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Should You Turn Your Users Into Members?

Should You Turn Your Users Into Members?

by Jessica Jones

There are a lot of reasons for a website to allow users to set up accounts and log in – you’ve probably got login information for more websites than you’d be able to think of off the top of your head. Probably a lot of them involve shopping – most online shopping sites allow shoppers to create accounts to save their shipping and payment information and order history.

Members Only: Would a little exclusivity benefit your website?
Members Only: Would a little exclusivity benefit your website?

Shopping isn’t the only reason you might want users to be able to keep accounts on your website, though. What are some of the other common reasons, and would membership functions benefit you?

Subscription-Based Content

MemberPress is a popular WordPress plugin for sites that sell content. Selling content is a far different matter than selling items, and requires specialized software to manage it effectively. Content sales are frequently sold in the form of subscriptions, allowing users to sign up by the month or year to receive premium content at specified intervals.

What kinds of content are being sold through subscription based sites? Just about anything you can think of – online courses, videos, recipes – any kind of high-quality, high-demand original content might be a candidate for a subscription model.

The thing to remember is that high quality, high demand and original aren’t optional factors if you’re hoping to sell your content. If the content is high quality and high demand but not original then users won’t have any reason to subscribe to your site – they could just get the content elsewhere, and possibly for free. If the content is high quality and original but not high demand, then you may end up with a few loyal subscribers but not as many as you had hoped. If the content is high demand and original but not high quality, you may find your subscribers quickly canceling their service. And of course if your content is only one – or worse, none – of those three things? You’re not likely to have much success.

If you’re considering selling content, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether users could find something else that would fulfill the same need elsewhere on the internet for free. If the answer is yes, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Many successful sellers of content are people who have already spent time and effort building up a following. One of my favorite online comic artists offered a daily comic strip for free for years before beginning to offer exclusive content in exchange for support through Patreon, a website that facilitates such exchanges between artists and their fans. She was met with an overwhelming response because she’s spent a lot of time building up an audience that trusts her to put out great content.

If you’re not already known for your content then you’re going to have more of an uphill battle convincing people to pay for it, so be prepared for that. You may need to put some resources towards marketing your new product while you work on getting a foothold. Selling content is definitely not a magical fountain of free internet money – it requires a lot of work and a product that can get past the public’s general reluctance to pay for intangibles.

Membership Management

If you’re a part of an organization where members pay dues, then you might spend a lot of time wrangling the logistics of membership. Online software like MemberFindMe, which integrates seamlessly with WordPress sites, can help automate a good deal of this process.

Your members could sign up, pay their dues and update the contact information on their profile all without leaving your website. Your site could include a member directory, and the members could edit their own directory information at any time. A lot of your administrative duties could be trimmed down or eliminated. The membership software would tell you if there was a new member or if someone was behind on their dues, and could also manage other areas like event registration, donations and protected content.

A system like this might not necessarily be one that would turn a profit, but it could most certainly pay for itself in time savings. Of course, its usefulness is dependent on the willingness of your members to use it. If your organization’s members are mostly at least passably tech savvy then they’d probably prefer online registration to writing a check and mailing it in or tracking down your organization’s treasurer. If, however, your members are a truly old school bunch, you might have a harder time getting them to adapt to it. For any organization whose members would embrace online account management, however, something like MemberFindMe could be a great organizational tool to invest in.

Like any specialized tools, membership plugins aren’t for everyone. Accurately determining whether a membership system is a good fit for you is the first step – and one of the most important steps!