Creating a paid community can be an effective way to build a loyal audience, generate revenue, and provide valuable content to your members.
WordPress, as one of the world’s most popular content management systems, offers diverse tools and functionality to make this a reality.
That’s why today, we’re delving into the benefits of creating a paid community and showing you how to create a private community website from scratch.
- What is a private community website?
- Examples of private communities
- Examples of public communities
- Why create a paid community?
- The benefits of using SureMembers for creating a membership website
- How to create a private website and paid community with WordPress and SureMembers
- Tips for promoting your paid community website
- Create a private community website and build your memberships
Before we part ways, we’ll offer up some tips on how to grow your WordPress-based community effectively as well.
Whether you’re a blogger, business owner, or a digital marketer, this guide is designed to help you navigate the process.
Before we jump into the specifics, let’s first talk about what a private community website is and offer up some examples of what they look like.
A private community website is an online space where individuals gather around a shared interest or purpose and interact under a set of rules.
It’s like a club, but online.
Access to this club isn’t available to the general public, and often requires a subscription or membership fee.
It can be a place for fans, professionals, hobbyists, learners, you name it.
The beauty of a private community website is that it allows for focused, meaningful interactions amongst members and a shared sense of belonging.
While both types of communities thrive on interaction, the main difference between a private and a public community boils down to access.
A public community is, well, public.
It’s like an open house where anyone interested can join the conversation.
While that’s great for inclusivity, it can sometimes lead to diluted discussions and less control over member behavior.
Private communities restrict access to only those who meet certain criteria, typically membership dues.
This creates a curated environment where members are more likely to be invested in the community’s purpose.
Plus, they often offer a more personalized, intimate experience. The exclusivity can enhance members’ sense of belonging, increase member engagement, and can even serve as a quality filter.
This also ensures your community is composed of individuals who truly value what you offer.
Online communities come in all shapes and sizes, each serving a unique purpose.
Let’s dive into a few examples:
These communities, like the popular social network LinkedIn, are designed to help professionals strengthen their networks and explore opportunities.
They offer a platform for members to share industry news, discuss professional challenges, network, and further their careers.
Fan club communities like those seen on Star Wars sites bring obsessed fans together to celebrate their favorite characters, books, and movies.
For instance, there’s the Star Wars RPG Community (SWRPG) that caters to those playing the Star Wars Roleplaying Game.
These communities offer exclusive content, tickets, giveaways, and other incentives for members.
Learning communities, like those found on language learning sites or edtech platforms, are designed to help members become proficient in a particular skill.
They provide an environment for members to share their own experiences and get feedback from one another as they embark on their journey of self-improvement.
These types of communities also offer exclusive courses, tutorials, and content available only to members.
Communities like Find What Feels Good, devoted to yoga and meditation, are designed to support members as they learn more about how to live a healthier lifestyle.
These types of communities provide exclusive content, support forums for members, personalized advice from experts, and even online accountability groups.
They offer members content, resources, and support related to their specific interests.
In some cases, they even feature exclusive video tutorials and workshops.
Now that we’ve explored the different types of private community websites, let’s take a look at some more examples in action.
Some of the successful private communities out there include:
This is a community for entrepreneurs who want to build profitable online businesses. It’s a place where they can share their experiences, ask for advice, and learn from each other.
The community features interviews with successful indie hackers, articles on various topics related to entrepreneurship, and a forum for discussions.
Stack Overflow is a community for developers to learn, share knowledge, and build careers.
It serves as a Q&A site for professional and enthusiast programmers, offering tutorials and resources to help people learn more about coding.
This is a membership organization for authors who self-publish. It offers members access to exclusive content, resources, and advice from industry experts.
The community also features events, courses, and podcasts related to the craft of writing.
Of course, there are many more examples than these, but they hopefully give you a sense of what’s out there.
Public communities are everywhere. And technically speaking, most social networks serve as a sort of public community.
Some of the most popular public communities out there include:
This is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. It allows users to submit content and vote on posts they like or find interesting.
There are also various subreddit communities devoted to specific topics such as sports, gaming, music, and more.
Quora is a question-and-answer website where anyone can ask and answer questions related to any topic. It’s a great place for people to share their knowledge, get advice, and connect with others.
But why is creating a community such a good idea in the first place? Let’s explore that next.
Okay, so we’ve talked about what a private community website is and the different shapes it can take. But you might be wondering, “Why should I create a paid community?”
It turns out there are many reasons.
Let’s explore them now:
Firstly, a paid community is an excellent avenue to offer exclusive content. It could be anything from insightful articles, webinars, eBooks, to unique experiences like Q&A sessions, virtual meetups, or workshops.
This exclusivity enhances the perceived value of your content, making membership feel like a VIP pass to a treasure trove of value.
Let’s face it: The internet can be a wild place sometimes, and privacy is a real concern.
With a private community, members can engage in discussions with the assurance that their contributions won’t be visible to the entire world.
This safety net can facilitate more open, candid conversations, building trust amongst members.
If you’re running a website as well as a community, chances are you want more people to know about it.
A private community is an effective marketing tool as members can share content from your site, driving additional traffic and potential customers.
Plus, if your community is attached to your main site (which is most likely is) members are much more likely to drop in to your site, read your blog, and purchase other products you have on offer.
A private community brings together a group of people with shared interests or goals, creating a ripe environment for meaningful connections.
Engagement within these communities is often more substantial than in public ones. Over time, these interactions can evolve into strong relationships, boosting member loyalty and satisfaction.
Paid communities can provide a significant revenue stream, especially once memberships grow.
With membership fees, you’ve got a direct, recurring source of income. The community can also serve as a platform to promote your other products or services, making it a valuable marketing tool.
A paid community can be an invaluable resource for customer support as well.
Not only does it give you a platform to answer customer queries quickly and efficiently, members can also help each other out in the process, creating a more interactive experience.
This peer-to-peer support system not only reinforces the sense of belonging among members, it can help reduce customer support costs as well.
Private communities are a powerful tool to gain insights about your customers.
Apparently, this is a popular approach among business owners. According to Statista, 59% of survey participants indicated they use online communities as a component in their market research process.
By listening to their conversations, understanding what they’re talking about, and analyzing the feedback they provide, you can gain valuable market insights that inform product development decisions.
This helps you stay ahead of the curve and build better products or services tailored to your users’ needs.
Now that we’re all excited about creating a paid community, let’s talk about how to make it happen.
Enter SureMembers, a WordPress plugin designed to simplify the process of building a membership website.
Here’s why you should consider SureMembers for your community-building needs:
Setting up a membership site can seem like a daunting task, but not with SureMembers. Its intuitive interface and comprehensive tutorials guide you through the process, making setup a breeze.
SureMembers allows you to create a private website with ease that includes multiple membership levels, offering you the flexibility to cater to different user needs and budget ranges. You can offer varying access levels, content, and benefits for each membership tier.
When it comes to handling payments, SureMembers has got you covered.
Once paired with SureCart, it can utilize a variety of payment gateways, including PayPal, Stripe, Mollie, and Paystack ensuring a seamless, secure transaction experience for your members.
SureMembers allows for content dripping, which is a feature that releases content to users over a specified time. This can be a great way to keep your members engaged over the long haul.
You’re not alone on this journey. SureMembers provides excellent customer support to help you navigate any challenges you might encounter. The dedicated team is always ready to lend a hand when you need it.
By choosing SureMembers, you’re equipping yourself with a powerful tool that’s not only feature-rich but also user-friendly.
But remember, a great tool is just the beginning.
What makes a community thrive is the value it offers its members and how well it facilitates interaction and engagement.
Let’s now turn our attention to the process of actually setting up a paid private community with WordPress and SureMembers.
Now you understand the value of a private group website, it’s time to create your own.
Let’s dive into the step-by-step process to create a paid community and private group website with WordPress.
This video walks you through everything step by step:
If you’re happier reading, here’s an overview of the steps you’ll be taking:
- Choose a domain, SSL and hosting, and install WordPress
- Choose a theme and install Starter Templates
- Create community content
- Install SureMembers
- Choose what content to put behind a paywall
- Create an online community network or group with BuddyBoss
- Install and set up SureCart
- Make final adjustments
- Launch your paid community website
Now let’s get started with step 1.
Before you set up your community, you’ll need a foundation to build on. So you’ll need to create your own website to house your community.
While site setup is pretty straightforward, it can still take several steps to do it properly.
If you’re brand new to WordPress, we highly recommend you read our in-depth on how to set up a WordPress website for the first time, as that process is outside the scope of this article.
That being said, we will discuss a few highlights:
Your domain name is your website’s address on the internet. It should be easy to type, memorable, and reflect your community’s purpose.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypts data transferred between a user’s browser and the website, adding an extra layer of security.
Most hosting providers offer free SSL certificates.
Once your domain and hosting are set, it’s time to install WordPress. Most hosting providers offer a one-click WordPress install feature in their control panel.
If not, you can download it directly from WordPress.org.
Now that your website is ready, let’s move on to the next step.
Your theme is the design template that dictates the look and feel of your website. With thousands of WordPress themes available, you can find one that aligns with the community vibe you want to create.
Astra is a great option offering a lot of customization and fully supports e-commerce features.
To install Astra, go to the Appearance > Themes section in your WordPress dashboard, then click Add New and search for Astra.
Click Install Now then Activate.
Once the theme is installed, you can get even more mileage out of it by installing Starter Templates.
These are pre-built website templates that save you time on design. The Starter Templates plugin offers a selection of beautiful templates that you can import with a few clicks.
One template that would suit a community site well is Online Health Coach. It offers membership and eCommerce features but there are plenty to choose from if that’s not your thing.
Now that you have built your website, it’s time to fill it with valuable content.
Your content should be tailored to the needs of your community. To figure out what topics they’d like to learn about, try surveying your target audience or browsing popular forums and subreddits related to your topic.
It’s also important to create interactive content for users, like discussion threads, polls, quizzes, and challenges. This encourages engagement and keeps members coming back.
The content you create should also be optimized for search engines to ensure your community is found by your target audience.
Once your content is ready to go, you’ll need to present it in such a way so that it’s accessible to members-only.
That’s what we’ll cover next.
To make sure your content is accessible to members-only, you’ll need to install a membership plugin.
SureMembers is an excellent option for this purpose. It makes the process of setting up and managing memberships easy with its intuitive user interface and powerful features.
To install SureMembers, you’ll need to purchase it.
Once your transaction is complete, an email will land in your inbox containing the suremembers.zip file for download and your unique license key.
Let’s walk through the steps to install and set up SureMembers on your site.
Go to Plugins > Add New. Then hit the Upload Plugin button.
Select the suremembers.zip file and press the Install Now button. Then click the Activate Plugin button.
Next, let’s activate your license.
Navigate to SureMembers from your dashboard and click on the Unlicensed button in the top right corner.
Enter your license key into the designated field and hit the blue Activate License button.
You should now see a message indicating “This site was successfully activated.”
With SureMembers installed and ready for use, you’ll need to create an Access Group next.
Access Groups function like membership levels, allowing you to dictate what content your members can view and when.
To create one go to SureMembers > Add New. Input an appropriate name of your Access Group.
For instance, you might have a “Silver” membership offering access to basic content and a “Gold” membership with extra perks like exclusive webinars or personalized advice.
Each level can have its own price, billing cycle and content access rules.
SureMembers lets you protect your premium content behind paywalls, making them accessible only to paying members.
This could be your high-value blog posts, eBooks, forum, courses, webinars — whatever you deem valuable enough for your members to pay for.
You can do this while creating an Access Group.
Click on the Access Group you’d like to modify and scroll to the section that reads Protected Content.
Select from the dropdown which type of content you’d like to protect: posts, pages, custom post types, or whatever you like.
You can also exclude specific pages/posts/taxonomies and set up redirects so that those that access premium content without a membership will be directed to a sign up page.
Also, consider utilizing the content dripping feature. This allows you to schedule the release of content over time, keeping your members engaged and excited for what’s next.
You can use BuddyBoss to create an online community network or group, which will allow your members to interact with one another.
BuddyBoss is a WordPress plugin that adds advanced social networking features and functionality for creating powerful communities on your website – think forums, groups, member profiles, and more.
Once you’ve created an online network with the plugin, you can use SureMembers to control access.
Then, within SureMembers, you can link your Access Groups to specific BuddyBoss groups.
This helps categorize your members based on their subscription level, making it easier to manage your community.
If you want to get paid, you’ll need a payment method. SureMembers works seamlessly with SureCart to deliver just that.
To get started with SureCart, you’ll first need to install the plugin.
Go to Plugins > Add New. Then search for “SureCart.” Once the results load, press Install Now, followed by Activate.
Once SureCart is installed and active, you’ll need to configure it.
Go to SureCart > Settings then click through the menu to complete the process.
During this time, you’ll be prompted to select the payment processors you’d like to use.
Then you’ll need to create a product. In this case, products will be linked to each membership tier for your community site.
Once you’ve completed setup, members will be able to purchase access to your content and community with ease.
Before you can officially launch your site, there are a few more steps you’ll need to consider.
First, make sure all of the content is in order and up-to-date. This includes images, blog posts, videos — anything that’s going to be visible on the front end of your website.
You’ll also need to ensure that the site’s performance is up to par. Run speed tests with tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights to check how quickly pages are loading.
You should also make sure you have a way to track analytics. You’ll want to be able to see which content is doing well, as well as what pages are getting the most traffic.
Set up Google Analytics for this. This will provide key insights to help you make data-driven decisions for your business.
Now that everything is ready to go, it’s time to launch your website! Make sure all of the content is live and double check that all of the settings are correct.
Make sure to communicate the launch date with your members, so they know when to expect access.
When you’re ready, hit the Publish button. And just like that, your paid community site is now live!
So you’ve built a brilliant community website. Awesome! But just because your site is live, it doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly receive a ton of traffic.
No, for that, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and promote your community.
Don’t fret, though. We’ve got some practical tips to help you spread the word and attract members.
You likely have some sort of audience already — maybe blog readers, social media followers, email subscribers, or past customers.
These folks are already interested in what you have to say, making them prime candidates to join your community.
Shoot them an email, create a social media post, or write a blog article announcing your new community.
Highlight the benefits and exclusive content they’ll get access to. Also, consider offering an early-bird discount or special perks to incentivize sign-ups.
Content marketing is a fantastic way to attract potential members. By offering free, valuable content, you draw people to your website, build trust, and showcase your expertise.
Create blog posts, podcasts, infographics, or videos that provide value and subtly promote your community.
For instance, you could write a blog post on a relevant topic and then mention how your community offers in-depth resources or discussions on that subject.
The key here is to provide value first. Promotion is secondary.
Partnerships can provide a powerful boost to your community. Consider collaborating with influencers or industry experts who share your target audience.
They could contribute exclusive content to your community, host a webinar, or promote your community on their platforms.
Such collaborations can bring in new members, add value to existing members, and boost your community’s credibility.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media in getting the word out. Platforms like Facebook, X (Twitter), LinkedIn, or Instagram can be effective channels to promote your community.
Share snippets of your exclusive content, member testimonials, or behind-the-scenes looks at your community.
Engage with your followers, join relevant conversations, and use targeted hashtags to increase your reach.
Live events like webinars or Q&As can drum up excitement for your community. Host an event on a topic relevant to your community, and use it as an opportunity to talk about your paid community.
Ensure the event provides value in itself, but towards the end, mention how attendees can dive deeper by joining your community. You could also offer a special discount code for event attendees to encourage sign-ups.
Promoting a paid community website requires a blend of strategies. It’s crucial to experiment and see what works best for your audience.
The goal isn’t just to get people to join, but to attract members who will find value in and contribute to your community. Keep your efforts focused on building and showcasing that value, and the members will follow.
When you create a private community website with WordPress, the process might seem daunting at first. But it’s more than feasible with the right tools and strategy.
From choosing your domain and setting up your WordPress site to installing SureMembers and BuddyBoss, you’re fully equipped to create a vibrant, revenue-generating community.
Creating a community isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. It’s about continual growth, iteration, and fostering connections.
Listen to your members, iterate based on their feedback, and consistently deliver value.
That’s the real secret for a thriving community.
Don’t just build a website. Build a space where connections grow, ideas flourish, and everyone benefits.
Here’s to creating a community that makes a difference, one member at a time!
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