It’s great having passionate members. They’ll start interesting discussions, welcome new members and get involved in lots of discussions. The model member, right? The problem is, these members can be intimidating and actually stifle the development of your community.
What is a community ‘power member’?
Pull up your member list. Sort by members with the highest post count first. Right at the top are your ‘power members’. They might not be your most valuable, but they are the most powerful.
Power = Intimidation
New members of your community are nervous. As soon as they contribute, it is a big deal. They are putting themselves on the line – will they be accepted? Is their contribution ‘good enough’? Did they follow the right protocol? Power members can really help here – they’ll welcome the new member (hopefully). The problems start a little further down the road.
Power users can be intimidating. Remember, every member of your community is valuable – not just the ones that are contributing 24/7. Your quieter members may end up no longer welcoming new members – after all, your power members jump in within a few minutes so they don’t need to. Your quieter members may stop answering questions from other members – after all, your power members jump in within a few minutes so they don’t need to.
The more active and immediate the presence of your power members, the more they risk intimidating other members. This results in fewer contributions and works to focus even more of your community’s content in the hands of a small minority of your member base.
The same issue can arise if you are too keen to use your moderator powers, or are too visible or active in the community. If you welcome every new member publicly within a minute of them joining, what motivation do your members have to follow suit? After all, the ‘most powerful and influential member’ (you!) has already welcomed them. What value can they add by doing the same?
If you eagerly jump in and delete or edit posts, you are taking some of the shared responsibility away from your community. You are effectively ‘dumbing’ your community down. Why not wait a little, and see if your members can resolve conflict themselves? Sure, you might need to eventually jump in, but give your members some time to work things out themselves, first. If a member reports a post they aren’t happy with, instead of just deleting it, ask that member to see if they can diffuse the situation – tell them you think they have that ability, and to give it a try.
Your members might just thank you. If they manage to diffuse a potential conflict themselves, congratulate them and thank the peacemakers. You want to keep hold of those members.
Turn the spotlight
Power members are great for a community, but you need to recognise their potential downside. If you notice some of your members are becoming a little over-eager, turn the spotlight away from them. Seek the opinions and invite contributions from other members. If you see a conversation taking place that you think will interest some of your quieter members, invite them to contribute. Acknowledge and praise your quieter members when they contribute. You want to make these members more confident. If they turn into power members, turn your attentions to a new batch of shy members.
Never keep the spotlight on one group of members. Let everyone have their moment of glory. Your community shouldn’t revolve around a small number of members. It should be open and inviting to all of them. You’ll always have some members that ‘consume’ more than they contribute. Focus your attention on these members – after all, you’ve already won over your power members. They aren’t going anywhere.
You don’t want to discourage your power members – they are doing a great job at keeping your community ticking over. Your aim is to get more members active and involved – imagine if you could consider 100% of your members to be power members. Wow.