Dornubari Vizor September 17, 2019

8 Community Building Strategies For Membership Sites

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

– Seth Godin

For businesses and entrepreneurs, it has never been more important to build strong communities. It is the key to generating revenue and facilitating growth. It is the key to success.

This is why community building is so important.

Membership sites are private online communities that host exclusive content. There is usually some form of wall, or gate that requires login details. These communities can be free, paid or a combination of both.

Membership sites serve as a great way to create an online community for your audience. The exclusivity fosters a personalized approach to audience engagement. A space for you to connect with the people that support your business.

With that being said…

Here are 8 community building strategies for membership sites.

1. Choose the right platform

There are many different platforms you can use to build a membership site. These can include:

  • Slack
  • Facebook Groups
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • Forums (on-site + off-site)


Slack is a communication software that brings team collaboration together, in one place. It allows the transfer of files, documents and data, and communication between team members.

The live communication works well for hosting a community. The ability to transfer various types of data and documents is also a good community quality. The multiple channels make audiences easy to segment.

Video software company Wistia hosts their community on Slack. They transitioned from a forum based community back in 2016.

Email automation SaaS ConvertKit also switched to Slack.

The problem with using Slack for an online community, is that it wasn’t designed for that purpose. Although they have welcomed communities as a use for their platform, the focus is still real-time communication.

All the different channels and subsequent notifications confuse community members. It is hard for newcomers to know where to begin, or even how to join in.

Just look at how many channels there can be. These can all be bombarded with notifications.

Slack acts more like a group chat. Naturally, engagement will drop off. This is why it is not optimal for an online community.

Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are a popular choice of community for many businesses, entrepreneurs and marketers.

Because of Facebook’s popularity, it makes it optimal as a community platform. It is easier to get someone to join a Facebook group than, say a Slack group. Everyone has a Facebook account.

Neil Patel has a private facebook group for those who purchased his program.

The problem with using Facebook for a community is that they own the analytics. They own the data of your group. Analytics is important as it gives you a forecasting framework. It lets you know what is working, what isn’t. It lets you know the best course of action for the future.

This is invaluable. This is something that is extremely limited on the Facebook platform.

Facebook prioritizes its own interests. Over time they altered the newsfeed algorithm, tanking the organic reach of pages.

As a result, Facebook pages have become less effective for advertising and marketing. They did this because they want you to buy paid Facebook ads.

Although groups and pages are different, there is no doubt Facebook looks for ways to minimize the power of groups.


The LinkedIn platform features a group function that is used for online communities.

It is a powerful place for businesses to host communities. Compared to the other social media platforms, LinkedIn has far greater community management features.

HubSpot has a thriving LinkedIn community.

The downside to using LinkedIn for your online community, is that it’s not uniquely designed for that purpose. Much like Slack, there is much going on besides the community elements. This creates distractions.

It is a “professionals” platform and might not appeal to all demographics. You need a LinkedIn profile to access the groups. This is quite a large barrier, as not everyone has a LinkedIn profile.

It also lacks analytics and marketing/sales software integration.


Reddit is a website that hosts over 1.2 million communities, known as “subreddits.” It is one of the most popular websites on the internet.


It is a well known platform used for a membership site because it is free and extremely popular. Subreddits are easy to setup and allow many different types of content to be shared. A reddit account is simple to create, there is minimal access barriers unlike LinkedIn.

Much like Facebook and LinkedIn, Reddit puts its interests first. Analytic data is hard to source, and not integrated with sales/marketing softwares. There is also A LOT of other subreddits that create constant distractions.

As a platform for businesses and entrepreneurs, it is not the best choice out there.

Forums (on-site + off-site)

Forums are an old online community platform from web 1.0. They are still used today, and have become modernized to an extent.

Famous fitness company have an extremely active message board. It has been around since the 90’s.

There are many plugins that can add a forum to a website. There are a handful of WordPress forum plugins to choose from.

Forums are still used because they have the advantage of being able to be “on-site.” It keeps your community close to your base of operations. This is not possible with Reddit, Slack, Linkedin or Facebook.

Forums also offer a lot of customization, control and user experience features.

The limitation is that they can be rather clunky and cause technical issues.

Forums are outdated. The age of the message board has come and gone. Forums have been dying a slow death for a decade now. Ever since social media and Reddit came onto the scene. They’re just not popular anymore, especially with the younger generations.

2. Advertise your community to your email list

Using your email list to advertise is a great community building strategy. Email marketing is an extremely effective marketing tool. Just look at these statistics.

  • 5.6 billion email accounts in 2019 (source)
  • 99% of consumers check email daily (source)
  • 59% of marketers agree email gives them highest ROI (source)
  • Email has ROI of 3800% – $38 earned per $1 spent (source)

Email is wildly popular, and highly effective. If it’s that good at making customers, it’ll be just perfect to build your community.

Membership company Theskimm was able to grow it’s newsletter to 1.5 million by utilizing an effective email campaign. The strategy was based around a referral program, targeted at Theskimm’s membership base.

The referral program rewarded users with access to a private Facebook group, and free items.

The private “skimmbassador” community grew from 200 to 6000 in one year. It has since become much larger.

Before you try to advertise your community to your email list, you need to build it up.

Here are 10 ways to do build up your email list according to HubSpot.

  1. Personalized call to action for every individual blog
  2. Make an email list opt-in pop-up
  3. Make a pop-up survey
  4. Put humor in your call to actions
  5. Put value in your call to actions
  6. Make a newsletter and advertise it on social media
  7. Make more landing pages
  8. Incentivize early signup
  9. Have a call to action on your ‘About Us’ page
  10. Use a scroll box

In general, focus on making great content that attracts people, and convert readers with great call to actions.

As far as writing emails specifically advertising your community, here are some tips to follow.

Personalize your email

It is shocking to discover that over 70% of brands do not personalize emails. Simply putting someone’s name in the email title can increase open rate by 16%.

Send mobile-friendly emails

Did you know that only 11% of brands use a responsive design for emails?

In 2012, 27% of marketing emails were opened on a smartphone. It is now 61%.

You need to send emails that have a responsive design.

Run A/B tests to find out what works

At the end of the day you can only know how effective something is, if you test it. The 4 most popular email elements to test include:

  1. Subject line
  2. Call to action
  3. Email design
  4. Messaging

To do A/B tests, use an email software.

MailChimp is the most popular.

ConvertKit and AWeber are other choices out there.

3. Invite influencers to your community

An influencer, according to Influencer Marketing Hub is:

“An individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience”

The influencer usually has his/her following on social media, in a particular niche. For example, Kandee Johnson is a famous beauty influencer on Instagram.

She is regularly contacted by companies to do product reviews and promotions.

Businesses use influencers to help market products and services. This is just another medium to do it. In previous eras it was known as an ambassador. Someone who promotes you.

Influencer marketing can be a valuable community building tool for your membership site.

Dating app Hinge dramatically increased its user base to 100,000+ app installs. This was in large part due to influencer marketing campaigns they decided to run.

Hinge reached out to various different influencers on Instagram.

There are 3 ways to find influencers.

  1. Use a software
  2. Use an agency
  3. Do it yourself


Influencer software packages the entire process of influencer marketing. From sourcing the right influencers, propositioning them, and paying them. There is even analytics integration to help track results.

HYPR is a popular option.

GRIN is another one.


Agencies allow you to outsource the entire influencer marketing process. They work with everyone, from individuals to agencies that influencers are signed too.


Finding influencers is going to work much like keyword research. You need to spend some time looking at who is popular in your niche/industry.

There is no one way to do this. One easy way is to use Buzzsumo.

Buzzsumo is a content analyzer that finds the most popular content in relation to a keyword. For instance if you wanted to find influencers in the makeup artist niche.

A list of the top performing web content will appear.

Buzzsumo is a good way to find influencers on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and in the “blogosphere”.

4. Guest post on popular websites to gain attention

A guest post is an article/blog that is hosted on someone else’s website/platform. You can write guest posts on other people’s website, and you can host posts from other people.

Here’s an example.

The purpose of a guest post is to market yourself to a new audience. It is a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties, as good content is good content.

Guest posts will either have an author box, or a small summary linking to the guest poster.

Guest posts give your membership site exposure. This makes it an effective community building strategy. Just like influencer and email marketing, you are increasing your outreach.

You build your community by getting it out there.

Just how effective is guest posting?

Gregory Ciotti gained 36,733 new email subscribers thanks to a dedicated guest posting strategy.

Here is one of his guest posts.

How do you find out where to guest post?

There are a number of different strategies you can use.

Here are 7 ways to find guest posting opportunities according to Brian Dean of Backlinko.

  2. Reverse engineer competitor backlinks
  3. Twitter search
  4. Google reverse image search
  5. Google search strings
  6. Blog commenting
  7. List websites

The easiest is to just look at the list websites. Here’s 3 for you to browse through.

5. Share user content from your community on your site

User-generated content is any form of content that is created by users/your audience. This content can be various different forms. Some of these can include:

  • Blog posts
  • Comments
  • Videos
  • Forum posts
  • Podcasts

Reddit is a great example of a place that puts out a lot of user-generated content. The mainstream media routinely rips stuff from there to make articles.

Sharing user-generated is a great way to advertise your membership site community. It gives people a glimpse of what’s happening, and why they should join.

According to HubSpot, there are 6 benefits of leveraging user-generated content

  1. Helps you understand your target audience/community better
  2. Improves website engagement/time on site
  3. Improved conversions lead to increased customer satisfaction
  4. Builds a stronger community
  5. Improves online visibility
  6. Improves credibility, UGC more trustworthy

There are many examples of UGC usage out there.

Social media SaaS platform Buffer will often share user-generated content from its community. Community members use the #buffercommunity hashtag on Instagram and Twitter posts.

Moz used to have a UGC “communal blog” called YouMoz. Community members would contribute blog posts, and the best rated ones would be added to the main blog.

This is a good UGC strategy to follow. Good content from community members can be advertised on the email list as well. The more you get the community out there, the better.

6. Enable social features in your community

Social features are elements/functions inspired by social media, and have since been adopted. These can include:

  • Likes
  • Emojis
  • Shares
  • Status updates
  • Private messaging
  • Profiles
  • Tagging

Social features help create a more active, engaged community. It helps bring a sense of fun, community and enjoyment to otherwise basic interaction.

Many forums/message boards have added social features to revitalize the community.

Take MMA/combat sports forum Sherdog for example.

Posters have their own profile pages.

There is a likes system.

There is also tagging and private messaging.

Slack has many of the same features, including emojis.

7. Create a referral program to reward user advertisement

A referral program is a strategy that incentivizes word of mouth advertising from your customers/members. You give them something of value, and in return they tell all their friends about you.

What really matters is how effective referral marketing can be. Here are some statistics:

  • 92% of people trust referrals from people they know (source)
  • Referrals Improve marketing efforts by 54% (source)
  • Referral marketing has 3-5x higher conversion rates (source)
  • Referred customers have a 37% higher retention rate (source)

The Hustle is a tech and business newsletter that grew to 300K fanatics thanks to a referral program.


The program rewarded individuals with:

  • Access to a private Facebook group
  • Custom hustle shirt
  • Hustle hoodie

Here’s what the email looked like itself.

The easiest way to create a referral program is to use a software.

ReferralCandy is a popular referral SaaS platform.

ReferralRock is another option.

8. Use surveys to get feedback from your members

When it comes to building up your online community, it’s important to get feedback from your existing members. How else do you know what you’re doing is working?

Feedback helps community building.

Surveys are the best way to get feedback. A survey is a series of questions that looks to source information on a specific topic. It is the questions, the analysis of data, and conclusion.

They are not to be confused with questionnaires.

SurveyMonkey detailed the differences quite clearly:

“The difference between survey and questionnaire is that the latter includes any written set of questions; while the former is both the set of questions and the process of collecting, aggregating, and analyzing the responses from those questions. In other words, “questionnaire” describes content, while “survey” is a broader term that describes content, method, and analysis.”

Dropbox ran surveys to gather information on its user base. They asked Dropbox insiders to answer a series of questions.

With the information they received from the surveys, they were able to specifically target audience segments.

They created unique advertising and marketing campaigns for each segment.

More effective marketing will lead to greater community growth.

The easiest way to create high quality surveys is to use a software.

There are plenty of SaaS platforms designed to create surveys.

SurveyMonkey is by far the most popular.

SurveySparrow is another option.

Here’s a list of all available survey SaaS.

Alternatively, if you’re using WordPress, you can use a free plugin. YOP Poll is a highly rated choice.

Final Thoughts

Communities are the backbone of a healthy, prospering business. They are the engine that drives revenue and growth. As social media algorithms have changed, the focus has become building private, exclusive membership communities.

Building up these membership site communities has become a top priority for many businesses around the world. This has made community building extremely important.

This is why this post was put together.

Implement these 8 strategies and you will find success in your community building efforts.

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