The Benefits and Drawbacks of Closed Online Communities

On the surface, having a closed online community might seem the obvious route. You get to vet and filter new members and don’t have to deal with trolls and Karens slamming your content every day. However, there are serious risks associated with growth and sustainability of closed groups, so we encourage you to weigh up the pros and cons before making your decision. 

What Makes Closed Communities Great

Higher chance of valuable engagement

Open groups can be inundated with comments, posts, and discussions—but are they relevant? Not all engagement is created equal, and a closed community is much more likely to keep discussions on topic  and dive deep. Closed groups consistently produce much higher engagement and collaboration than open ones—as long as the community managers can keep the fire stoked.  

Exclusive access to customer insights 

This is an interesting one. If your business has a private community, then all the feedback, suggestions and insights from dedicated customers is feeding straight into your R&D machine—and your competitors don’t get to see it. This could give your business a significant competitive advantage. 

Better opportunity for “real talk”

There are two sides to this. One is that for many topics (especially personal stories) we don’t want the whole world listening in. Behind closed doors, many of us can be ourselves and engage in truly valuable conversations in a way we can’t on a public forum. 

In private communities you can also create dedicated spaces for people to actually converse and have focused discussions. Users feel better protected and comfortable sharing their data and opinions, knowing it’s safely hidden inside the community’s walls. In closed groups it’s easier for real bonds and even friendships to form. 

Exclusivity attracts expertise

Especially for paid membership groups, it’s easier to bring in genuinely experienced, passionate members when they know they won’t have to deal with spam, trolls, and things being taken wildly out of context. Closed communities have an intrinsic allure which, if marketed very well, can attract more qualified members than most open groups. 

Why Most Closed Communities Eventually Fail

Getting new members is hard 

This might sound obvious, but balancing new registrations against churn can be very challenging within a closed community. There are clearly two sides to this: 

  • Managing growth—Private groups do permit new members, usually with specific screening and vetting in place. This might include a questionnaire, requirements such as qualifications or job titles, a personal circumstance, referral from an existing member—lots of options.

    Because it’s harder to join, the community managers must put in lots of work to consistently bring in qualified members. The more niche your community, the more work this will take. Any drop in persistent effort or success means new members dry up fast. 
  • Managing churn—People leave communities. It happens. But people also remain in groups and stop logging in, reading posts, or joining discussions. Again this is largely down to management: it is your job to ensure there are consistent core activities and shared experiences had by members. Once these fall off, churn shoots up and you ain’t getting them back. 

You don’t need a stats degree to know what when more members leave than join, things are headed downhill. 

Insufficient community management

If you’re going to limit participation, active community management is absolutely essential. You need your members to be as engaged and participatory as possible on a consistent basis. A lack of consistent group activity is what causes many closed groups to fail. The value becomes unclear, there’s nothing motivating them to join in, and gradually they’ll pay less and less attention. 

Core recurring activities (like education, speakers, events, discussion, new content, brainstorming, video conferences….) allow members to share experiences, form stronger bonds, and derive real value from the community. And making all this happen is the community manager’s job! 


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Brought to you by PeepSo Team Matt Jaworski
I am a professional nerd with **over a decade of experience** in the field of Open Source web development. Before [PeepSo](https://PeepSo.com) I was a contractor and have helped build successful businesses around the world, including USA, UK, Germany, Indonesia and Malaysia. A couple of years leading up to founding PeepSo, I was involved with JomSocial - a social networking extension for Joomla. Stepping up from the role of contractor to business owner, I became [PeepSo](https://PeepSo.com) founder and Chief Technology Officer. I strive to build beautiful, fast and functional software that **empowers the users to build their own digital tribes with full autonomy and freedom** often not available on the mainstream social networking media. As a **location independent** *digital nomad* I travel almost constantly, although over the past five years I have spent most of my time in Indonesia and Malaysia. I speak fluent English and Polish, decent German and Spanish and even some Indonesian.

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Comments

@peepso_user_21475(bopage sanjaya)
able to Create Pic upload option in registration proccess it can be help to identify our target user for community
September 9, 2021 11:27 am
@peepso_user_41569(Morris Silvya)
Involved a developer at work who helped me with creating a 'Great Wall' - random questions in our native language that only members of our community will know the answers to - while signing up. For people outside our community, it's "Look, But Don't Touch". As our community is a closed knit one and like to keep things among ourselves, everyone's happy 🙂
September 9, 2021 1:19 pm
@peepso_user_41569(Morris Silvya)
@peepso_user_31694(Dan C.) Yes. We don't accept users that get the answer 'wrong'. So, members outside of our community cannot register to the site. Our community's language is written in Latin/Roman alphabets but the spoken dialect is not English. Monetization is through local businesses - with contracts that run periodically (quarterly or annually) - and they aren't really bothered about click rates and the like. So we just put a banner for them in one of the left/right widgets. Feel free to check how it works on the link below. Notice the 'Prove you're a Mizo' field.
PS: Ignore the social FB login button. The Oauth isn't currently working. Once that's sorted out we plan to put a similar check in place.
https://chuteh.com/register/
@peepso_user_31694(Dan C.)
@peepso_user_41569(Morris Silvya) this is great. Ka lawm e !

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