This has always been a topic of debate, at least for me and most of my colleagues, where ever I have worked. In the last post I talked about how most communities are designed for lurkers and, in my opinion, the false value added to big numbers (likes, follows, etc.).
I didn’t however discuss the differences between members and subscribers, which I believe to be significant and worth understanding, especially if you are considering building a branded community or adding a content vertical/strategy.
Members, should be, a dedicated group of like minded individuals who actively participate in a community setting, like a forum, focused around your brand, product, etc. These are individuals who you have already enticed to join in the discussion, they are your brand ambassadors, your customers or clients. This is your community – regardless of the numbers!
As previously mentioned in other posts, it’s better to have 200 actively engaged and participating members than 10’s of thousands that stay silent. If they are quiet they are not members -yet!
Of course the above is a very watered down explanation, but you get the point.
Subscribers on the other hand are individuals who are interested in what your brand or community has to say but they aren’t ready to or don’t want to participate in a discussion with others. Don’t confuse them with lurkers, people who sign up for a limited time offer like a coupon or contest or people who watch the conversation but don’t actively engage. Subscribers just want information they can consume on their own time, like a newsletter, RSS, or download of some kind.
In my experience if you give visitors of your site the option to “Sign Up” to a community or “Subscribe” to a newsletter, they usually choose the latter.
However, this does not mean you shouldn’t offer both!
You should always give potential members the opportunity to also subscribe to a newsletter, but don’t bombard them with a ton of options. However, with newsletter subscription, I would keep it simple, a direct call out to subscribe, don’t bombard them with a ton options, they are subscribing for a specific reason. You can convert them later.
Subscriptions are a great way to convert people to members. Through a simple newsletter subscription you can gain subscribers quickly and creatively use the content in your newsletter to illustrate the benefit or added value of becoming a member. It works!
The key is remembering that each member you attempt to or have acquired is unique, and they evolve, in terms of community participation, at different speeds.
What are some of your experiences with members vs. subscribers, or examples of how you creative converted subscribers to members?