When you start a community you usually start from one of these two positions:
- You need to build a community from scratch.
- You need to transfer an existing offline community to an online platform.
When starting an online community, you will need to ask yourself whether it will be an open (anyone can join) or closed (invitation only) community.
Open Social supports both open and closed registration by offering the following options:
- Open sign-up process
- Approval process
- Registration through invitation
You can also have a combination of the two; have an open registration but send invitations to specific users. On top of that, you can choose to let users verify their email before they are able to enter the site.
Keep in mind that the less open your community is, the more work a community manager will have with evaluating and accepting people.
Why choose an open community?
Letting every one join your community could increase the speed at which you gain new members, and could result in more knowledge sharing and more discussions; basically a more active community.
However, more users do not always result in more activity. There will always be a big part of your member base who remain passive; lurkers. Additionally, you may be targeting a niche audience and will prefer controlling who joins (see more about closed communities below).
All of this will really depend on what type of community you have.
Examples of open communities:
- Gaming communities; anyone can participate in game discussions and reviews.
- Disaster management; members are able to follow updates in times of crisis.
- Volunteering communities (e.g. Greenpeace); members come from all around the world to solve world problems.
- Brand communities; consumers join together to discuss products and services.
When the discussions in the community have a more sensitive nature, you don't want just anyone to take part in those, or even read them.
From closed to open.
Instead of opening your community to the public, you can also choose who you let into your community. Often times, you can start with a closed community and then open it to the public when you are ready to take the next step.
When the discussions in the community have a more sensitive nature, you don't want just anyone to take part in those, or even read them. This is when you would choose to have a closed community.
Examples of closed communities:
- Organisational intranets; where employees can share sensitive organizational information with each other.
- Communities for coaching/assistance/support; members that have suffered can come together for help and support.
- Expert communities; this is where members share sensitive knowledge about very specific topics.
The decision to choose an open or closed community will become more clear after you have developed and designed your community. You can also test which works best for you with a beta community.
At Open Social, we often advise beginning with a beta group. This can be seen as a testing phase before you launch your community and open it up to a wider public. Read more about Beta Communities.
So, the most important decision has been made now. There is, however, one more aspect of Open Social that has an influence on what outsiders can see: content visibility.