Creating a vibrant community is not something that happens overnight. Successful communities are nurtured through thoughtful actions and attention to detail. One of the decisions community starters mull over is: should I have an open or private community platform?
Chances are you are using community software that is highly configurable. Most platform software comes with lots of settings designed to help you adapt to almost any community goal or situation. Today we discuss choosing between opening up your community to the world, or keepings things more private.
Deciding How Members Access Your Community
At CMNTY we help many different organizations set up and run their community platform. Each organization generally has a different goal with their community. Often they also have different platform rules.
Some brands prefer a very transparent process where the idea is to let as many people join as possible, even if you’re not a customer. Market research agencies on the other hand usually prefer to work with “closed-groups” as it allows them to control exactly who is participating. This has to do with the representativeness of the sample. For this reason, private community platforms are usually their spiel.
In CMNTY Platform we have a setting called Platform Status. The setting gives you 4 options: Invitation Only, Protected, Open and Closed. It’s ultimately controlling who has access to the platform and how. Here’s how that looks:
Below we go into a little more detail what these settings mean, so you can decide better what works best for your particular situation.
1. Open: The Public Community Platform
In an “Open” platform, you will basically be able to share your content with anyone who knows the URL of your platform. The entire world will be able to access your community, see who’s in it, read the conversations and participate. Still, in order for people to participate they must create an account.
Open communities are ideal when your goal is to gather as much feedback as possible and your concern is less with who’s in it. Product and support forums are great examples of open communities.
Open platforms can also work as a marketing tool because it allows people who don’t know about you to see how others experience your products and services. This is great, providing these are positive experiences of course. 🙂
Examples: Support communities, Co-creation communities, Innovation communities.
2. Invitation Only: The Private Community Platform
When your platform status is set to “Invitation only”, members need an email invitation to join your community. Without this invitation they simply won’t have access to the registration form.
Use this status for communities where community managers need full control over who is participating. Market research communities or MROCs are populair examples of private community platforms. Researchers usually invite a limited group of people to the platform. Members often are customers of the end-client and are paid to participate.
Employee communities also are a great example of private community platforms. Team members use an “internal platform” to share business goals, ideas and progress with professional development. Another use case is to set up the platform as a team directory.
Examples: Research communities, Insight platforms, Employee platforms, Exclusive groups.
3. Protected: The Partially Private Community Platform
If you are looking for somewhat of a hybrid between an “invitation only” and “open” platform, there is a status called “Protected”.
With a protected platform, people visiting your community won’t be able to see most of the content until they have registered with the platform. You can decide which content is behind the wall and which is public.
This status is ideal if you want to give potential members a peek in the platform without giving away too much.
Example: Contest platforms, Support communities.
4. Closed: Admin Only Access
When a platform is set to “Closed”, members lose access. You and other community managers will still be able to enter, and the admin section will remain fully operational.
This setting is ideal for when you are finished with collecting responses but want to have some time to read through everything or make exports. Most of our clients use this status near the end of their project.
Rounding It Up
There are some important considerations before choosing to make your community platform private of public. Invite only platforms usually resonate best if your goal is to collect insights and keep conversation more secret. Open platform are best when the goal is to reach as many people as possible, or if a community is part of your marketing mix.
Luckily, your decision doesn’t have to be permanent because you can change the status of your platform whenever you like. Just bear in mind that switching private platforms to public will expose all data to the world and might confuse your members. Communicating changes remains important as always.