The Difference Between Having a Membership Site and Using Social Media Platforms

Most websites these days are active on social media. Being active means regularly posting new content, and doing your best to engage with followers. The problem is that most people follow hundreds of accounts, which makes getting users to actually engage difficult.

One solution to that problem is not to focus all of your efforts on social media, and to instead build a community of your own. With a membership website, you control every aspect of the user experience. Moreover, you can use it to foster discussion about your products and services.

In this article, we're going to talk about how online membership websites work in general. Then we'll go over three key advantages that membership sites have over social media platforms. Let's jump in!

How Membership Sites Work

Chances are you're probably a member of a lot of websites. In broad terms, they all work much the same. You register for an account, and then you can start talking with the site's other members and accessing content. The perfect example of such a system is online forums:

An example of an online forum.

That's just one type of membership website, however. In practice, you can tweak any aspect of the experience, including:

  • What content is open to the public and what is restricted
  • Who can register to be a member
  • Whether users have to pay to join the website

One of the biggest issues with static websites is that they're hardly interactive. You can't engage with your users – or get them to interact with each other – through the website itself. You may have contact forms and emails, but those are hardly conducive to a feeling of community.

Social media helps websites bridge that gap. However, social media platforms are limiting in many ways, especially when compared to the power of a fully-featured membership site.

3 Advantages of Membership Websites Over Social Media Platforms

There's a time and a place for using social media to promote your business. However, it shouldn't be the only channel you rely on, and that's where a membership site comes in. Let's look at three benefits of creating this type of dedicated community.

1. You Don't Need to Rely on a Third-Party Platform

Billions of people use social media platforms every day. You're almost certainly familiar with the big names, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but there are also a lot of smaller regional and niche platforms.

Here's the problem – every one of those platforms requires you to abide by a different rule set. Moreover, they each tend to specialize in very different types of content. If you want to engage users on Instagram, it's all about visuals, whereas Facebook is more friendly for text-heavy content.

The result is that running popular accounts on multiple social media platforms is essentially a full-time job. It's no wonder that so many businesses are hiring social media managers just to keep up.

With a membership website that you own, there's no one else setting the rules. You control every aspect of the platform, including which functionality you want, who to let in, what kind of content is allowed, and more.

WordPress might not offer advanced membership functionality out of the box, but that's easily fixed with plugins. By using MemberPress, for example, you can customize the user registration experience and gain full control over who sees what content.

2. You Get Access to More Avenues for Monetization

If you're going to spend a lot of time and effort managing a social media presence for your business, it should help you drive profits. The issue is that with social media, monetization options can be few and far between.

What you can do is to use social media to help you find and drive leads to your website. Plus, with a membership site you'll get access to a whole host of monetization options, including:

  • Offering subscriptions
  • Requiring one-time payments for access
  • Displaying ads for other websites
  • Selling digital products

The main takeaway is that when you get users to visit a website you own, you have a lot more freedom about how to monetize that traffic.

With MemberPress, you can easily add subscription and payment functionality to your website:

Paying for a subscription using MemberPress.

As far as ads go, nothing is stopping you from joining any ad network you want. For digital products, you'll need an e-commerce plugin, but you have a lot of choices as a WordPress user.

3. You Can Build a Much More Close-Knit Community

Right now, you probably follow hundreds of people and businesses on social media, spread out across multiple platforms. Social media is a fantastic tool for communication, but it's less useful if you want to nurture a close-knit community.

Traditional social media feeds are designed to drown you in updates. You never cease to get stimuli from different sources, which means you're not going to feel like you're part of a single group.

Membership websites such as forums are the complete opposite. Discussions might not be as fast-paced, but you get to have long, interesting conversations with other users who are interested in the same things as you are:

An example of an engaging online discussion.

That last part is key for any membership site. For users to feel as though they're part of a community, there needs to be something that holds them together.

If you want to build a membership website for your business, it can enable your audience to discuss their experiences, talk about other topics, share tips, and more. The decision is up to you, and you have full freedom when it comes to what kind of engagement you encourage.


Social media is a great way to connect with your website's audience. However, if you want to forge a real community, you'll need something that feels more close-knit. That's where a membership website can help.

With WordPress and MemberPress, creating a membership website isn't all that complicated. It also comes with several advantages over social media, including:

  1. Not having to rely on a third-party platform.
  2. Getting access to more avenues for monetization.
  3. Being able to build a much more close-knit community.

Do you have any questions about how to start a membership website using WordPress? Let's go over them in the comments section below! 

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About John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and staff writer.