Profiles aren’t reflections of who we are, profiles are reflections of how we want to be seen by members of the group.
Profiles contain signifiers. These are traits we believe the group values. The more signifiers we display and the bigger/better/more valued the signifier is, the more we’re both accepted and achieve status within the group.
A few examples:
- In a community of music fans, the number of live events might be the status symbol.
- Among hipsters it might be the length of the beard.
- Among CEOs, it might be books published or revenue generated.
- Among local residents, the area they live in, time spent in the town, or services performed for the community.
- Among parents, it might be combined age of children.
- Among employees, it might be length of time at the company.
- Among dieters, it might be before and after photos.
Yet, this is too simplistic. We change our signifiers depending upon which sub-group we want to impress at any given time.
Newcomers to the community space might like to display the size of the community they manage or the number of communities managed. Veterans might like to display the job title/role they have had at top brands. E.g. Head of Community, Apple. They might display the number of years working in the field. Each signifier appeals to a different group we’re either trying to gain acceptance from or trying to achieve status within.
Others might like to highlight the events they’ve spoken at or books published.
If that’s the case, have a member profile field for members to list what events they’ve spoken at. This is the key to doing member profiles really well. Identify the traits members’ value (they’re usually displayed in the ‘about’ section) and turn them into specific fields to showcase value.
Make it as easy as possible for members to display the status symbols of the group.
You want to remove the general about information and replace it with signifier fields. This allows newcomers to quickly understand what traits the group values. As a result, they begin to display those traits. This tightens the group and spurs more activity.