The world of coaching and creative business is rapidly evolving. More entrepreneurs are looking to build their online presence and create communities of like-minded individuals. A paid online community can effectively bring together engaging courses, discussions, members, live streams, chat, events, and memberships – all in one place, all under your own brand. This article will explore why any coaching or creative business should invest in a paid online community and how it can help entrepreneurs and the potential future.
So what do you need to consider when you ask yourself, “Why do I need a paid online community, and what do I need to build one”?
In this article, we will look at:
- Why invest in a paid online community?
- What are the key features of a community?
- What does the future hold for online communities?
- What do I need to get started with my own online paid community?
- Choosing the right online community platform
- How do you build an online community?
- How to choose the right online community platform
- How to build your online community
- Building the Vision2Success Online Community
- Where to Get Help with Building Your Online Community
- Using Circle.so
Why Invest in a Paid Online Community?
Consistent Revenue Stream
A paid online community can provide a consistent revenue stream for your coaching or creative business. By offering exclusive content and resources to paying members, you can create a recurring revenue stream that can help stabilise your income and provide financial security.
An online community allows coaches to connect with their clients more meaningfully. With the rise of social media and other digital platforms, people seek ways to connect with others who share similar interests and experiences. An online community provides a space for clients to connect, share their stories and experiences, and support one another on their journeys.
Paid online communities are often more engaged than free communities. As a result, members have invested in the community. They are likelier to participate in discussions and activities, leading to a more vibrant and interactive community.
A paid online community allows you to build deeper relationships with your clients or customers. You have more opportunities to interact with them and provide personalised support, leading to stronger relationships and increased loyalty.
With regular updates through automated digests, there is no excuse for not being able to keep in touch with members. Also, it allows your team to get involved, which draws them to a deeper connection with you and your brand.
A paid online community can help you hold your clients or customers accountable. Members are more likely to take action and follow through on their goals when they are part of a community, leading to better outcomes and increased satisfaction.
Additional Revenue Streams
A paid online community can also provide you with opportunities to offer additional services and products to your clients or customers, such as coaching packages, courses, or events. As a result, the community can help you generate additional revenue and provide more value to your members.
Sense of Community
A paid online community can foster community and belonging among your clients or customers. The community can be important for their overall well-being and motivation and for building a strong brand and reputation.
A paid online community can provide valuable feedback on your coaching or creative business. Members can offer suggestions and critiques, allowing you to improve and serve your clients or customers better.
With such feedback, this can be an excellent opportunity to develop new products or services your customer base is interested in and, more importantly, will pay for.
With so much competition and the high accessibility to other suppliers, the community is a great way to keep your brand in front of your customers. This means that a satisfied member of a paid online community will likely refer others to your coaching or creative business rather than your competitors, helping to grow your client or customer base and revenue.
A paid online community can enhance your branding and reputation as a coach or creative business. It demonstrates your expertise and value to potential clients or customers. It can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
An individual coach’s challenge in scaling a coaching business is that you sell time, and there are only so many hours in a day. However, a paid online community can be a scalable business model, allowing you to grow your business and serve more clients or customers without additional resources. In addition, with paid memberships accessing high-quality content, you can develop an income while sleeping.
So there we have it. A paid online community is the way forward for any coaching business, no matter the subject and for any creative business that produces exclusive content for paying customers to generate an income while they sleep.
What are the Key Features of An Online Community?
Now we know why you should invest in an online paid community, what are the key features you need to look out for?
A paid online community should have robust membership management tools, allowing you to manage your members and their subscriptions easily. For example, you should be able to set up different membership tiers with varying levels of access and prices, automate billing and payments, and manage member data and communication.
Exclusive Content and Resources
A paid online community should offer exclusive content and resources to members. This can include courses, workshops, e-books, templates, and other resources unavailable to the general public. Providing valuable, exclusive content is a crucial reason members are willing to pay for access to a community.
Discussion forums are a central feature of a paid online community, allowing members to post questions, share ideas, and engage in discussions with each other. A well-designed forum should be easy to use, searchable, and organised by topic or category to help members find relevant conversations.
Live Events and Workshops
Live events and workshops are a great way to engage with members in real time and provide additional value. This can include webinars, Q&A sessions, coaching calls, and other live content from which members can participate and learn.
A paid online community should provide personalised support to members. This can include one-on-one coaching or consulting, group coaching calls, and other types of support that help members achieve their goals.
Private Messaging and Chat
Private messaging and chat features allow members to communicate with each other in real time, build relationships, and network. This can also be useful for providing personalised support and answering questions.
A paid online community should allow you to customise your community to match your branding and style fully. You should be able to choose colours, fonts, and logos to create a cohesive look and feel that represents your brand.
Analytics and Reporting
Analytics and reporting tools can help you track and measure the success of your paid online community. This can include metrics such as member engagement, retention, and revenue, as well as insights into the content and resources that are most popular with your members.
Overall, a thriving paid online community should provide a range of features and benefits that help members achieve their goals, build relationships, and receive personalised support. By investing in a paid online community, coaching and creative businesses can create a sustainable and scalable revenue stream while providing valuable resources and support to their clients or customers.
What does the future hold for Online Communities?
Building an online community takes a lot of investment, even assuming you already have the content. So is this investment safe, or are these communities a fad?
The future of online communities is bright, with continued growth and innovation expected in the coming years. Here are some potential trends and developments to watch for:
Increased Integration with Other Platforms
Online communities increasingly integrate with other platforms, such as social media, e-commerce, and productivity tools. This allows members to seamlessly connect and engage with each other across multiple platforms, making it easier to build relationships and stay connected.
AI and Automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are becoming more prevalent in online communities, allowing for personalised experiences and streamlined workflows. For example, AI-powered chatbots can provide personalised support and answers to common questions. At the same time, automated workflows can help streamline membership management and content creation.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual and augmented reality technologies are starting to be used in online communities, providing immersive and interactive experiences for members. This could include virtual events, training sessions, product demos, and augmented reality features that allow members to visualise products or services in real-world settings.
As online communities grow, we may see a shift towards more niche communities catering to specific interests or industries. This could include communities for particular types of coaching, or creative businesses and communities focused on specific topics or demographics.
With most internet usage happening on mobile devices, optimising your online communities for mobile devices is essential. This means ensuring that communities are easy to use on small screens, load quickly, and offer a seamless user experience across different devices.
Continued Emphasis on Privacy and Security
As online communities collect more personal data from members, privacy and security will remain a top priority. Online communities must ensure that member data is kept secure and private and that members have control over how their data is used.
Overall, the future of online communities is likely marked by continued growth and innovation, with increased integration, AI and automation, virtual and augmented reality, niche communities, mobile-first design, and a continued emphasis on privacy and security. As online communities become more important for connecting people and building relationships, businesses and organisations must adapt to these trends to stay competitive and provide valuable experiences for their members.
What do I need to get started with my own online paid community?
Building an online community is the future for creating a sustainable and scalable business for anyone providing training and creative content. So how do you get started? Getting started requires some planning and preparation.
Here are some of the key things you’ll need:
You’ll need a platform to host your community, such as Circle.so, Mighty Networks or other similar options. Consider pricing, features, and ease of use when choosing a platform.
To attract and retain members, you must provide valuable content that addresses their needs and interests. This could include courses, webinars, articles, or other resources.
Your community should have a consistent look and feel that aligns with your brand. This includes choosing a colour scheme, creating a logo, and designing visual assets for your community.
Consider creating different membership tiers offering further access and benefits levels. For example, you offer a basic tier with access to your community and some resources. In contrast, a premium tier might include personalised coaching or more in-depth training.
To attract members, you must develop a marketing strategy that reaches your target audience. This might include social media marketing, email marketing, or influencer partnerships.
Building and maintaining a thriving community requires ongoing management and engagement. You must regularly respond to member inquiries, moderate discussions, and create new content.
To accept payments for memberships, you’ll need to set up a payment gateway. This could be done through a platform like Stripe or PayPal, or a third-party payment provider.
Starting a paid online community requires some initial investment of time and resources. Still, it can be valuable to build relationships with your audience and generate recurring revenue.
How Do You Build an Online Community?
At KUB, we knew our new brand Vision2Success needed an online paid community to reach a wider audience and get more people involved. In addition, we wanted a platform that served more as a marketplace for us and other experts because, as an agency, we can do many things. Still, to support our customers truly, we need a wider group of trusted associates and potential customers.
Our parent company KUB Digital builds complex websites for our customers, including paid membership sites, events management and learning management systems using proven bought-in software. These sites work well and are easy to maintain.
We started with a project to build our online community and were about three months into it. After three months, we reviewed and realised it took a lot of work to build the system when we also had to focus on client work. So, searching the leading online community platforms, we discovered Circle.so.
It was only after the free trial of Circle.so how much work we still needed to do, and that wouldn’t have gotten us a native app for Apple & Android. What we also realised during the trial of Circle.so was how much work there was to do once the community had been developed. So although there is a monthly cost to the likes of Circle.so, you get the following: get up to speed a lot faster, have a mobile-based app from day one, and are months closer to launching your community.
Now that we understood the benefits of having an online community, we needed to look at how to select one and what work we needed to do to launch it.
The following sections of this article will look at how to select the right platform for you and then how to build it.
How to choose the right online community platform
When evaluating online community software like Circle.so or other similar platforms, consider the following features to ensure a user-friendly and engaging experience for your community members:
Look for software that allows you to customise the appearance and structure of your community, including branding, colour schemes, and layout options.
Choose an intuitive, easy-to-use platform that enables members to navigate and participate in the community effortlessly.
Opt for software that provides a flexible and organised structure for hosting various types of content, such as discussions, articles, resources, and events.
Roles and permissions
Select a platform that enables you to assign different roles and permissions to users, allowing for better management and control over content and moderation.
Ensure the software provides robust moderation tools, including automated filters, content flagging, and user warnings or bans, to maintain a safe and positive community environment.
Look for platforms with powerful search capabilities, enabling users to find relevant content and discussions within the community quickly.
Notifications and alerts
Choose software that offers customisable notifications and alerts to inform members about new content, messages, and community updates.
Opt for a platform that supports integration with other tools and platforms, such as email marketing software, analytics tools, or social media platforms, to streamline your community management tasks.
Ensure the software is mobile-friendly, providing a seamless experience for members using various devices.
Privacy and security
Look for software prioritising user privacy and security, including features like secure login systems, data encryption, and compliance with data protection regulations.
Choose a platform that can grow with your community, handling increasing users and content without sacrificing performance.
Analytics and reporting
Opt for software that provides built-in analytics and reporting tools to help you monitor your community’s performance and identify areas for improvement.
Support and resources
Select a platform that offers comprehensive support and resources, including help documentation, tutorials, and responsive customer service.
By prioritising these features, you can choose an online community software that best meets the needs of your community and provides a positive, engaging experience for members.
How to build your online community
Setting up an online community involves careful planning and consideration of various aspects. Here are some key elements to think about:
Purpose and goals
Clearly define the purpose and objectives of the community. What do you want to achieve, and what value do you want to provide your members?
Identify your target audience, their needs, and expectations. Understanding your audience will help you create a community that resonates with them.
Choose an appropriate platform for your community. Popular options include forums, social media platforms, chat applications, or custom-built websites. Consider factors such as user-friendliness, scalability, and integration with other tools.
Community rules and guidelines
Establish clear rules and guidelines for acceptable behaviour within the community. This helps maintain a positive, respectful, and inclusive environment.
Implement a moderation system to enforce community rules, handle disputes, and remove inappropriate content. This may involve recruiting volunteer moderators or using automated moderation tools.
Plan and create engaging content that aligns with the community’s purpose and encourages participation. This may include articles, discussion prompts, polls, or multimedia content.
Encourage members to participate and interact with each other. Use strategies such as gamification, recognition systems, or organising events and challenges.
Create a smooth onboarding process for new members, including a welcome message, an introduction to the community, and easy access to resources and support.
Privacy and security
Ensure the privacy and security of your community members by implementing measures such as secure login systems, data encryption, and compliance with data protection regulations.
Measurement and analytics
Monitor the performance of your community using analytics tools. Track metrics such as membership growth, engagement, and content performance to identify areas for improvement.
Regularly assess and refine your community’s structure, content, and engagement strategies based on feedback and analytics data.
Marketing and promotion
Develop a marketing plan to attract new members and increase awareness of your community. This may include social media marketing, search engine optimisation, or partnerships with influencers and relevant organisations.
Considering these aspects, you can create a thriving online community that fosters meaningful connections and provides value to its members.
Building the Vision2Success Online Community
So how did we build the community for Vision2Success?
Taking all of the above into account, we had quite a few jobs to do:
- Prepare our online training into video-based courses with individual bite-sized lessons.
- Find relevant initial starter content.
- Identify what spaces need setting up.
- Find suitable community guidelines.
- Identify a member of the KUB team to post relevant educational content regularly.
- Develop an onboarding sequence.
- Identify the pricing structure and value proposition for the paid membership levels.
- Identify the design approach for the banners throughout the site.
- Create the banners for spaces, courses & forums etc.
- Design the menu structure for navigation around the community.
- Setup the Paywalls and connect Stripe to take payments.
- Identify who would make suitable initial members.
- Complete all the development work for the community.
- Invite and onboard the initial members.
- Create a marketing funnel to find and onboard new members.
With all this done, it’s now an ongoing process to continue the value in the community and to find and onboard new members.
We decided to make our entry membership accessible so that we could make it available to all.
So have a go and join our community so that you can get ideas for your community:
Where to Get Help with Building Your Online Community
As we are a coaching and delivery agency, we can help you with the consultancy to help you design your community and, if you need it, help you create the necessary internal content for you to get started.
Ping me a message at: email@example.com or go to Contact Us to get started.
We recommend using Circle.so and will be more than happy to demonstrate it to you. Ping us a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to Contact Us to get started.
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