Community Personas

An active online community has information constantly moving in multiple directions. The community manager and members post content and everyone within the commu­nity is encouraged to respond with their own unique contribu­tion. Whatever the topic, the power of an online community is in the ability for many people to rally around a shared bond and feel empowered to contribute.

Your community is typically an aggregation of multiple social media networks and groups. Because of this, it’s often referred to as a virtual community, custom designed to satisfy your social marketing objectives.

Content posted by the community manager may vary greatly depending on the purpose and design of the group. An online community associated with an organization is likely to post some or all of the following components supplied by the organization:

  • Company newsletter information
  • Events hosted by or associated with the organization, industry, or community
  • Deals or opportunities for customers/fans
  • Posts from the organization's blog or related industry posts
  • Articles related to the organization or industry
  • Content from company social media channels

Creative community managers also have the opportunity to kick engagement up a notch by inviting community members to contribute, such as:

  • Inviting community members to write blog posts
  • Launching simple opinion polls, then encouraging mem­bers to participate in the poll and comment on the topic being discussed

Encouraged by the community manager or not, individual members of an online community may contribute:

  • Product feedback (positive and negative)
  • Concerns or suggestions related to the organization, industry, or a current event

No matter what combination of these techniques works for your individual organization, one thing is true: you need active community members to make the conversations interesting. Once the conversations are going, your community will grow naturally. Active members will invite others, people will share content, and you'll appear in more searches as you solve more and more problems and more people respond. In an online community, the bigger you are, the more opportunities you'll have to grow, often naturally and with very little effort. But how do you get started?

Social Media Personas

Social media professionals will often create a social media persona they associate with the organization. The persona becomes who the community hears from- the face of the organization. There are three types of personas typically used: personal, corporate, and response community personas. When acting as any of the personas, the community manager uses their skills to best represent the organization and connect with the consumers.

The persona can be thought of as a role in an acting part. What part you play depends on your market, business purpose, and where the prospect is in their buyer’s readiness. One persona role may be appropriate at the beginning of the sales cycle, and another role might be more appropriate downstream.

Personal Persona- In some cases, it's best for the community man­ager to post as themselves. This is the most personal approach and is typically received well. In small communities, this might be easier to implement since the personal persona may very well be one person. In larger organizations, it can be more challenging to maintain consistency in messaging. In these cases, it's critical to have a communications guide and an individual mon­itoring communications.

Corporate/Brand Persona- Corporate or brand personas are a single resource who speaks for the organization. The most notable dif­ference between personal and corporate personas is that corporate personas rarely connect on a personal level with their community. A benefit of a corporate persona is that any turnover within the organization will go unnoticed in the community. With a robust commu­nications plan, the corporate persona won't change.

Response Community Persona- Banks, cable companies, restaurant chains, and other businesses that have a high volume of communi­cation on social media platforms use a hybrid version of personal and corporate personas called a response community persona. All of the responses come from one corporate account, but each employee retains their own voice and often includes their name or initials within the communication. Employees are encouraged to include their personality in their responses.

Whatever persona you choose for your organization, it's important to consider what is feasible for your organization and what you can do to ensure consistent messaging.

Determining Your Voice

Community managers are responsible for encouraging con­versations online. There are several different ways personas can be used to support an organization, and the community manager needs to be able to move seamlessly between them. Whether a personal, corporate, or response community per­sona is required, the community manager should follow the expectations set in the style guide and remain consistent.

In some cases, efficient community management will involve a broadcast message, intended to inform as many peo­ple as possible of an important message. The tone would be clear and informative.

ComcastCares “Most customers should see their TV service back up and running. We appreciate your patience while we worked to resolve.”

The example from Comcast is a pinned tweet - sure to reach anyone who visits their Twitter profile- and is direct and to-the-point. The voice is consistent with other ComcastCares messaging focused on resolving cus­tomer issues, yet distinctly different from their parent Twitter account. 

xFINITY “We’re opening our XFINITY #WiFI public hotspots nationwide starting at 6 am,” xFinity messages are much lighter, focusing on enter­tainment and the benefits of internet and cable connectivity.

In other cases, a more individualized response is best. In the sample Facebook post below, a Wells Fargo community manager connected with a customer individually, addressed her by name, shared specific directions, and signed off with their name. In this case, the response was to a specific cus­tomer concern and required individualized attention both to ensure a resolution and to assure the community that the insti­tution responds to customer concerns quickly and in a mean­ingful way.

Wells Fargo "Hello, Karen. I'd like the opportunity to review your payment concerns. Without sharing account numbers, please send a private message with your best contact number, mailing address, and any additional details. Thank you. -Cory”

Your organization will use one voice that will vary by sit­uation but remain consistent throughout the organization's communications. One way to think of this is by considering how you speak in your personal life. Sometimes you're happy, angry, or confused, so your messages might change slightly, but you'll use similar words and phrases and you'll never lose your accent. Small changes based on the situation are normal, and you still sound like you.

Aligning Roles, Readiness, Leadership, and Power

The on-line sales cycle typically supports three general sales stages; Provoking, Befriending, and Activating. The Closing stage can also be supported depending on industry, product, or service. Whatever role is selected, you will want to align that role with the prospect’s Performance Readiness, Leadership, and Power.

Provoking Community Participation

Performance Readiness

Leadership Style


Unable & insecure/unwilling

High Directive Low Supportive

Coercive Power - Force or carry thru

Connection Power – Association with influence

Coercive Power- Force or carry thru 

  • Compels project investment outside an existing budget
  • Challenge prevailing point of view
  • Addresses unacknowledged anguish
  • Targets strategic problems
  • Begins with the business case and then provides technical proof
  • Uses an insightful hypothesis to provoke a response
  • Is proactive and leading, forcing issues out

Connection Power- Association with influence

  • Starts as an executive-level dialog
  • Case studies of other customers
  • Analyst and quotes
  • Partners
  • Social Network Leaders

Persona Objective: To develop a willingness to communicate

Befriending Community Relationships

Performance Readiness

Leadership Style


Unable & Confident/willing


High Directive- High Supportive

High Supportive- Low Directive

Reward Power – Provide desirable things

Legitimate Power – Satisfy normal expectations

Reward Power – Provide desirable things in their community

  • Opportunity to contribute and make a difference
  • Peer & Social recognition and increased Personal Reputation
  • Improved Skills and Know How
  • Increased Personal Productivity
  • Increased Job Satisfaction

Legitimate Power – Satisfy normal expectations, Brown Bag discussions

  • Knowledge Sharing, Expertise and Resources
  • Collaboration, Consensus, and Problem Solving
  • Trust Between Members
  • Asset Sharing

Persona Objective: To develop a relationship of trust

The Community Activating Persona

Performance Readiness

Leadership Style


Able & Insecure/unwilling


High Supportive

Low Directive


Legitimate Power – Satisfy normal expectations

Referent Power – attractiveness of relationship

Legitimate Power– Satisfy normal expectations

  • Crystallized vision of increased operational efficiency
  • Crystallized vision of increased cost savings
  • Crystallized vision of increased levels of service & sales
  • Crystallized vision of increased employee and customer retention

Referent PowerAttractiveness of relationship

  • Expanded solution with colleagues across enterprise
  • Multiple vendor solution
  • Access to experienced users
  • Access to third-party consultants
  • Leveraged buying power

Persona Objective: To motivate community member to respond to call to action

When the Community Manager keeps all the persona elements properly aligned, your community will pay big dividends in your overall Social Marketing investments.