"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" - Helen Keller
When it comes to choosing tech tools to run a membership, well, there’s not a lack of options. All you have to do is spend five minutes asking questions in Facebook groups and you’ll get the best tool set, according to whomever is answering. It can very quickly get overwhelming. The reality though is that tools fall into two categories - essential, and nice to have.
That’s it - what is essential right now to run a membership and what is nice to have and can be added or acquired later.
Now that we’ve simplified the tech categories and removed the overwhelm, let’s look at the different ways we interact with our members and what’s needed.
- A way for members to enroll into the membership
- A way to reach members on a regular basis and engage with them
- A way to create content for them
- A way to make that content available to them
Now let’s look at the essential tools needed for each of those.
#1. A way for members to enroll into the membership
This is done through a membership site, although one could consider just having a payment form created via a gateway like PayPal, Square or Stripe (as long as you’re operating within their terms and conditions), we at GJ, believe a membership is more like a front-facing business. As such, we’re big fans of having your own membership site to enroll your members. Furthermore, we also believe it’s best to own your content on a platform you control versus on a platform rented to a third party provider. We take great pride in creating membership site templates that are yours to customize and own, and they’re already integrated with payment gateways.
#2. A way to reach members on a regular basis and engage with them
Your members make up your community; there are many ways you can reach them and engage with them. Here’s what we feel is essential:
- An email marketing service. This is a service that allows you to send automatic emails, to schedule them for certain days and times, and most importantly, a service that gives you the flexibility to send a mass amount of emails at the same time and get detailed analytics. Let’s face it, gmail is great to send emails to a few recipients at the same time, but it is not designed to send emails to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of members at once.
If you’re going to engage in the following ways with your community, here are the essentials to do so:
- A community group. Communities are a key component of memberships and today it has never been as easy to create a members only private group. All you have to do is create a Facebook group. That’s it.
- Live streaming service. Yes, this is essential, there is nothing like face-to-face interaction with your members. Although it is possible to use Facebook lives inside a private Facebook group, giving your members the ability to interact with you live is definitely a plus. There are many options available, like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet to name just a few. Not critical, as most computers already include a built-in camera and a microphone, investing in a decent webcam is relatively inexpensive and provides for much better quality.
#3. A way to create content for them
What’s essential is going to depend vastly on the type of content you intend to deliver. Let’s cover a few of the basic types that are most common.
- Photos. Whether you use stock images or your own photos, one essential tool is a photo editing software that allows you to resize and adjust your images. That can be done by using a computer application or simply one of the many online free tools available.
- Videos. When it comes to videos, there’re a few essential tools required. First, a way to record them - which can be done by simply using a cell phone, a computer, or launching a live stream application like Zoom. Then, videos need to be edited, you know, trimming the beginning and the end and maybe a few parts here and there. Mac users definitely have an advantage as all Macs come with iMovie already installed. For PC users, you may want to look into purchasing an easy-to-use video editing software. Then finally, videos need to be hosted on a server from where they can be embedded and used. Although YouTube and Vimeo seem to be the most common options, there are multiple options available to choose from depending on budget, requirement, and features. As far as videos are concerned, it is worth mentioning that the use of a webcam definitely increases the quality of the videos when using a computer.
#4. A way to make that content available to them
There are many ways content can be delivered and made available to your members. One of the best ways though is through a membership site. Whether most of the content is being delivered live or not, a membership site is like a business with its own address, except instead of being a physical address it has a web address. There are two main options to choose from when it comes to membership site platforms, and it comes down to this: do you want to own your content on your own platform, or do you want to rent? Regardless, a membership site platform is essential.
We at GJ believe in owning content on a platform we own, that’s why we design templates that are fully customizable - for others to own their content on their own platform. However, with skills and time, it is absolutely possible to build your own. Alternatively, hiring a web designer is also an option, although not an inexpensive one.
If you choose to make your content available through your own membership site platform, the one tool that is required is “Hosting” for your domain name and membership site. There are plenty of options available online, keep in mind that not all hosting companies are equal. As far as tools are concerned, we can’t stress enough that this essential tool is critical to provide a great experience for your members. Make sure you do your due diligence.
Running a membership site can be simple and fun. It is easy to fall into the trap of tech tools, wondering what the latest trend is, what tools others are using that would be great to have. Janelle and I always say, “Keep it simple and move forward.” Ask yourself, is this tool essential or nice to have? Do I need it right now? Another way to look at tech tools to run a membership is by asking yourself what your membership needs and only then finding the tool that does what you need it to.
And remember this, tools that are "nice to have" can always be added later.