Membership Site Community: Private Facebook Group Or A Forum? (7 Reasons For My New Decision)

After using a private Facebook group for my membership site for a few years, I’m making the switch. Here are the 7 reasons why…

  • Sarah Arrow says:

    Hi David, great insights as usual.
    I moved my community into Facebook 2.5 years ago, and I’m now in the process of moving it to LinkedIn.
    LI groups are better set up for welcoming etc, and yes there’s the ads aspect but to be honet at £3.50 a click few of my audience can afford to advertise there ;).
    I don’t want to have the hassle of passwords, passowrd insecurity and all the grief that comes with a forum.
    Of course, I may change my mind later (again) but right now I’m moving back to LI.

  • Rick says:

    Thanks for being so upfront about your decision and choices. I was JUST about to create two new Facebook groups to support two different circles of clients…

    Your points ring home. Particularly the one about access – adding and removing. Just seems like a logistical “no fun at all” which I’m doing already in one group I run. Three? Ugh.

    So when you remove members who expire, they also have their forum access automatically removed?

    • David Risley says:

      Yes, it would be automatic since it is directly tied in with MemberMouse.

      • Rick Wilkes says:

        Discourse looks great. What I am seeing from their support forums and the WordPress plugin is that while Membermouse (which I also use) handles creating the user account, and the SSO plugin handles the login to Discourse nicely…

        …It doesn’t seem to allow any kind of other “membership levels” handling in an automatic way. I have three membership levels, and each has different private discussions. And those do not seem to be linked. (sad face)

        • David Risley says:

          Yeah, I’m sure there would be a little geekiness requires. However, I’ve figured it out.

          If you use the Primetime Discourse plugin to integrate rather than the official one, it has basic MemberMouse integration. This plugin is in the repository, however you need to use this one from GitHub to get the MM functionality:
          https://github.com/PrimeTimeCode/pt-wp-discourse-sso

          Then, if you’re at all handy with PHP, if you open up the /public/class-pt-wp-discourse-sso.php file in that plugin and scroll down to line 404, you’ll see the code for checking if the person has a free member level and will bar them from the forum login. It wouldn’t take much to modify that to allow certain levels only.

          As for different access for different levels, that might be a further matter of customization. Or perhaps use the group functionality. One way or the other, I’m sure it could be done.

          Also, if you’re not on WPEngine, you could explore other forum options.

  • Michelle S says:

    I am clicking on the link above but it doesn’t bring me to the forum, and I can’t find it on the main page either. Is it not up yet or am I not clicking on the right thing?

    • David Risley says:

      I just looked up your profile and you don’t appear to be a Lab member. You bought one of the Plans, but that doesn’t come with a Lab membership. Would love to see you join us!

      It should show you a “no access” page, tho. I’ll need to test to see why that may not be happening.

  • Manxed says:

    I completely agree about avoiding Facebook. If you’re you’re on Facebook then the customers aren’t yours, they’re Facebook’s.

    Whereas if you’ve got your own self-hosted online course or membership site then you have complete control. This does require a bit more effort in terms of initially setting up, but it’s worth the investment in the long run.

  • Bruce J says:

    David,

    I’ve looked at DiscourseHosting.com a couple of times but keep wondering, for those of us who aren’t as technically proficient, if you (or another one of our members) could either put together a video walk through or create a step-by-step guide for how to install DiscourseHosting and connect with a subdomain so there’s a single sign on (or maybe the answer is to recommend someone who can do this for us :-). Either way, some guidance would be appreciated.

    I get the “5 Min. Install.” but that’s with them. It’s the integration piece that seems a little technical that’s kept me from biting the bullet and getting Discourse set up (Note: I’m totally with you on moving away from FB).

    Thanks!

    Bruce

    • David Risley says:

      Hey Bruce,

      The integration simply uses a plug-in. I am using a plug-in called PrimeTime WP Discourse SSO. Although, there is also the official Discourse plug-in for WordPress. Once installed, you’ll get the API key from your Discourse installation, copy/paste into your plug-in settings… and single sign-on will be functional.

      As for the subdomain, that’s something you would set up with your DNS provider. I use Cloudflare. You would set up what is called a CNAME record. Just create a new sub-domain called “forum” (or whatever), set it as a CNAME, then enter the sub-domain for your forum as the place to route to. DiscourseHosting will give you a sub-domain on THEIR domain for your forum. All you’re doing is mapping YOUR sub-domain to their’s.

      If you have big difficulty with it, we do have the tech service here at BMA to see about doing it for you:
      https://www.blogmarketingacademy.com/tech-support/

  • obi k says:

    Thanks for a good summary of Fb v forum. Im a million miles from being in this dilemma eheh but I guess there must be thousands of others with Fb groups contemplating the same things.

  • Jen says:

    What a great article. Thank you! I just bought an existing membership site from someone and am contemplating moving away from the closed FB group. I’m curious – when you made the switch, did you delete the FB group? Did you just email your members to say, ‘we’re moving and the FB Group is going away’? I’m really concerned about getting rid of the group when the on-site forums are lifeless.

    I just took over and am maintaining everything as-is while I make decisions about changes to the site and business model. It needs a complete revamping in general, as the previous owner had stopped working on the site as much. But it’s been around a few years, was one of the first of its kind, has a decent sized list, and has courses among the assets. I’ve got my work cut out for me but I have hope it will work out.

    Thanks!

    • David Risley says:

      I gave a heads up, and a transition time. I posted a notice to the FB group and pinned it to the top. I started talking about the forum and highlighting conversations to them in the member email list. The FB group technically still exists, although it is very inactive and I’m about to delete it.

      I don’t know much about your situation and the site you’ve acquired. If your member base is really active in the FB group and it is a topic which isn’t as prone to distraction, then perhaps you can leave it. There are benefits to the FB group. Just in my case, the Community becomes a reference source over time. Plus, I need students to be focused, not distracted which is what Facebook promotes.

      For me, switching the Lab to a forum was an awesome decision and I should have done it earlier.

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