Should you start an online membership community?

getting started leadership membership communities Oct 25, 2023

One of our greatest desires as humans is the desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  That’s a need I have identified in my life.  It’s probably something you’ve identified in your life as well.

That need gets addressed in multiple ways through things like our religious faith, our family, our citizenship, the organizations we’re part of, and even the teams we root for.  Most people would agree that life takes on a deeper sense of meaning when we’re part of a community that connects us to something bigger or greater than our own sense of individuality.

As a content creator who produces written and recorded content while also teaching large and small groups during the course of each week, I need to spend a lot of my time in preparation.  Typically that involves finding a quiet place where I can prepare lessons, record podcasts, and create videos without being interrupted.  I like creating content, but there’s a downside to this lifestyle.

The major downside is isolation.  When so much of your life is spent trying to avoid distractions, you also frequently find yourself inadvertently needing to avoid people.  Some of that is fine, but too much of that is unhealthy for me.

When I noticed that pattern, I started looking for ways that I could experience community, particularly among other content creators who understand this lifestyle.  Thankfully, there are many options available to help address this need, and quite a few can be accessed online.  So once I identified my need for additional community, I took advantage of several great options that allowed me to interact with other content creators.  I have been part of groups tailored toward the needs of church leaders, entrepreneurs, content creators, and coaches.  I’ve learned something from each and greatly benefitted from the content, leadership, and friendships that were experienced in each setting.

Fast forward to several years ago and I started noticing a question I was receiving quite regularly.  Many people in my life wondered why I didn’t offer an online community in my areas of expertise, specifically around the subject of building message-based online platforms.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should start a group like that because I wasn’t sure I had the emotional bandwidth to lead something additional.  But in time, with much prayer, I came to realize that this was the right thing for me to do and a way that I could use what I’ve learned and experienced to be of service to others.  That’s when Platform Launchers was born.

In the years since I started Platform Launchers, I have had the privilege to work with hundreds of online entrepreneurs and content creators.  I serve them through our community, coaching, courses, podcasts, blogs, videos, books, and live events.  Starting and leading our online membership community has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I truly enjoy it, but even in the midst of my enthusiasm, I’ll warn you that leading a membership community isn’t for everyone.  You have to be truly committed to it becoming part of your weekly routine and lifestyle, and you need to be completely dedicated to the success of your members.  Anything less than that will not lead to your community flourishing.

Have you ever thought about starting a membership community?  Do you think something like that would be right for you?  

If you’re wrestling with those questions, let me walk you through some additional things to think about.  Some of these concepts I felt like I understood before starting Platform Launchers because I had been a member of other membership communities, while some others I learned through experience and trial and error.

Let me walk you through a few things to consider…

First of all, does your message or primary subject lend itself to a community approach?  Some subjects fit well with a membership model while others probably don’t.  The subject of online platform development does lend itself to a community approach.  Several of our community members are also leading their own communities centered around subjects like writing books or learning better approaches to sales and marketing.  There are many subjects that can work with this model, but if your primary message isn’t a good fit for this model, I wouldn’t pursue it.

Second, if you’re going to start a membership community, make sure you offer your members a success path.  Stu McLaren talks about this all the time, and I completely agree.  Dave Ramsey also models it well with his teaching materials.  With Platform Launchers, I often speak about the 5 D’s of Online Platform Development:  Discover your message, Deliver your content, Develop your tribe, Deploy your team, and Derive your income.  That’s the order that makes the most sense, in my opinion, when you’re building an online platform, so I present it to our members as our success path.

Third, you want to make sure you choose a software solution that makes managing an online membership community easy.  You want it to be easy for you AND easy for your members.  It should be easy to build and modify from the administration end, and easy to consume content and connect with the community from the user end.  Kajabi is what I strongly prefer to handle this, but you might prefer something else.

Note:  Here’s my Kajabi referral link if you want to try it for free:

Fourth, you want to make sure you keep your membership community streamlined and uncluttered.  It should be easy to figure out what a member should do.  Your site your be super easy to navigate.  I recommend having one primary meeting per week, a vault of previously taught content, and an easy way for members to connect with each other.  Many online memberships are filled with so much content and multiple meetings that make it hard to keep track of what’s going on.  Most people who quit membership communities say that a major contributor to their decision to quit was that the membership was too complicated to figure out or keep up with.

Let me give you a few additional suggestions…

Fifth, be sure to set and maintain a healthy, helpful, and positive culture.  The tone you set will carry through the entire group.

Sixth, overdeliver.  Surprise your members with the value you’re offering.

Seventh, prepare to lead.  If you aren’t prepared to actually lead people, don’t attempt to create an online community.  Good communities require good leadership.  Make sure you’re emotionally and relationally prepared to offer it.

There’s a lot more I can say about this subject, but this is a good place to start.  In the coming months, keep your eyes open to a new course I’m going to be offering that will help you build and launch an online membership community.  If you want to be notified when the course is available, please email me at [email protected] and I’ll message you when the course launches.

© John Stange, 2023

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