Membership-only communities: how it works

(Anton) #1

Continuing the discussion from What's your base engagement level?:

@Suzi_Nelson, would it be possible for you to elaborate a bit on this type of communities:

My Ukrainian goat farmers community might become a similar case once I launch the software I’m developing for goat farmers.

In particular, why it is not an open community like Discourse, where more and more people are attracted to the product partly because there is lots of information and use-cases of its applications, available publicly.

Also, it would be interesting to find out from feverbee members about other types of membership-only communities that you saw flourishing successfully.

What are the key success factors?
What are the key differences to open communities in terms of engagement?

(Anton) #2

One interesting example of such a community that crossed my mind is a Ukrainian notaries online community. It is not based on a particular software or membership, but only notaries who can prove their license can access the discussion board.

Only ~10% of it is publicly available: the section where regular people can ask notaries for advice. Everything else is membership only. In this case, by membership it is meant that someone has gone through all the legal requirements and obtained the license.

It might sound strange, but there are 6500 notaries in Ukraine (population 40mln people). It is way too much when compared with developed countries, but that’s just a side effect of burocracy.

When I developed an online service for Ukrainian notaries, I wanted to advertise in their board. Not only was our team refused to join, but also did not a single notary wish to say a word or two about us somewhere in the internal tooics. Any advertising could lead to a ban in the forums. I still can’t realize what was so valuable about being a member, but I would like to learn how to make our members feel the same huge need to retain a membership and never get banned!

(Suzi Nelson) #3


Digital Marketer (the company I work for) specializes in training and educating people in how to grow their business online. Our communities are all closed - something I do want to change in the future.

Most of our communities are honestly closed Facebook groups centered around the purchase of certain products. I believe the original idea was to provide support, because everyone had a lot of questions as they went through the training, but its gotten sooooo big now. As I mentioned before, our biggest community (the one I referred to in my engagement post) is a closed Facebook group centered around a monthly membership. We also have five other Facebook groups centered around other products and a couple of members-only programs. We just launched a forum a month ago around a certification course that is taking off nicely.

I really do want to have some sort of open community, and it’s something I will be advocating with the company this year. :slightly_smiling:

I wrote a blog post some time ago about what I’ve found to be successful about our closed communities, namely increase retention rates, customer satisfaction, and reducing refunds. You can find it here -->

It would be interesting to know how engagement rates compare to open groups.

(Sarah Hawk) #4

Exclusivity. Make people feel like they’re part of a special club that is hard to get into and they’ll work really hard to stay there.

(Suzi Nelson) #5

^^ so much this!

(Anton) #6

Are there any ways to make up such an exclusivity in open communities?

(Bas van Leeuwen) #7

Fostering a specific lingo, in-jokes etc. works really quite well. (but it’s really hard to achieve!)

The same is true for proper gamification with badges, if it works people are proud of it, if it doesn’t it’s gimmicky and drives people away. Stackoverflow does it really well, they put a lot of thought in it; they are so succesful that some badges can be seen on CVs. Almost no other community manages to get proper badges in; usually because it’s a one time “we need badges” initiative, while it needs constant tweaking.

(Sarah Hawk) #8

Another way is to make a private, exclusive group within the community, that people pay for in order to get access to extra resources etc. You’d have to be pretty sensitive about it though, so you don’t offend people that are long standing members but don’t make the criteria.