall activity that a community manager does. For example, privately encouraging members to participate, planning events, or moderating discussions.
The Iceberg Effect can also apply to platforms.
For example, public or discoverable communities make up a very small percentage of the total communities on Guild as most groups are private and invite-only.
The activity that takes place on the Guild platform is not solely happening in communities on the threads, discussions, events and debates that take place in groups - member to member direct messaging is a large and valuable part of engagement on the platform.
An inactive member is an individual in a community that has not logged on or engaged in any way for a significant period of time.
This may be as a consequence of many factors including a change to their circumstances, lack of time, or because the community no longer serves their needs.
Integrations are tools offered by technology and software providers to connect to other services you use.
In a community context this might allow you to make sure your CRM invites customers to join your community, or differentiate community members from ordinary customers on your email lists.
Internal Community Manager
In organisations a community manager may liaise between employees, management, leadership and other internal stakeholders and manage internal communities for employees and colleagues. This role may be part of the internal communications or HR team.
This is related to individual community members and can help Community Managers understand some of the reasons why individuals might join and participate in a community.
There are broadly two ways to consider what motivates individuals to join and participate in your community – Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators.
An individual is very likely to have one or more of these motivation types and it’s also likely that their motivations will change through their member lifecycle or even the community lifecycle.
Intrinsic motivators are usually internal motivations that don’t necessarily show up in the environment around the individual, and which provide some form of internalised reward. For example, participating in a collective support effort to raise funds for a good cause in a community, or supporting another community member with a helpful answer to their question - and the feeling of enjoyment that comes from those acts. These are Intrinsic Motivators.
Healthy and successful communities will tend to offer ways for community members to participate that will appeal to a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. See also Extrinsic Motivators.
Key Performance Indicators are any metric that you use to measure performance.
In a community context this might include the number of new members per month, engagement metrics like logins, new posts or replies or whether community members go on to become newsletter subscribers, customers or take other actions you want to encourage.
In many successful professional communities, community KPIs will align with Organisational goals, measures and KPIs. See 'How to align community to your organisation or business goals.'
A lurker is a term used to describe a community member who views content but doesn’t get involved in discussions or post updates of their own.
It’s a common term but we think that the term “lurker” should be banned in community strategy.
If you use the term 'lurker' and value those who engage more, you might be overlooking the value of your quieter members who often make up the majority of a community.
Consider why there are communities or groups that you’re in where you are more likely to post and engage. And consider reasons why you sit back and read in other communities. Are they discussing topics you’re less confident on? Are you learning from the community?
Often simply reading, absorbing information and learning in a community is hugely valuable for community members. Don’t forget that value as a community manager.
Used to describe the lifecycle of a community or a specific stage in the community lifecycle where a community has reached a mature stage. It can also be applied to members and the stage that they are in their member lifecycle. See also Community Lifecycle and Member Lifecycle.
Members are simply people or individuals who have joined your community.
In some professional or B2B communities, members might also be organisations and then individuals sit under company membership of the community.
Just like customer or employee retention, membership retention refers to how many of your members stay in your community.
Most communities will experience churn or a loss of members. Community Managers will usually try to ensure that churn is mitigated by ensuring that new members join. See also Churn.
Member lifecycles refer to the typical maturity and the different stages of a being a member of a community.
For example, a new community might be kicked off with a group of founders. The first additional group of invited members are new members (or newbies).
As a community grows and matures, new members will join and become the newbies, some members will become elders and some will leave – perhaps because they have moved on in their lifestage, have changed careers or have been promoted, they have retired or sadly passed away.
Understanding Community Member Lifecycle models and Community Lifecycle models reinforces the importance of understanding that individuals and their community needs will change over time, and that you need to plan for these changes and take appropriate actions at each stage. See Elders, Founders and Newbies.
A thread in a community that features a member based on predetermined criteria.
For example ‘Made by Members’ is a popular thread in many Guild communities where hosts can highlight campaigns, best practice activity or things that members of their community have created.
Mentoring is a great way to share experience and learn new skills, increase confidence, and job satisfaction and impact professional and personal growth. It’s the process of matching up two individuals so that influence, guidance and direction can be given by the mentor to the mentee.
There are many mentoring communities on Guild and many organisations are evolving in-person mentoring programmes to virtual or hybrid mentoring via online communities.
Community metrics are simply the measures that are important to a community and the community host.
For example, these may focus on growth, engagement, impact or member churn.
Some communities also measure ‘community health’. This can be a single measure or a combination of factors, including quantitative and qualitative metrics such as ‘positive sentiment’, ‘volume of quality responses from community’ or ‘Net Promoter Score.’
Professional communities need focus and investment and most communities will need to show quantifiable value or return on investment (ROI) after an agreed timeframe. That might be by generating some form of business value or improving operational efficiency, or other value derived from helping people within or outside of an organisation.
Most professional communities will be connected and aligned to organisational goals, objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and a community manager will need to consider how to show value and return on investment (ROI) for their communities.
The key to community metrics is:
- to decide what you want your community to achieve
- to identify where to find the right data
- to consider how you can analyse that data to report meaningfully to others
- and the actions you take as a result of analysing that data
Micro communities are online communities with a very small number of members.
Often focused around a niche subject, or a niche grouping such as a specific role, speciality, interest or geographic region.
Examples of micro communities in professional communities on Guild are ‘concierge’ top client communities or communities that bring together a specific group of people in a membership organisation who focus on improving understanding of a specific topic or practice area, for example “Artificial Intelligence in PR” or “Retail Ecommerce” specialists.
Migration is the process of moving your community from one platform to another (e.g. from Slack, LinkedIn, WhatsApp or Facebook Groups to Guild) or merging communities to another community on the same platform.
Moving platform does risk losing dormant or inactive members. However, moving communities to a more suitable platform usually reinvigorates a community and also ensures that you can attract and involve new members.
Many platforms, especially on social media, prevent you from accessing or migrating any useful community data with you.
For this reason you might choose to create your community on a platform where you can own and analyse community data, such as Guild.
Moderation in an online community involves reviewing posts, content, comments and conversations from members to make sure they align with the community guidelines, rules and the community ethos.
There may be a dedicated community moderator or multiple community moderators who handle this. It may be a responsibility of a Community Manager and some communities also devolve moderation to community members, such as Super Users, Community Elders or Community Volunteers.
Moderation is usually done to a specific set of rules, guidelines and processes to take emotion and difficulty out of having to delete comments or warn members that they have broken the rules and not acted in the spirit of the community.
See also Community Rules and Community Guidelines
Monetisation is the process of generating income streams from a community.
There are a number of ways to monetise an online community, such as making community a valuable part of a the membership package, or generating revenue from other sources such as coaching, events, recruitment, sponsorship or advertising.
Non-profits and charities can also 'monetise' communities through donations and other forms of financial support from members.
Monthly Active Users (MAU)
Monthly active users (MAU) is a metric used to track the number of individual members who are engaged in a community. Some communities also use Weekly Active Users (WAU) as an important Community Metric.
MVC - Minimum Viable Communities
Just like product development, where a version of a product is often developed with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide iterative feedback, the same minimum approach can be applied to communities.
If you have an idea where a collaborative community will be central to achieving your set goals, a small-scale Minimum Viable Community or MVC is a great way to start. MVCs can also be called a Prototype Community or a Beta Community.
An example of a community member type or role in the Community Member Lifecycle.
Within online communities, newbies are typically thought of as new members who have joined and require some assistance to be onboarded and orientated.
One of the most important jobs for community managers is to ensure that community newbies are welcomed and that Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) is eliminated in the minds of new members. This will reduce member churn and help maintain high levels of community trust and satisfaction.
See Member Lifecycle, Elders and Founders.
Onboarding is the process of introducing a new community member to your community. It may include bringing them up to speed with the community platform’s functionality as well as introducing them to the community purpose, guidelines and values.
Community onboarding is one of the most important elements of community and the member experience.
One Percent Rule
Also known as the 90-9-1 rule, this is a theory that in any group or community most people are consumers rather than producers of content. This also translates to the percentage of people who start discussions in communities.
In many communities, this practically plays out as a relatively small number of individuals, i.e. 1%, who start discussions/conversations, post content and welcome new members.
A larger group will respond to conversations started by others. This 9% will like, comment or answer questions if asked.
The remainder – the 90% - are likely to be either only readers or learners (not 'lurkers' - see why we think lurker is an unhelpful term), or inactive members.
It’s a useful rule of thumb and obviously will vary by community. Some micro communities can flip the model and may have 90% of members posting discussions and content.
An abbreviation meaning “Original Poster”, i.e. the person who starts a thread in a community, group or network.
If you use this term, it’s usually best practice to mention the individual and tag them, if appropriate.
Where individuals build audiences at scale and turn their passions into livelihoods. The rise of digital platforms, including online communities, has enabled more people to make a living from their passions.
The Passion Economy is more extensive than solely fashion and beauty. For example, it can include the monetisation of passions and skills more closely linked to journalism, financial services and management consultancy.
Li Jin is widely considered to be the godmother of the passion economy. She wrote an essay titled “The Passion Economy and the Future of Work" and described her thesis as: "People being able to monetize individuality and non-commoditized skills at scale, supported by digital platforms."
Li also states that the passion economy is a superset of the creator economy.
Periodic Table of Community Strategy
Created and published in Feb 2022 by Michelle Goodall, the Periodic Table of Community Strategy summarises the most important elements of community strategy distilled into a quick reference visual.
The Periodic Table of Community Strategy is a useful resource for community builders who are just getting started. It's also a helpful reference guide for experienced community professionals.
Much like on a social media platform, a personal profile within an online community will usually include minimal but a standard set of details about an individual member, such as name, job title, location and a short professional biography.
There may also be ratings or rankings for members on their profile to indicate standing or membership levels on the platform or community.
Some community platforms, including Guild, offer an option to make a profile public with a shareable URL so that members can expand their network. See also Discoverable Profile.
A community playbook is a document that contains the principles and practices behind your community for others to easily reference and use.
Established communities with teams of more than one person usually have a community playbook to ensure that all community roles are aligned and that there is consistency in community governance and management.
A post is normally an individual part of a conversation thread, whether it starts a discussion or continues one.
In most communities members can post to existing conversations or start a new conversation (making them the Original Poster or OP, see separate entry).
An individual usually has control over their own posts in a community allowing them to edit posts. Famously, this isn't the case on Twitter.
On the whole, posts are positive things in communities, networks and groups, but posts can also be deleted by Community Moderators if they fail to meet Community Guidelines.
Private Message (PM)
An alternative way to describe a Direct Message (DM). Most online communities will allow members to private message each other, allowing them to send messages that can only be seen by the selected recipient.
A core principle of building successful communities is to encourage members to be good community participants - and for community managers to be great community participants too!
The Reciprocity Principle refers to the feeling of indebtedness people have towards those who do something helpful for them. This can lead to a feeling of obligation to help others and reciprocate, as we feel uncomfortable being indebted to other people.
Offering help, giving recognition and praise and supporting others fosters a positive atmosphere in any community. According to Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: the psychology of persuasion, humans are “hardwired to want to return favours, pay back debts and to treat others as they have been treated”.
Which is a wonderful way to make the world go around - and a great principle for community building!
Some communities choose to rank or flag the status of their members.
For example, they may highlight long-serving members, i.e. Elders or Founder members - see separate listings for these definitions - or valuable contributors or "conversation starters".
In some communities, there may be ways for other community members to reward other members that contributes to positively to their rank.
For example, a Valued Contributor (VC) is a member on Guild who has received more than 10 Applauses from 10 individual members in a specific time frame. This is an informal ranking system that highlights those who have contributed positively in discussions, or those who have shared helpful content that has been appreciated by others. See also Valued Contributor.
Many communities have standard and regular activities that help to bond the community - these are also known as community rituals.
The best rituals are ones that run deeply into the ethos of the community and have some kind of regularity, so that they become part of a community's rhythm.
For example, community ritual examples can include easy engagement conversation threads like monthly polls, “Wednesday Wins” or “Friday Feels” where members share good news or things that have made them smile that week.
Rituals can also include things like events/meet ups – ‘Town Halls’, ‘social drop- ins’ ‘virtual coffees’ or ‘surgeries’. Many Guild community owners use the Video Room feature for these in-person/video rituals.
Rituals can also include Welcome threads where the community host, manager or other members recognise and highlight new members. They can also include ‘Made by Members’ or ‘Thank You’ threads where members give kudos to each other. See also: Ask Me Anythings (AMAs), which are another form of community ritual.
Community rewards can be things of value that are earned or bestowed on community members by the community manager or others in the community.
A simple example on Guild is applause that contributes to a member's rank and highlights that they are a Valued Contributor in communities, groups and networks on Guild.
Rewards that Community Managers might develop will depend on what type of members they have in their community, and whether those members have Intrinsic or Extrinsic motivations.
Extrinsic rewards might take the form of status, public thanks or kudos or even gifts or monetary rewards such as free access to an event, person or content. Some communities gift members with books, tokens or credits that can be traded in.
Intrinsic rewards may take the form of collective notification that a challenge has been met, or a target achieved as a result of the community and individuals providing help or support. For example, “98% of our youth mentees have gone on to get full time jobs in the digital sector”. See also Intrinsic Motivators and Extrinsic Motivators.
Return on Investment, see also Metrics.
ROI is a simple metric, calculated by dividing the benefit of an investment by its cost. However, many community managers or programs find it a challenging metric if their communities are not aligned to business or organisational goals.
To demonstrate how the community is supporting and proactively affecting business or organisational metrics, you need to identify and track the right goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to align your community to.
Mapping out capabilities and time, cross-referenced with the main objectives of the business/organisation, will ensure your efforts are focussed on which community activities to prioritise based on potential impact.
Your aim is always to help monitor the right kind of community behaviours and activity to develop and demonstrate ROI, effectiveness and positive progress. You can join regular discussions about community measurements, community health and community ROI in the Guild Community Collective – a free community for community professionals.
Most communities have roles for both members and for those who set up and manage communities, groups or networks.
For those who set up communities, specific named roles on online community platforms may come with different privileges or powers, such as administrator, analyst, host or moderator.
See the Periodic Table of Community Strategy for examples of member roles and community roles.
Search Engine Optimisation is the process of developing and organising digital content in a way that makes it easy to find via search engines, such as Google, Yandex or Bing.
Hosts of discoverable communities on Guild tend to create SEO optimised community descriptions so that they can easily be discovered by potential members using Google and other search engines to find relevant communities to join.
The principles of good SEO are also aligned to good UX, good usability and good community and content taxonomy. See Taxonomy.
Social tokens are a key part of crypto, Web3, the digital economy and the creator economy.
Celebrities, such as the musician RAC and college basketball player UCLA basketball player Jaylen Clark, have created their own economies and currency, distributing them to fans based on their fandom.
In Clark’s case, holders of $JROCK social tokens get special access to content, merchandise and access/tickets to the sports star. Social tokens are likely to be key community rewards in consumer communities in the coming months/years - see Community Trends 2022 for further examples.
Can also be called a Valued Contributor. Super Users are regular contributors to community activities whose activity is valued by both members and community hosts.
They are the familiar faces on the platform and often represent the community on the outside in advocacy or champion roles. Community Managers frequently work with Super Users for feedback as well as informal and formal community development and support.
Tagging in communities can refer to a number of features, dependent on the community platform, but it is a set of methodologies to provide context and visibility of community content to other members.
For example, on Guild, you use the @ symbol followed by a member name within a shared community and can tag members on posts, threads or conversations. This lets other people reading the conversation find out more about that person. It can also serve as recognition for the person you tag.
On Guild, members can be alerted when they are tagged, so it can be a good way of ensuring that someone has seen you giving kudos, or ensuring that they see an important reply or question.
Tagging can also be used by community hosts or members to bring someone into a conversation they would find interesting, or where their contribution would be valuable.
Taxonomy can refer to the way that an organisation's communities are structured and can also refer to the structure of content in a community.
For example, a business or organisation's Community Taxonomy might include communities where content/messaging is intended to reach large numbers in social media, and also include internal communities and private micro communities, where smaller numbers of members convene, such as prospects and VIP clients.
Content Taxonomy is a system for organising content that any organisation produces, which might be used in a community but in many other places too. It includes:
- Content Structure, e.g. models of content types and templates such as Case Study, Short Form Video, Report etc.
- Metadata – i.e. descriptions about content, including tags
- Controlled Vocabulary i.e. the driving attribute of the content and tag terminology
Also known as Social Tokens or Community Tokens. Tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that can be used by individuals, brands/businesses or communities to monetise, reward or incentivise certain actions.
Many influencers, creators and celebrities use platforms such as Instagram or TikTok and their Creator tools to monetise their personal brand and presence. In this model, the social media platform sets rules and can takes a percentage of the revenue generated.
Tokens are decentralised, built over blockchain and use the same model as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Benefits include creators being able to skip the social platforms' partner models and take full control over the reward model and revenue.
Tokens can be issued as a gatekeeping mechanism to a community by offering premium access to content only for their largest token holders that can either be bought or awarded as a result of some form of valuable fan/follower/community member action.
The model assumes that value of tokens will increase as the community grows and more tokens are issued.
A person who sends malicious messages or deliberately starts arguments or dissent in social media or in communities.
Trolls are unpleasant. Their behaviour is ugly. Do not feed Trolls. They can undermine a community and, in some cases, can break laws.
Trolls are sadly common on some social media platforms, but rare in professional communities. This is because there tends to be a strong code of professionalism and ethics, anonymity is discouraged and professional profiles are strongly encouraged.
There are usually clear community guidelines in professional communities and members usually help moderate out trolls and disruptive behaviours if they feel a sense of ownership in communities.
User generated content (UGC)
User generated content is content in any format produced by a community’s own members. See also CGC.
User Experience is a broad term for all aspects of a person or an end-user's interaction with a company, its systems, services, and its products.
UX includes a person's perceptions of utility, ease of use, and efficiency. Usability is connected to UX and community platforms and apps with ‘good usability’ should make tasks and behaviours easy, enjoyable and intuitive for all users.
See Super User.
An alternative term for Online Community. A Virtual Community is a network of individuals who connect to each other through digital or online platforms such as apps, communities, forums, and social media.
Weekly Active Users (WAU)
Weekly Active Users (WAU) is a metric used to track the number of individual members who are engaged in a community in a given week. Some communities also use Monthly Active Users (MAU) as an important Community Metric. See Monthly Active Users.
Sometimes used to describe an old discussion or thread in a community which has run its course, but has been revived by someone adding a new reply.
A slightly derogatory term, suggesting that a member has resurrected something that probably should have stayed buried.
More Community Strategy resources on Guild
Best practice guide: How to combine Events with Community
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