Public vs Private Communities 🔐

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Most communities I’ve worked with have had some sections of the communities available to the public (i.e., guest users aka anyone not logged in to the community), and some sections that are member-only or only visible to specific roles.

It can generate some buzz to have exclusive content, but it can also be a bit of a balancing act between exclusivity and demonstrating value and giving folks a taste of the community (and convincing them to hit that join/register button)…

There are a few out there that are totally private and make nothing public to guests (aka not logged in users at all) — you can read more about private communities here.

While this makes sense for a few specific usecases, I would make the argument that it can be beneficial to have at least some content visible to all for a few reasons:

  • Increase SEO
  • Ability to share great posts on other channels (i.e., socials)
  • Give folks a taste of the value of community to entice them to sign in/register
  • More enticing homepage with role based widgets with calls to action to sign in/register

If your community has a lot of sensitive subject matter or if you’re running an exclusive type community, maybe there are some facets you could still make public, such as staff blog posts, or a welcome centre.

Even if you don’t want to share one single scrap of actual content, I would still argue that the way to go would be to disable ‘private communities’ and then set up the guest role so that users can’t actually see any content or categories, but still get a beautiful homepage with CTA widgets speaking to the value of community (note: not necessarily a community description, but rather why the user should bother to sign in register… that what’s in it for me factor).

This community uses a CTA for guests, and has specific category icons show for guests (but not logged in users, who don't need to be prompted to create an account, for example)

You can read more about curating CTAs and other widgets here.

What do you think? Do you have a private or semi private community? What content have you chosen to share with guests? Have you switched from one to the other, how did it go?

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