There’s no question about it: technology has irrevocably changed how we live today. Thankfully, it’s not just about automating business workflows or adding voice assistants to the home either. Technology has enabled us to connect with more people and from disparate locations.
We can thank social media for much of this but, it can be difficult to focus on making connections on social with billions of people contributing to endless strings of new conversations.
For businesses hoping to connect with their customers or end users, this can be frustrating. Which is why many end up creating their own community forums.
Does it make sense to offer free access to your forum? In some cases, it might. However, if you’re trying to build a real community and know it’ll be of great value, don’t pass up the opportunity to monetize.
There are a number of tools you can use to monetize a community forum. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on three of them:
- Kajabi users sell Community access through their membership or course sites.
- Slack users monetize their groups with a tool called LaunchPass.
- Facebook users can monetize Groups, too.
If you want to build a dedicated community forum, consider the following.
While you could certainly allow users to access your community forum for free, that choice would decrease the value of what they get.
Think about it like this. Publicly available forums allow any and everybody in, which can lead to unwanted friction within the group.
- People use it to promote themselves and their businesses instead of trying to have productive conversations with other members.
- The wrong kind of people stumbles upon it, introducing questions or comments that don’t belong in the forum.
- People are more likely to pop in once to ask a question instead of seeing it as a valuable resource and a community worth engaging in regularly.
When you turn your community forum into a premium property, it becomes a better experience for all involved.
People who pay for access understand and appreciate the value of the community — whether they use it to network with like-minded people around similar interests, to help each other with common goals, to learn more about a business’s products or to reach out for support when it’s needed.
As they discover how to make the most of your products and feel a sense of belonging, it’ll compel them to check out more of what your business has to offer.
Community forums are just as beneficial for you as you now have a direct line of communication with your most loyal audience members and customers. You can also use the conversations and feedback that take place in the forum to improve your product offering.
Kajabi is an all-in-one digital business management platform for anyone who wants to generate recurring revenue through the sale of:
- Educational materials
- And other digital products
With the platform’s new Community module, you can add a premium forum to any Kajabi website.
Kajabi forums (or Communities) look a lot like Facebook Groups. Members can post messages, react in threaded comments, upload images and GIFs, and share video links with others. In addition, they can like people’s posts as well as tag others when writing their own.
One of the biggest differences between Kajabi Communities and Facebook Groups, however, is the interface. Kajabi Communities are completely distraction-free. The main conversation feed and topic hub are devoid of advertising, chat widgets, or sidebars promoting other groups to hop into. This keeps the focus on your Community and your Community alone.
In addition, Kajabi forums live on your website. Since members will be fully entrenched in your brand and your products while there, it’ll be hard not to get inspired to check out other products while in the moment. And it’s all integrated with Kajabi’s other systems for audience segmentation, upsells and more.
Really, when you’re in the business of selling digital products, this type of premium upgrade is something your community of users will value. It’s not always easy getting all of your questions answered or learning how to unpack a product to its fullest one ’s own, so a Kajabi forum can remove that friction from the experience.
A Facebook group can be created by those who want to add a community forum on top of their business website or who want to run a standalone community from Facebook.
The key benefit of doing this? Facebook has over 1.5 billion daily active users, so the recognizability and comfort will be a big deal for a lot of people.
Plus, you have to think about the engagement piece. Because your community forum will live on Facebook, any time a member logs in to check on their personal or professional profiles, they’ll also see notifications from your group, reminding them to go in and engage. Of course, they’ll see all of their other notifications as well.
That said, Facebook Groups aren’t typically monetized. There are some that are private that vet users before allowing them to enter into the group. However, you don’t often see that much monetization — and that’s because it wasn’t really possible until recently.
This past summer, however, Facebook beta-tested a new Subscription Groups feature. With it, Facebook Group admins can collect and track payments from members.
With Subscription Groups, admins can create subscriber-only groups on top of their regular Facebook Group (public or private). This way, they can deliver the truly premium content and experience to people that are willing to pay for it, which, in all fairness, takes much more time to create. To sustain that much work on a Facebook Group, it only makes sense to get paid for it.
Slack Groups are somewhat like a compromise between a Kajabi forum and a Facebook group. With many organizations already making use of Slack to build communities both internally for teams and externally for customers and other interest-based networks, this might be the most logical choice for you.
Like a Kajabi forum, Slack Groups place your community into their own isolated bubble. That way, when they’re inside it, conversations are focused around topics relevant to your community and brand. And they’re well-organized, too, with channels dedicated to certain topics.
But then you have Facebook-like features as well. For example, Direct Messages enable community members to communicate one-on-one. This may allow for deeper conversations and networking if that’s the goal of your community.
That said, Slack does not have a native subscription feature for you to use for monetizing a community forum. Instead, you have to use a tool like LaunchPass to create and manage your subscriptions.
What’s nice about LaunchPass is that there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of how you recruit members for your community forum as well as how you end up billing them. Things like free trials, one-time payments, and long-term memberships are available.
As of writing this, there are three clear winners that people can use to monetize a community forum.
Kajabi Community is best for:
- Personal brands and companies that want to greatly increase the value of their digital products on owned media properties.
- Business owners who want to build a community, but don’t want to have to manage it from another tool or force members to step inside one either.
- Anyone who wants to increase loyalty, engagement and retention rates on a membership website.
- Facebook Groups are best for:
- Business owners or entrepreneurs who don’t have websites and want to create a community.
- Facebook Group admins who invest a lot of work with their communities and need funding to make it worth their while.
- Anyone with a brand new community idea who wants to leverage Facebook’s user base to generate interest before moving to a website.
- Slack Groups are best for:
- Anyone who was thinking about using a Facebook Group, but was concerned about its distracting interface or limited search capabilities.
- Entrepreneurs who don’t yet have products to sell, but still want to create a high-engagement community.
- Someone who has built a membership site with a tool that doesn’t have a community component and wants a distraction-free forum add-on.
Managing a community forum can be a lot of work — at least if it’s one you want members to invest money and time in. As such, you need a tool that will help you build a valuable community forum experience.