There was a time when the money you made from your content was purely tied to the content itself.
And then, faster than you could say “demonetized”, those days came to a close.
As the landscape of content monetization evolved, an internet ruled by social media algorithms quickly became saturated with more content, newer voices and better production quality – all competing for the attention of an audience.
But, as it turns out, if you want to turn your content into a successful and sustainable business, an audience isn’t enough…
You need a community.
Let’s unpack why a community is so key for your membership, and the best way to approach community-building for long-term success.
Come for the Content, Stay for the Community
Community is such a core part of what makes a membership successful that you can’t even claim to have a membership business if you don’t also have a membership community.
Without a community, you simply have a subscription business. You’re selling access to a product in exchange for a monthly fee. It’s a transaction, not a connection.
The key difference between the subscription and membership business models is that subscribers buy a subscription, while members belong to a membership.
That distinction matters because while the allure of ad-free, exclusive content is what draws new members to your membership business, it’s the sense of belonging, connection, and shared interest that keeps them coming back.
And that’s something you can only achieve with a community.
Think of it like this: if your membership is the whole cake, then your content is the sponge and your community is the icing.
Yes, a sponge without icing is still technically a cake.
But the reason I (regularly) spend $10 on a grocery store sheet cake is the same reason your members will stick around for years to come…
Our data shows that memberships with active communities experience 2x less churn than memberships without communities.
If a community can double the amount of paying members who stick around month after month, then community-building clearly matters as much as content creation – if not more in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, valuable content that resonates with your target audience is the cornerstone of any successful membership site. It’s the thing that attracts potential members to your membership.
And a beautifully designed membership site, an impressive content library, members-only perks and competitive pricing are the things that help convert new members to your membership.
But your community is what will allow you to:
- Increase member engagement. Your online community acts as a unique space where members can connect over a shared interest and voice their thoughts and experiences, helping to increase engagement with community posts and video content.
- Retain more members. Your community – and the relationships it helps to create – adds a ton of value to your membership and keeps members coming back.
- Make more money. Besides sticking around longer as paying members, your engaged community members are also more likely to support you in other ways, like buying your merch and using your affiliate links.
And, when your private community is truly thriving, you’ll find that your existing members are actually helping you to convert new ones.
Your members and community managers can provide a ton of valuable insights into your target audience, something that will help you to continue to grow your business over time.
This is because your community members are invested in the growth and improvement of you and your content. As a result, they will freely share feedback to help shape your membership into an ideal offering that appeals to even more people just like them.
Seeing you act on this feedback can also make existing members feel like the value of your membership is constantly increasing – which gives them another reason to stick around.
Let’s dive deeper into the relationship between your community and your content…
Your Community and Your Content Need to Connect
The key to harnessing the power of community is made up of 2 parts:
- How you build your community.
- And how you integrate it with your content.
To create a successful community from scratch, you need to build it around your video content – not the other way around.
This means you need to create content, build an audience from that content, and then nurture your audience into community members.
From there, you can either test out the membership model with a free membership before you upsell your community to your paid membership – or you can jump straight into it as soon as your community is big enough to monetize.
Either way, when you provide valuable content first and use it to build a new membership community around it, you create an authentic community made up of like-minded people who share a clear common interest. This way, the value of your offering and incentives to join are clear.
This approach to building your community around your content results in a much more sustainable retention model, where content acts as the jumping off point for community members to engage.
When you approach community-building the other way around, and try to monetize community access and then introduce content afterwards, you’ll struggle more to define your value and – as a result – to keep members around.
As for how you integrate your content with your community…
Let’s say a member logs into your membership website, excited to dive into the latest video you’ve released.
After they’re done watching, they scroll down to find a thriving community forum dedicated to discussing the episode. All of a sudden, without any extra time and effort from you, this member has another reason to stay on your site and engage with your content.
This is the power of intertwining content with community – it can turn passive consumption into active engagement.
On the other hand, if you treat content and community as separate experiences, you lose the power of community nearly altogether.
Having your community hosted in one place – like a Facebook group or Patreon page – and your content hosted in another creates a disjointed experience for your members. (Not to mention it doubles the work for you.)
This disjointed approach can lead to a fractured user experience and dilute the sense of belonging and engagement.
But, when you integrate your content with community:
- Your Members Find Value: They engage with content and immediately find avenues to discuss, explore, and connect with other community members who share their interests and passions.
- You Foster Member Engagement: You can use your content as a springboard for discussion, sharing feedback, fostering collaboration, and building a deeper connection with your audience.
- You Provide a Unified Experience: It provides a seamless, intuitive experience where members flow naturally from content consumption to community interaction, reinforcing the connection and loyalty to the platform.
Content is not just something to be consumed in isolation; it’s a conversation starter, a connector, a tool that binds members together in a shared journey.
It’s this seamless integration of content and community that makes the membership model work.
So while great content might get members through the door, it’s the sense of community and connection that will keep them coming back.
A paid membership community isn’t an afterthought – it’s a fundamental building block that transforms access to your exclusive content from a transactional exchange to a vibrant, supportive ecosystem where shared interests flourish and members thrive.