This post was originally called 7 Reasons NOT To Use A Facebook Group For Your Membership Site. Much changed since it was originally written. So, this guide has now been fully updated to server as a more complete look at community options for a membership site. Enjoy!

When you’re setting up your membership site, one of the issues you’ll inevitably need to confront is your member community. Should you have one? And if you do, should you use a forum, a private Facebook group, or some other platform?

With my own membership, I have been through a journey on this issue. I started off with a Facebook group, then switched to a hosted forum, then to BuddyBoss… then to BBPress. And ultimately to nothing since I no longer have an active community on this site.

When I have worked with many clients on their membership sites, we’ve discussed whether they should bother starting up a community for their membership site.

So, let’s discuss this issue of a membership site community.

If you’re starting up a membership site, should you build in a community?

And if you do, what’s the best community platform for you?

So, let’s get into it…

What Is A Membership Site Community?

That word “community” can mean different things for different people.

For some, it is just forums where members can interact and ask questions. For others, they may have bigger ambitions of creating a social network where members can have profiles, join groups, message each other and more.

Usually, the goal of having such a community is two-fold for the membership site owner:

  • Have user-generated content that can add to the value of the membership over time.
  • Increase the retention rate of the membership. As the old saying goes, “they join for the content, they stay for the community” And there’s truth to this.

Community is all about having your members be able to interact with each other, ask questions, and help each other. Ideally, they will create a bond with other members and come back time and time again to seek assistance and help others.

As a membership site owner, this is kind of the “holy grail”. We’d all like to have this going on on our sites.

However, the question remains…

Should You Have A Membership Site Community?

The primary question going into this is… should you even bother?

It seems like a really cool idea to have a thriving membership site with a thriving, engaged community. Many of us have been part of such communities on other sites. Most of us would love to have an active, engaged community on our sites.

However, reality is often quite different.

Let’s spell out both cases and then I’ll present my personal opinion on the matter.

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Why You Should Build A Community For Your Membership Site

As has been said many times…

They join for the content. They stay for the community.

This is true. A thriving community on your site can add a tremendous amount of value to whatever content you are posting into your membership. It makes your membership alive.

People can ask questions and get answers and many times you don’t need to be the one doing it.

It can also give your members a reason to log back in and see what’s going on. Communities can make your membership more “sticky”… not only in terms of engagement but also retention rate.

You can also use your community as part of how you deliver the value to your membership. For instance, you can host events for them. You can post new member content in the community. You can do live video, form mastermind groups, do accountability check-ups to keep people in the game. There’s much that can be done when your community is purring along.

But, it isn’t all rainbows…

Why You Should NOT Build A Community For Your Membership Site

People often grossly underestimate the amount of work that building up and maintaining a thriving community will take.

So many membership site owners have this utopian idea that members will just magically engage and that they’re all going to be as into your membership site as you are. But, that is rarely the case.

In a lot of cases, it proves quite difficult to get a membership site community built up and engaged. It takes constant interaction and constant prodding to build up that inertia. Some people who manage to make it work literally hire community managers just to do this. It can be incredibly time consuming.

For most solopreneurs, dedicating the required amount of time to truly build up this community proves quite challenging. And more often than not, it simply doesn’t happen. The result is a quiet, dull community where barely anybody is actually interacting. Despite you perhaps posting new content for members with regularity, it can still prove challenging to get your members to actually engage in the community. A few might do so regularly, but most will not.

A dull, boring community makes your membership site look… dead. The effect of that on the perceived value of the membership site can actually end up being worse than not having one at all.

There’s also the matter of how should you best spend your time?

What’s your actual goal with your membership site? What do you want your own life to look like? And, does the time you spend trying to build and engage your community actually align with your own goals?

I will say, for me it did not. For me, having a community violated my own 80/20 rule. The forum very clearly was not contributing much of anything to the “results” of my business. I know what I need to be working on in order to run my business…. and remembering to check and answer questions in the forum was not among them.

My Personal Thoughts On Whether You Should Build A Community For Your Membership

For most membership site owners, I would probably recommend not to bother trying to build up a community.

For most, it will end up feeling like a distraction. It will likely end up driving you into running extra software that just adds bloat to the site and makes things more complicated.

Especially when you’re in the earlier phases of your membership site, I think you’d be better off concentrating on traffic and conversion and delivery… than on trying to keep people engaged with a forum.

Many memberships don’t even stand to gain much from a community platform. They just don’t bring in the type of crowd that’s going to want to sit there and talk regularly. So, you definitely need to consider your audience as well.

If you DO want to try to have some form of community, I’d suggest you keep things simple. I think a Facebook Group is probably your lowest hanging fruit and I’d suggest you go that route. But, don’t go buy expensive software for it. At least not yet. Not unless you KNOW that community is a fundamental part of the product/market fit you’re aiming for.

Software Options For Your Membership Community

So, if you’re going to spin up a membership site community, you have multiple platform options.

One of my biggest suggestions here is not to over-complicate things unnecessarily. It is really easy to over-build a membership site and that just adds more bloat and costs more money. It is more effective to look for the shortest path from point A to point B. Let’s find the simplest way to get to where you want to go.

In this post, I want to discuss a few options here. Those are:

  • Facebook Group
  • Third-Party Hosted Platform (such as Mighty Networks)
  • BuddyBoss
  • Forum Software

Let’s dive into these potential solutions…

Facebook Group

Starting a private Facebook group for your membership site is one incredibly popular option. Everybody is familiar with Facebook and, of course, it is free.

There are a few MAJOR strengths to using Facebook for your member community:

  • Facebook is very easy to use for people since most are already there anyway and use it every day.
  • Facebook is immensely accessible. The Groups App and the main Facebook App  itself make it super easy to use over mobile.
  • Notifications make casual participation in the member community easier.
  • No technical headaches to getting set up. Facebook is just there and ready, as opposed to a forum which comes with techie headaches.
  • It is easy to post videos and even do live video events (via Facebook Live) right into the group.

When I first went about bringing community into my own membership site endeavors, I started out with a Facebook Group. For all of the above reasons. But, over time I began to sour on it and I actually switched platforms.

Today, I’m more open to the idea of using Facebook Groups for your membership again primarily because of the simplicity. However, it is definitely important to look at the downsides and there are several.

facebook noise

There are a number of reasons here, but I’ll give you 6 of them…

  1. Distraction. Facebook is a cesspool of distraction. Whether it is politics, memes, puppy photos, recipes – whatever – there is a lot to distract you on Facebook. Your membership site community is indeed in a very noisy, distracting environment.
  2. Facebook Algorithm And Visibility. Facebook uses a a proprietary machine learning setup to determine what shows up in your newsfeed. It is quite complicated how it works, but the end result is that posts in your member community might not show up for them. Members may not actually see the stuff going on in the community unless they specifically visit the group.
  3. Lack of Control. Facebook is “rented land”. Actually, it isn’t even rented since you don’t pay them anything for it. Facebook owns it, can make any change they want to the platform, and even take it all away from you at any point.
  4. Poor Search Functionality. Facebook groups have a search function, but it sucks. All of that user-generated content has very little long-term value because it is so insanely hard to find anything. IT has gotten better over the years, but it still isn’t particularly user-friendly.
  5. Lack of Ownership Of Content. You don’t own the content being posted in the group and, as said above, the group could be removed at any time. For something potentially as important as the content within your membership community, this can be a really big problem.
  6. No Automatic Access. There is no way to automate access control for members. It isn’t as simple as unlocking member content once a person joins. Facebook is, by nature, not linked to your membership site platform and must be managed separately.

For multiple reasons, using a Facebook Group is a violation of my own preference for digital sovereignty. And I don’t like being dependent on “big tech” for anything. However…

I am still open to using Facebook for this. For some people, I think it may still be the best fit.

Simplicity is key. And as I said, it is better that you spend time on traffic & conversion than you spend time trying to build up some fancy community within your membership site. We need to keep our eyes on the ball here.

If user-generated content is a fundamental part of why members are joining and your ultimate business goals, then don’t use Facebook. However, if your community is more of a bonus and more of a side show to the main goals of your membership, then Facebook remains a viable option.

Engagement will be easier. It will be a lot less headache. You can do live videos easily. It is easily to manage from your phone. And there’s nothing you need to buy or build. It’s just easy.

Hosted Communities (like Mighty Networks and Circle)

There are third-party platforms that you can pay for that offer the relatively simplicity of Facebook with a higher level of control. Some membership site owners like these options.

Two popular ones are Mighty Networks and Circle.

Mighty Networks is a full-featured solution for community-based memberships. They have a nice system for hosting your online courses. They have built-in events. They have a community newsfeed, chat, groups, etc. It comes with a nice mobile app. It really does have a lot going for it.

Mighty Networks (as of this writing) starts at $33/mo (paid annually) for community-only functionality. For the full experience with online courses and everything else, it goes up to $99/month. On top of that, they also charge you a percentage of any sales you make (2% or 3% depending on your plan). Lastly, you cannot get rid of the Mighty Network branding unless you go with their “Pro” offering which is even more expensive.

Frankly, Mighty Networks looks like a great system. However, I would never use it because I feel it is too expensive and you are giving up too much control.

Circle is another similar option. Circle offers many of the same features as Mighty Networks along with a great user experience. Pricing is similar.

In the end, I present these options because I know some people consider them. I can see why. If your goal is just ease of use and it doesn’t bother you having your entire business in the hands of a third-party, then these are viable options.

In my view, however, I value control and ownership. And I want my business to be in my own hands and portable so I can host it anywhere I want. For this reason, I would never use these solutions.

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Certainly, the BuddyBoss platform is a solid option if you want a full-featured community-powered membership site and yet have it safely within your own control.

BuddyBoss is purpose-built for membership sites with developed communities. The community functionality includes forums, groups, member profiles, newsfeed, private messaging media library, etc. In other words, you can almost create your own private Facebook with BuddyBoss.

The BuddyBoss theme does a great job of presenting your membership in a professional manner. It also has built-in integrations and styling for online courses, events and a number of other popular features.

I’ve talked about BuddyBoss several times in the past as I used to use it myself and have a pretty good degree of familiarity with it. Here’s some links:

BuddyBoss also has a mobile app if you want a full, native mobile experience. The App, however, is an additional purchase and it isn’t exactly cheap. The WordPress platform, however, is actually a pretty good deal when you consider everything you get.

In the end, if you determine that a membership site community is the path forward for you, BuddyBoss is the option I would most recommend if you want to avoid the downsides of Facebook.

BuddyBoss gets you pretty close to the functionality of Circle, however you can control it and own it. Not only that, but having it all within WordPress means you’ve got all the flexibility to build your site your own way, with the features you want.

I have built and been involved with many BuddyBoss sites for my clients. I also used it myself for awhile as well. So, if you decide to use BuddyBoss and want my assistance in setting it up, book a call with me and let’s discuss it. Through technical services, I’m happy to get in there and help you get things rolling.

Forum Software

I’m no stranger to forums. In my tech blogging days, I owned and very busy forum powered by vBulletin. Things have changed a lot today. There’s new options out there such as IPBoard, which looks incredibly great.

When I first switched away from Facebook groups, I moved to a forum called Discourse.


I used DiscourseHosting to host the forum, since they took care of all the headaches. I didn’t want to have to deal with it. There was even a single sign-on capability with WordPress so that my members wouldn’t have to login separately to access the forum.

Later on, I wanted to get rid of this extra appendage in my business. Not being based on WordPress and requiring separate hosting made things more complicated. That’s when I switched to BuddyBoss (see above).

Later, I decided to switch away from BuddyBoss and move into Kadence Theme. I was in a situation where the only community functionality of BuddyBoss I was using was the forum. What many people don’t know is that BuddyBoss is originally a software fork off BuddyPress and BBPress. This means the forums are backward compatible with BBPress.

So, when I switched away from BuddyBoss, I switched to BBPress and it simply used the same database tables. Other than a few adjustments to the look and feel, there was very little work required. BBPress remains a solid option for membership site communities who just want forum functionality.

In Conclusion…

Whether to have a membership site community or not is a decision you need to make for yourself. It depends on your personal goals and the exact offer you are making to your members.

In my view, it is too easy to create a compelling membership site offer without the need for a community. If you are going to do a community, keep it simple and don’t over-promise. A Facebook community is one simple method. Heck, even just enabling the built-in comment system and showing that on your courses and limiting it to logged-in members may be all that you need or want.

I’m a fan of simple businesses. I think power lies in simplicity. And, for many, building up and managing a large community brings on complexity that I don’t personally care for.

But, that’s your decision to make for your own unique goals and your unique business.

To the degree that you intend to build a community for your membership, my go-to recommendations are usually:

  • Facebook group if you just want simple and familiar. Not the best idea, though, if the content in that group is an important part of your core offer.
  • BuddyBoss if you want a full-fledged community that you own and control. For WordPress, it is hard to beat BuddyBoss.
  • BBPress is you want just a forum that you own and control and don’t want to spend any money.

For non-WordPress forums, there are several. However, that opens up another can of worms since it is a different piece of software and has different hosting requirements. So, I generally leave those to others.

Lastly, I can definitely help you get all this up and running. I do it all the time for clients big and small.

So, feel free to get in touch below. Or you can book a roadmap call to discuss how you and I can build your membership site.

Got A Question? Need Some Assistance?

Have a question about this article? Need some help with this topic (or anything else)? Send it in and I’ll get back to you personally. If you’re OK with it, I might even use it as the basis of future content so I can make this site most useful.

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