Roles in Online Groups

Successful Online Groups need people interacting with each other in a variety of roles. All online groups have participants of course. But there are other roles that are important. Some roles may not even involve being a member of the group.

It is helpful if all participants in an online group know who is in each role and what responsibilities they have in their role.

There are no universally accepted definitions for roles in online groups. Here are some role descriptions developed by OnlineGroups.Net.

The main roles in an online group are:

Some other roles can be important, too.


All members of an online group are participants. Participation is voluntary. People participate when they perceive some current or future benefit to them in doing so. Some participants pay little attention to the group. Others keep track of conversations in the group. Some follow conversations closely.

Active participants contribute to conversations in the group. They advance ideas or information, ask and answer questions, add to each other's answers, provide alternative answers and acknowledge each other. Active participants provide the benefit for others to follow conversations. And they encourage others to contribute as well.


The Administrator has the technical role of adding and removing group members. Often the Administrator also has the social role of fostering participation in the group.

It is not possible to make people participate. The Administrator can only initiate and encourage participation in line with the purpose of the group.

Here are some ways that an Administrator can help to foster participation.


The Owner is the person or organisation that has commissioned the establishment of the online group for a particular purpose. The Owner has the authority to close the Online Group.

Online Groups are not and can not be democracies. One person always has the Site Administrator's password. It is important that people know who that is and who they are accountable to.

The Owner and Administrator may be the same person. If they are not, the Administrator is accountable to the Owner.

Other Roles in Online Groups

Sometimes people take other roles in online groups.