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Welcome Visitors--and Gain New Members

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Amy Jo Kim, in this excerpt from her book Community Building on the Web, offers advice on how to welcome visitors to your online community and turn them into new members.

THERE ARE FIVE ARCHETYPICAL ROLES THAT make up the Membership Life Cycle, which outlines the progressive stages of community involvement (see figure, below). This conceptual framework can help you design your platform, prioritize your feature set, and create the programs and policies that will shape your emerging culture.

The Membership Life Cycle outlines five successive stages of community involvement (see Figure 1).

  1. Visitors:  people without a persistent identity in the community.

  2. Novices:  new members who need to learn the ropes and be introduced into community life.

  3. Regulars:  established members who are comfortably participating in community life.

  4. Leaders:  volunteers, contractors, and staff who keep the community running.

  5. Elders:  long-time regulars and leaders who share their knowledge and pass along the culture.

To illustrate how the Life Cycle works, let’s think of your community as a neighborhood. When someone visits an attractive yet unfamiliar neighborhood, they’re eager to explore the place, but not quite sure how things work. Visitors will arrive at your doorstep wondering where to go, what to see, and who to trust. Some will only visit once or twice--but others will return again and again and start to get involved in the local scene. In the pages that follow, I’ll tell you how to convert visitors into new members.

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