It’s no secret that those around us influence us. Two millennia ago, the Greek philosopher Seneca wrote: “Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”
People’s desire to build connections creates an opportunity that membership communities are custom-designed to satisfy, and creating an online community that people love is easier today than ever.
With online platforms and near-global access to the internet, we can easily attract and connect people into a neighborhood group or even an international one.
Plus, well-run membership communities foster relationships and result in benefits that will lead you to retain members long-term.
This means that the earning potential of membership communities, combined with their trending demand, make this an opportunity that demands attention.
Are you ready to learn more? Let’s take a closer look at how to build a membership community.
- Why Build a Membership Community?
- 1. Start Small, Then Promote
- 2. Pair It With Your Membership Website
- 3. Choose the Right Platform
- 4. Make It Mobile-Friendly
- 5. Prepare Engagement Posts in Advance
- 6. Drive the Community Yourself
- 7. Implement Clear Community Guidelines
- 8. Test Different Types of Content
- 9. Focus on Retention
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Build a Membership Community?
Membership communities offer many advantages. Some improve course results, while others improve coaching. Plus, when you create a successful membership site, you have the potential to generate revenue.
Here are a few reasons you should start a membership community:
- Boosts engagement: An online community connects people with similar goals and challenges. This creates a space for productive discussions that result in learning, perspective shifts, and feedback.
- Increased understanding: A community helps participants broaden their focus beyond personal application. When they see how to apply a principle in multiple ways using a variety of examples, it improves their understanding.
- Peer support: When members ask for and receive feedback from each other, they integrate that content, learning, or perspective more deeply. This gives your audience better results while lowering the demand for your time.
- Topics of interest: As your members engage with the posts in your community, you’ll have a chance to see which topics are most relevant and spark conversation.
- Feedback and support: Your members’ questions and troubles can help you determine which topics have been over or under-explained. This ongoing feedback loop allows you to improve your content, courses, and coaching programs continuously.
- Generate a steady revenue stream: A well-maintained membership program that offers undeniable value to your members can continue to be a reliable source of income.
Before starting to grow your community membership, ask yourself these questions.
- Which of these advantages interests you the most?
- How can you design your community to provide those advantages to you and your members?
1. Start Small, Then Promote
Starting can feel overwhelming if you have big goals for your community, and setting up a membership community with a full-fledged content plan can be tempting.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your big dreams are end goals, and it’s best to think small when starting. Do this instead:
- Start with a small but mighty group of founding members willing to work out the kinks and provide feedback.
- Start with a small amount of impactful content that delivers immediate rewards while painting a picture of your vision.
In the navy, it’s often an honor to be a sailor on a ship’s first cruise. You become a “plate owner,” an informal recognition that says you were a part of her original crew.
Most people like being part of a new vision; they like being part of a seed group in something they believe.
You can also reward this group of founders with unique bonuses, special pricing, a tangible gift, or recognition. Then, once you and your small but mighty team work out the details, you’ll be ready for growth before you know it.
2. Pair It With Your Membership Website
Keeping your membership site (which is where you keep your premium content) and your membership community (where you interact with members) as two different entities isn’t a great idea.
When they require separate logins, chances are your participants won’t bother to use the community aspect of your membership website as much.
Ideally, you can use a membership platform that lets you set up both things in the same place. But if you end up using two different solutions, make sure the two have a single sign-on integration between them.
3. Choose the Right Platform
While features and cost are important considerations when choosing a community platform, there are several benefits to choosing a platform you own. In fact, when you own a platform, it’s ad-free, making it a better user experience.
When choosing a platform, consider the following questions:
- Do the features support the purposes of your community?
- Can you create a seamless integration between all of your platforms?
- Do you have—or will you have—courses or other future content?
- Will this support your current goals?
- Will this support your future dreams? If not, what could migrating to another platform look like?
If you already have a membership site, we recommend using Circle.so for your membership community. Apart from offering powerful community-building tools, it integrates with most membership website builders and has affordable pricing.
You can check out this Circle.so review and decide if it’s the right platform for you.
However, if you’re starting from scratch, you can consider using Kajabi for your membership site. It is an all-in-one platform with features for creating online courses, coaching, podcasts, and communities.
It also offers features for building your brand website, hosting your blog, and creating end-to-end marketing campaigns.
4. Make It Mobile-Friendly
Is there a more natural way nowadays to connect with others than a mobile phone? Having a mobile-friendly membership community is a must, as it’s a great way to share anything from your phone, be it the pictures you take or connecting with videos.
Before you sit at your computer and choose a membership platform, make sure to check if there’s a corresponding mobile app for it. A mobile app to connect with the community will make it easier for your members to engage.
Another great option is to consider whether you can create your own community app. You can do this by acquiring a white-label app—one made by someone else that you can brand it as your own—or by hiring an app developer to create a custom app.
Check this out if you’re interested in learning more about the options for creating a community app.
5. Prepare Engagement Posts in Advance
Engagement ebbs and flows even in successful membership sites. This is normal. But it’s wise to prepare some compelling content that promotes participation to use whenever you detect stagnation. Having a few topics or posts ready to generate activity is helpful.
Here are some examples of content that can work nicely:
- Hot Take: Give your position or opinion on a recent related event.
- Unpopular Opinion: Offer a thoughtful but counter-cultural opinion on a topic.
- Inspirational: Provide some inspiration that’s helpful to overcome a common barrier.
- Personal Story: Share a short personal story tied to a concept.
- Behind-the-Scenes: Post a short video of something you do that’s tied to your topic.
- Polls: Easy questions, like a poll, lowers the bar for engagement.
- Photos: Imperfect photos of you are incredibly engaging.
- Your Why: Explain why you do what you do.
- Provoking Questions: Open a controversial topic. However, be careful with this: the controversy shouldn’t be so divisive that it risks animosity or division unless it’s necessary.
You don’t need to do all of these things, and what you choose should build your community. You may also notice a theme or rely on content that comes easily to you (e.g., stories, opinions, questions, and pictures).
6. Drive the Community Yourself
While membership communities build engagement around your membership site, people join them because they know, like, and trust you; in short, they expect to have greater access to you.
Fortunately, there are some best practices you can use to optimize your time. With a small but regular commitment, you can boost engagement.
Here are some ways to honor your time while meeting their expectations:
- Invite your community to participate in purpose-driven live events regularly.
- Deliver short-form content frequently. You can even repurpose your longer presentations into frequent, short-form posts or questions.
- Set up regular times for when you’re present in the community. This could be 20 minutes a day or 45 minutes three times a week.
- If you get easily distracted in the community (it happens!), have your team send you links to the posts and comments that would most benefit from your response.
- Recognize expert members in your community when they post great content or answer questions well.
7. Implement Clear Community Guidelines
Not everyone who shares a similar purpose or likes you and your content is compatible with your community’s culture. Your guidelines are the best tool to sort between those who help you cultivate the right environment and those who may erode it.
As you create your community guidelines, consider these questions:
- What topics must you disallow? It can be helpful to call out issues that risk community cohesion. For example, an ADHD community might say, “We will not tolerate posts or comments about red dye #40 or behavior modification.”
- Are the reasons behind the guidelines obvious? For example, intolerance of specific topics might not make sense to a new member. Explaining the purpose of a rule can turn confusion into willing compliance.
- What is the consequence of breaking the rules? Clarifying those who will result in an immediate ban and those who’ll only receive a warning can help you and your team members provide consistent consequences.
While most community guidelines are simply rules determining what’s not acceptable, it doesn’t have to be that way. One refreshing use of guidelines is clarifying what members are encouraged to do to build the community.
8. Test Different Types of Content
When listening to music, you’ll notice a similar theme throughout the piece. Within that theme, you experience dynamics. The rhythm changes, unison explodes into harmony, and instruments become softer and louder. This happens because our brains love novelty.
Similarly, while your community members may love your purpose and content, they may also seek change and variety to keep it from becoming boring. Consider the tips below:
- Delight hearts with a range of human emotions: If everything is peaceful and happy, it can feel monotone. Let them experience sadness, happiness, frustration, or celebration.
- Delight heads by using novel ways to deliver content: Try a fun and different format, like private podcasts, pop quizzes, secret reveals, and unexpected guests.
- Delight hands by offering implementation strategies: Give them content they can act on immediately and see results, like checklists, implementation guides, and templates.
9. Focus on Retention
The real trick isn’t just attracting new members; it’s retaining and engaging the best ones. While online communities are still fairly new, communities have engaged people and families for generations. It’s exciting to think about how that can happen online.
Let’s consider some of the best ways to retain great members.
- Clear Onboarding: Make clear for new members how to participate in the group and get what they want out of it. This could include new member orientation, success roadmaps, or even minicourses.
- Visible Successes: When a member achieves success, highlight it. For example, post an interview, case study, or recognition. Help all members see that success is possible.
- Continuous Communication: You should be emailing your community regularly and referring to what’s going on in the community. This could include highlights of what’s occurred or announcements of what’s coming.
- Rewarded Loyalty: See if you can reserve some evergreen content or live events for members who hit milestone anniversaries, like six months or one year. Alternatively, you can send them a gift or offer them responsibilities within the group.
- Connected Content: If you offer courses, create a connection between the course and the membership community. For example, a course might direct them to post in the group for feedback or point to a resource found in the community. Likewise, community posts and comments can point to lessons in the course.
There is an exception to retaining members, and that’s when they successfully graduate from your online community.
Some groups focus on helping members through the process of achieving a goal, like dating, fertility, or a job hunt. Once clients get married, have a baby, or land their dream jobs, it might call for a celebration as they exit successfully.
So there you have the nine tips to help you build your membership community.
We can’t wait to hear about what you build as you grow and nurture your audience. It’s exciting to see how your membership site helps people change and grow.
Which tips surprised you? Which are you excited to try? Which membership platform will you choose?
Please leave comments below so we can encourage and celebrate with you!
Frequently Asked Questions