People just love being members of a community. Years ago, when we all lived in small settlements, our community was the group of people we lived with; for many people in the world this is still the case. Nowadays, we are members of several different “communities”. Our locality has taken on less importance, now we tend to have communities of like minded people. For example, I’m a member of The Professional Speakers Association, a community of people in the UK who get paid to speak at conferences. Equally, I’m a member of the community of my son’s school, along with all the other parents. Psychologically, membership of such communities is very important. Firstly, community membership helps us establish our identity and gives us a sense of self. Secondly, community membership has health effects – community members have been shown, for instance, to fare better when they suffer illness. There even appears to be a link between your immune system and your status within a community. So, being a member of a group has far more effects than you might, at first sight, think about.
Because of these hidden effects, though, most people like to join groups of one kind or another. Joining an “exclusive” group is something many people enjoy. So it’s no surprise to see that the concept of “membership sites” has taken off on the Internet. Provided they are set up correctly they can provide a level of exclusivity which is not found in social networking sites. Users can still get the social networking benefits but within an exclusive membership site they take on much greater personal significance.
A membership site is where you sign up as a member, often paying fees, to gain privileged access to information, networking and so on, which non-members are excluded from. If you are an Internet marketer, membership sites can be a significant benefit – indeed many leading marketers use such clubs to help boost their sales.
It’s not a new concept, either. As a child I was a member of “The Corgi Club”, for children who liked toy cars manufactured by Corgi. You could even join “The Ovaltinies” if you liked that late-night drink!
However, such membership clubs were run extremely well. They had great organisation, generated plenty of information and products which members could buy. But many online membership sites don’t appear to have learned the lessons from the offline world. They appear to think that all you need is a bit of software to set up the club and the rest is easy. Your membership site still needs marketing; it still needs regular content updates; and it needs exclusive products not available elsewhere. Some online membership sites I’ve seen merely re-cycle the same old, tired, re-sale and private label material you can get anywhere. If you want your membership site to succeed it needs careful planning – and effort.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+