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Jake McKee

CEO at Community5
November 9, 2020

Sagi - What is the difference between super users and fans when it comes to online communities?

Hiya Sagi!

Good question, and this one is a good starting point. It’s important to set terminology and then stick to it. Every community and every community professional and every community team may have slightly different terminology for what we call things. What you call “fans” and what I call “super users” may be exactly the same thing. But maybe not.

Yes, I’d like to wave my magic wand and have the industry use all the same terminology consistently because it’d make our lives easier in many ways* (see caveat below). But as long as we as each individual team define (and probably write down so that new team members can understand immediately) what we mean by the various terms, and we stick to those definitions, we’ll be fine.

(*The caveat here is that some industries come with their own specific terms. “Fans” in gaming or sports industries, for instance, have pre-defined, larger scope definitions I’m not going to fight against. Go with it. Super users in deep tech industries means something specific to server administration and using it for online communities gets confusing. Don’t try to recreate the wheel.)

Caveats aside, here’s what I personally use:

Fans:
Members of your community who have stepped up and shown interest in the community at greater rate than run of the mill members. They’re excited, they’re showing a pattern of interest. They’re earning badges in the gamification system (if you have one). Generally they’re making positive noise and showing leadership traits within the community.

Super Fans:
Aka Super Users. These are you community’s leaders. They’re fans as I’ve described above, but they’re really going above and beyond in the leadership, participation, and contribution departments. Fans come and go, their interest may wax and wane over time. But Super Fans are dedicated for a long duration of time.

They’re also modeling positive behaviors, living the culture, and nearly blurring the lines between employee and community member in how much they’re adding value to the site. (But no, there’s no concerns about co-employment here!)

If you refer to that age old 90-9-1 model (90-9-1.org), Fans occupy the 9 and some portions of the 90… the Super Fans own the 1% tier.

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