Running a successful membership group is kind of like opening a can of worms…
Just when you think you’ve nailed the course materials, social media posts, and written all of the content and copy that entices new members to join, you realise there is a whole heap of other issues that you didn’t consider.
Part of that you can’t control:
Your members have a knack for being vocal about what’s missing, what they love (and what they hate) and it’s then your job to listen and then implement the changes that you feel are fitting with your community.
It’s the key to creating a great community!
But the other part - how the group interact with each other and make use of their membership - is on you.
You created this space, so now it’s your responsibility to enforce rules for a positive, engaging, and fun group.
But where to start?
How will you know what your members expect from the group?
Here’s the key:
You have to set their expectations as soon as possible.
Setting rules might feel like you’re taking the fun out of the membership experience, or restricting people too much.
In reality, rules make the membership group feel safer to interact in, give members a reason to want to sign in and use the materials you’ve created, and get the most they can from the experience.
Rule #1: Minimise self-promotion
Your membership subscriptions are flying off the virtual shelves, your community’s growing, and everyone seems to be gobbling up the valuable content you’re putting in front of them.
Members are connecting and making friends, when all of a sudden, you see a post from a person in the group advertising a similar group, only they think theirs is even better (eye-roll).
Why this is a problem
Self-promoting is kind of like spam’s fraternal twin: they might look different, but they’re cut from the same cloth.
Once one person gets away with promoting their services (they may well compete with yours), everyone will think it’s okay and soon your community will be rife with people selling their services left right and centre.
It cheapens your group and gets quickly get out of control without proper moderation. Honestly, it takes the focus away from the valuable content you’ve spent a lot of time creating, and gives less value to other members!
What to do instead
Hey, people want to shout about what they’re passionate or proud of.
I’m not suggesting you dampen your members’ spirits!
If you’re worried about coming across too strong, but want to benefit from having a no self-promotion rule in place, why not offer one specific day where your members can share what they’re working on?
You could call it something enticing like ‘Showoff Saturday’ (feel free to make your own, better name 😉) - something that gives the feeling of an exciting group event, yet silently enforces the boundaries.
Creating a weekly post or event gives you more engagement among your members, but also turns a negative ‘no self-promotion!’ (stamps foot) into a positive (Hey! Come share the thing you’re excited for!)
Rule #2: No divisive discussions
Unless you’re specifically a politics or religion based membership group, it’s safe to say these kinds of discussions can very quickly derail a positive atmosphere into a very toxic one.
So it’s highly important that your members know straight away that you won’t tolerate conversation that could cause a divide and upset (especially if it’s not relevant to what you’re offering).
Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, and many issues need to be tackled.
Most people will have varying opinions on these things.
Unfortunately, subjects, where members get heated, can trigger a lot of upset, unrest, and negativity.
There’s nothing that’ll make members leave quicker than feeling uncomfortable or even personally attacked in a group (whether others intend to hurt feelings or not).
What should you do?
Firstly, make sure that a moderator of your group can nip any conversations swaying towards toxicity in the bud as soon as possible - it’s best to close comments on a particular thread if possible, or post a polite warning that it’s against the rules.
Proactively, you can start positive conversations as part of your content schedule, to promote healthy, safe, and relevant conversations between members.
Rule #3: No spam
This one’s a no-brainer if you’ve spent any time in a group online, but you’d be surprised how many group owners forget to enforce a no spam rule.
In my experience, if someone is planning to spam then they probably won’t listen to any rules you have in place anyway, and should probably be kicked from the group if they repeatedly offend.
Why is it bad?
Spam is annoying and potentially harmful, depending on what it is they’re posting.
(I mean, it’s 2019, I probably don’t need to explain that to you 😉)
Best case scenario, your members get irritated by it and the spammy comments flood out the better quality content.
Worse case? Well, it’s much worse.
If spammers shared malicious links or posts, and your members fall victim to them, you’ll essentially look like you don’t care about your community and earn yourself a bad reputation - and members will leave, warning others never to join your group.
What can I do about it?
Be strict with this one.
Be sure to state clearly that you run a no spam group, and that members who do so will have their posts removed and potentially be banned if they continue to avoid the rules.
Rule #4: Prevent members from DMing other members without their permission
Have you ever been in a group that you love participating in, only to share a nugget of wisdom and suddenly be flooded with inbox messages from other members?
I have, and it’s really frustrating!
Why is this such a problem?
Think of it like this:
You join a group so you can network, learn, and find really helpful resources - either from the group leaders or from other likeminded members.
That’s what makes groups fun!
But then you pluck up the courage to share something you think would be valuable to others, hoping to ignite a conversation with fellow members and share lots of wisdom in the safety of a private group.
But people start sending you unwanted private messages, asking you questions about what you posted, asking for more information (that you may not have) and basically pestering you.
It’s off-putting and makes members feel like they don’t want to contribute.
Part of feeling safe in a group is feeling like you still have your privacy.
What you should do instead
Promote exciting conversations within the group!
If convos go private, the group can miss out on great points of view and the chance to get to know fellow members better.
Again, this can be part of your content schedule within the group, or even better - expand upon a conversation started by a member by asking open-ended questions and inviting your members to weigh in!
Rule #5: Give and Take
More of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule, really.
But an important one to include, to maintain the quality of the group’s content and promote engagement.
Asking members to contribute with their suggestions and experiences makes the group stronger and more valuable!
Feedback and new ideas can help spark new ideas for content that others woud find helpful, too, that may not have thought of.
And you may discover fantastic talent within your group that could start new work relationships and projects!
An easy way to spark giving and taking within the group could be:
Asking members to share their favourite articles, experts, book, or podcasts on a particular topic!
You could even include this in a cycle of content every month or so, so that as new members join, they can join in the conversation.
Rule #1 - Minimise self-promotion
Rule #2 - No divisive topics
Rule #3 - No spam!
Rule #4 No DMs without permission
Rule #5 - Give and take
My final notes
Rules are often easy to find when you first join a group, but may be more difficult to refer back to once you’ve been a member for a while.
Often this is because the rules are hidden somewhere that’s hard to find.
Be sure to pin the rules in an easy to find place - at the top of a discussion thread, or even on their own channel.
And when you change a rule, make sure you’re super clear with your members that you’ve updated them and what implications this could have!
Asking for feedback is so valuable here, too, as members will be more open to explain why they approve/dislike the change.
That’s it for rules! Did you find this helpful for your own membership group? Tell me if I missed something by commenting below - I’d love to start a conversation with you! 👇