Learn How to a Build Paid Membership Community with a WordPress Membership Plugin in this thorough tutorial.
We are currently in the era of entrepreneurship and online content, and while some people are building their personal brand, others are focusing on products, services or communities.
So, this means that we have a problem, namely the digital space being flooded with a content of various shapes and users finding difficult to choose what is the most valuable for them. And if we specifically talk about building a private online community we realize that we will actually help people in making the right friends or accessing the right content for their needs, in this wide digital world.
At the first glance, you may wonder why a membership-only model is a right thing for your WordPress site, and below, I will give you a few reasons on why this can bring value to your community.
It will make people feel like insiders
Jonah Berger treats this psychological fact in one of his books, Contagious, where he talks about the scarcity of products, the need, and curiosity of having something that is unavailable and how this need can make people catch on.
“Exclusivity is also about availability, but in a different way. Exclusive things are accessible only to people who meet particular criteria. When we think of exclusivity, we tend to think of flashy $20.000 diamond-encrusted Rolexes or hobnobbing in St. Croix with movie stars. But exclusivity isn’t just about money or celebrity. It’s also about knowledge. Knowing certain information or being connected to people who do.”
High-Quality Content that People Will Pay For
Having a successful paid membership community is different from setting up a blog and may be more difficult to build, but it can create a strong community for your audience. One successful example about building a paid membership community is The altMBA of Seth Godin, an online leadership, and management workshop that constantly connects digital specialists from around the world.
This online community includes writing projects, exchange messages with other students, mentors and join group discussions along the workshop. So, it needed a private place to connect all the students enrolled.
Paid Membership Community with a WordPress Membership Plugin
Now, to start building your paid membership community in WordPress, the quickest and easy solution is to install a membership plugin. This will help you to set out all the details needed, such as membership, subscriptions, content restriction, member management, payment management and a few others.
I know that working on a membership site can be difficult because every owner has his own way of structuring information, payments, and access to content. That’s why I will try to structure the information into actionable steps, in such a way that makes it easy to understand.
Now, we will go further with Paid Member Subscriptions, a membership plugin developed by Cozmoslabs, a plugin that has a simple approach to help you set up your membership community, by using shortcodes.
Before diving out into the step-by-step tutorial, let’s have an overview of what you need for a paid membership community:
- A Login and Registration Area, where users will subscribe for a membership plan and access their accounts;
- A management system for your membership levels and subscription plans;
- Some settings for Content Restriction to allow your restrict your content based on the membership plans;
- A specific area dedicated to members and payment management;
Note: Paid Member Subscriptions comes with a default registration page, but in case you want a Registration Form with custom fields, you can use Profile Builder, that works together with this plugin. I will use Profile Builder in this tutorial, to customize my Registration Forms and here is a dedicated tutorial, for both plugins).
Also, to make this tutorial more easy to understand, we will apply every small step for a use case, that I named The Remote Developers Community. This is fictional paid online community that reunites developers working remote, from around the world. Now, it’s time to go to the basics and let’s see how to set up your Paid Member Subscriptions plugin.
Install Paid Member Subscriptions
First, you have to download and install Paid Member Subscriptions from the WordPress Plugin Repository and add it to your website, from WordPress Dashboard -> Plugins -> Add New.
Set up the Membership Levels and Subscriptions Plans
To get started, you have to navigate to Paid Member Subscriptions -> Subscription Plans and “Add New”.
Here, you will have to name your subscription, set up a duration and price, and make sure the status for this plan is active so that users will see it displayed on the Registration Form, on your website.
Modify the type of membership level with a higher or lower tier plan
At the top of the membership details, you will have a link to a subscription plan that’s higher tier or lower tier than the current one.
In my use case, for The Remote Developers Community, I wanted to set up a Basic Plan, that will be free, so that I will let particular users try some of the benefits of my community. The other subscription is a Premium one having a 99$ fee per year, that includes members-only content, exclusive news, a specially curated newsletter, and private a Slack channel.
Further, you will want to restrict the content published on your website based on the membership levels you have set up, in the previous step. And here are two ways of restricting your posts and pages: directly from each individual post or by using the [pms-restrict] shortcode.
The Remote Developers Community have several content restrictions, and I will describe each one of them, below.
A general content restriction (Paid Member Subscriptions -> Settings -> Content Restriction), so that every user has to be logged in and subscribed to a membership plan to view the content from the website.
Custom Registration and Edit Profile Forms
To build the setup for your Registration and Edit Profile Forms you can use the default registration shortcode from Paid Member Subscription, namely [pms-register], or you can use Profile Builder, that works together with Paid Member Subscriptions.
This plugin will also enable you to have a custom Registration or Edit Profile Form, or even more, multiple front-end registration forms with different fields. You will can extend your Registration or Edit Profile Forms, with various type of fields available in Profile Builder, such as input, input-hidden, checkbox, agree to terms checkbox, radio, select, country select, time zone select, user role select, date picker, textarea, reCAPTCHA, generalist upload, avatar upload, WYSIWYG, map, HTML, phone, time picker, color picker, custom validation field or currency select.
In your WordPress Dashboard, at Profile Builder, you will find the two sections dedicated to Registration and Edit Profile form. There you will edit all the existing registration forms or add new ones, and when publishing a new form you will get a shortcode that can be used to display that form in the front-end.
Now, coming back to my developer’s community, I wanted to have a setup with a simple Registration Form, that will attract more users and a more detailed Edit Profile Form, where afterwards, users will fill in details about their work experience, type of technologies used and the countries or places, from where they work remote.
Build a newsletter list based on the type of membership subscribers
Further, building a newsletter for an online community can be a great marketing tactic, since you can expand the type of information that you are sharing with your audience, and it can bring you more data about their online behavior.
Managing Email Lists can be an additional task added to the existing ones, but it will sure bring you value. Here is how you can build a successful list on your paid membership community with WordPress:
Within your community, you may consider embedding a subscription form somewhere, on your website. By having Profile Builder and MailChimp Add-on alongside Paid Member Subscriptions, you can customize the type of information you are asking your audience. For example, I’ve built the following form for my fictional Developers Community, that looks like this:
More information on how to build a custom newsletter subscription forms with Profile Builder and MailChimp Add-on are available on Profile Builder & MailChimp documentation.
Integrate a Slack channel within your community to engage your members
When you are part of a community, most probably you will want to build conversations with other members and nurture friendships. As I said before, the altMBA is one great example of a successful paid membership community, that uses digital tools, such as Slack, WordPress, and others to engage their group of students in an intense four-week process.
At the first glance, I didn’t find it easy to integrate Slack users with a WordPress site, but apparently, there is a solution available, though it’s a premium one, WP SlackSync.
If you decide to use this integration, you can follow WP SlackSync’s documentation to team up the two digital tools and transform this into a unique experience for your members.
As the website admin, you can also manage or edit members and add memberships to existing WordPress users. And with the Bulk Add New Member feature, you can easily select multiple WordPress users from the table and assign them an active subscription plan.
From the payment interface you can visualize existing payments, search for particular ones, check their status (for pending or completed) and also users will retry their payments.
Extend the features of your Paid Membership Community with add-ons
Like the majority of WordPress freemium plugins, you can extend the features of the plugin by having a paid version. Paid Member Subscriptions comes with various add-ons available, such as:
- Recurring Payments for PayPal Standard – that will enable you the possibility to accept recurring payments via PayPal Standard and increase your revenue, as the community grows.
- PayPal Pro and PayPal Express – an add-on that lets you accept payments from users via PayPal Pro and PayPal Express Checkout,
- Stripe – accept credit card payments directly on your website, both one-time and recurring.
- Content Dripping – Schedule your content and make your post or categories available for your members, only after a certain amount of time have passed since they signed up for a subscription plan.
- Multiple Subscription per User – You can set up multiple subscriptions level groups and allow members to sign up for more than one membership plan.
So that’s it, our paid membership community is done and ready to welcome some new members.
I know there are a lot of WordPress plugins available when it comes to membership sites, but as I said before, there is one thing you should remember about Paid Member Subscriptions. This is easy to setup plugin that offers you enough options to start your paid membership community right now, without further troubles.
All the features presented above and available in Paid Member Subscriptions can be tested on Paid Member Subscriptions Demo Site.
After you have the site up and running you can begin to think further on how to grow your paid membership community and nurture members and relationships. But that’s another story that we will tell you someday.
For now, we’re curious to see if you have created any type of private community on your WordPress site.
Please, share your thoughts, in the comments section below.