Private Communities and Why You Should Start One
While there’s thousands of ways to categorize communities, every community needs to decide if it’s going to be either private and public.
Private vs Public Communities
Private communities can be summed up as having a barrier to entry to join the community. The higher the barrier to entry, the more selective and exclusive the community is. Often times, an application or fee to join a community is the easiest way to start forming an exclusive community. People in general are very careful on how they spend their money, and are quick to stop investing in something if it is not serving their needs.
A public community on the other hand is open to everyone, and the barrier to entry is extremely limited. At most, it might consist of making an account, or confirming an email address.
Benefits of private communities
For Managers: Unlike public communities, Managers of private communities often have a lot more oversight and connection to the members. Private communities are known to be:
- Easier to moderate (managers can vet everyone who wants to join)
- Simpler to build personal 1:1 connections with members (often because of the smaller size of private communities)
- More straightforward event organizing (Members are often more consistent and you can plan for less attendees).
- Member "buy in" to give direct feedback regarding the community
For members: a private community can often feel more intentional, since there was an initial investment of time and/or money up front acting as incentive for continued participation. For a public community, it can be easy to lurk and absorb information, and a member might not feel the need to participate or engage frequently.
- Easier to make connections since interests/purpose is very specific
- Smaller community size
- Information/opinions are not easily accessible by the public
- More privacy than a Slack or Discord
Now that we've covered the benefits of private communities, let's cover a few of the different ways to make a community private.
Paid Community Use Cases
Some areas in which a payment would make sense is if the members are getting access to exclusive content, such as a Patreon for a unique artist. Other paid models include subscription type models. A unique, self-sustaining community example would be a reading group for a certain topic/professional group with a monthly fee of 3 dollars. Each month, members will submit their favorite article/book of the month along with a summary/discussion of the material. For members, this community acts as a clear way to get high-quality content and meet with other members.
An option that is popular for larger communities is a hybrid model, which allows a low barrier to entry for the most basic use cases and features. This allows the member to see the value and test the community, after which they can choose to get more features.
Private Community Use Cases
In many cases, the barrier to entry for a private community will not be a paid membership (or paid directly). Examples of this could be a school club where members have to apply, or an internal slack community for employees of a company. This is the model that many tech companies use, one can join a private community of users that have bought a product in order to network with other users, share tips and tricks for using that software, and maybe get faster access to customer support.