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Online communities with paid (premium) memberships can be some of the most thriving, active communities on the web.  It may seem counterintuitive; after all, can't you just go to Facebook for free?


Yes, you can just go to Facebook for free, but there are things that can be offered in a private community that aren't available on other social networks.

  • Privacy in a trusted environment
  • Freedom to create a unique user experience
  • Stability
  • Permanence
  • Security for subjects that may be regulated or require sensitive treatment
 Create private membership communities


So how would you charge a membership fee for a private community?


Offer valuable content that can’t be found elsewhere

This is often the model in a community of practice, where you have professionals collaborating and sharing insights or content that is specialized to a niche.  The key is to have a clearly defined niche and tailor the community experience to those who are passionate about that topic.  Include deep-dive PDFs, tutorial videos, or other content that is actionable and clear.

Give members an ownership stake

In a paid membership community, it's even more important to allow leaders to emerge within the group.  The more the members feel pride of ownership and authority, the more they will value their commitment to the group, and the more they will see it as an investment that's paying off for them.


Provide teaser content that's free

First give freely, and then offer a deeper experience for those who are truly passionate and want to put "skin in the game."  Give visual cues that remind members about the premium memberships where appropriate, but don't barrage them.  It's more about enticing than pushing.  

Give access to experts and their knowledge

One of the most valuable things you can provide is access to the knowledge base of other members.  If you are restrictive about who is allowed into the group, and maintain high standards, you can solidify a good experience for members, and offer something that's very compelling.  The access you offer could be for networking, for problem-solving, or for professional development.


Be up-front about the membership benefits

Let your members know what they'll get out of paying the membership fee.  And it might not always be about features---be sure to promote the intangible benefits as well.  People always want to know, "what's in it for me?"


What are your tips for building a membership site? 



If you're ready to start your own paid membership site, we offer an easy option. Start a community today, and use our pre-built premium membership tool to bring together your own group.



Image: Harshlight via CC


I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, or connect with me on Twitter.


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