Social clubs offer a fun way for like-minded people to connect, network and spend time in a community. If you are the kind of person who is good at bringing people together, you may want to think about monetizing this skill. But before you spend a lot of time setting up a club website, invest time in planning and testing.
Define your target audience
Decide the purpose of your group and the demographic characteristics of likely members. Consider if you creating a social club based on one or more of the following:
- Geography – such as a specific town or neighborhood
- Interests – such as hobbies (gaming, crafts, talents, etc.), activities such as sailing or sports, volunteering
- Identity – religion, ethnicity, alumni, career or trade
- Fraternity or sorority affiliation
Surprisingly, the more narrowly you define your group identity, often the easier it is to gain members. Think about it. If you hear about a social club that fits more than one of your own demographic criteria — such as a local alumni association — you’re more likely to want to belong to that than to a club that’s neither local nor related to your identity.
Create a club name and a logo
Sometimes a name comes about organically over time. But deciding upon a name sooner will help the whole process go more smoothly. Consider what will be most attractive to potential members. If you use something that clearly mentions geography, interest and/or identity, that will help prospects find you as opposed to a clever name that might not speak to whom should join. You can then use your name to:
- Register a domain name (even if you aren’t ready to build your website yet).
- Hire a logo designer.
- File legal paperwork.
Test the idea
As people spend more time on their phones and less time gathering in person, look to the web and business-for-profit/”>social networks to initially form your community. Before investing any of your personal funds in this endeavor, use free tools. Here are some options for both broadcast message platforms and social or two-way communications. You should have at least one of each type.
- Mailchimp or other email marketing platform: As of this article publication date, MailChimp offers a free account for up to 2000 contacts. Use this to send one-way communications promoting your club. Both prospective members and club members can be on your list, though you may want a specific list just for members as well so that you can speak directly to them.
- BCC email: This is a clunky way to do things, but if you have less than 40 prospective members or members, you can limp along initially by sending out messages directly from your own email account. Note that sending to more than 40 people at once can get your message flagged as spam, so don’t push this limit. Also be sure to put addresses in the BCC field so that no one can reply to all. You’ll want to eventually use an email marketing service so that you can send out branded, professional looking emails.
- Facebook page, Instagram account, LinkedIn page, YouTube channel, Pinterest business account, Twitter profile: Consider what social platform(s) your target demographic uses and create a presence there. It doesn’t hurt to have multiple social accounts as long as you keep them all updated regularly. Note that each platform has various controls as far as when and if users may or may not see your messages in their social feed, so collect email addresses as your first priority over pushing followers to these channels.
Two-way communications platforms:
Note that the best and most interactive form of communication is two-way, but having a moderator to keep an eye on things is a good idea if you are allowing dialog between members.
- Facebook group: If your club members tend to be Facebook users, a Facebook group is the way to go. Due to Facebook’s algorithms, group members are much more likely to see your posts than if you just make posts for your followers of your Facebook page.
- LinkedIn group: If your club is centered around a certain industry, skillset or career, a LinkedIn group may be the right forum for your group.
- Email Listserv: Some people don’t like to have social media accounts, but pretty much everyone has email. You can use Google groups to set up a free listserv to communicate amongst your members.
Leverage your groups
Once you are finding success with a fair number of group members or a good size mailing list, consider creating a club website where you can:
Charge club dues.
List events on an event calendar and charge for registration.
Host member-only content.
Allow members to create profiles.
Share an online directory for club members.
Because you have already established good ways of communicating with your members and prospects, you can use those channels to spread the word about becoming a member. Be sure to offer members special perks such as access to a member only directory, member ticket pricing, or exclusive events so that they see the value in membership. You might want to create a small advisory group of your most active members or prospects to help you:
- Fine tune your dues prices and membership levels.
- Brainstorm your list of member benefits.
- Offer feedback on your designs and ideas.
- Help you spread the word about membership.
Ready to build?
Before you build your club website, consider what content management system works for you. WordPress is the most popular content management platform on the web and it has an almost unlimited ability to grow and extend through the use of WordPress plugins. Some club managers prefer tools such as Squarespace and Weebly that have a more simple interface and are designed specifically for those with no coding experience. All of these platforms can integrate with club software, which you will need to help you run your club and bring in income.
Have other ideas for profiting from a social club? Let us know in the comments!
Amy Hufford is a Technologist at MembershipWorks, which offers club software for WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly and HTML5 websites.
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