This is a great question. I'm curious about the answer too!
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I'll chime in although not sure I have any 'best practices' because I think this really depends on the business model and how much you are charging. But here are a few different models I've seen
- All content is public for the first x amount of time then it goes behind the paywall. Programming like webinars or calls is for paying subscribers (this is the MarketingProfs model I believe and seems to be most typical of media centric organizations). Many of those types of communities post content summaries or snippets that are public (probably for both the exposure and the SEO benefits)
- At The Community Roundtable we handle this by making programming, member conversations and advisory work privileged but we aggregate/curate many lessons learned and share via our blog, Slideshare, and our annual reports. This model works really well for us because it creates advocates which extend our marketing reach in a way that we could never have afforded otherwise but also allows us to have richer conversations with our paying members because we are creating a safe, vetted environment.
- Content and discussions are all free but require a log-in or validation and training, webinars or certification is for pay (I believe this is more the AIIM and other professional associations' models)
Not sure if that helps but I do not think there is a cut and dry answer here. Also depends if the community is the business or if the organization is using the community for market research or lead generation purposes as well, in which case you would 'sell' that back to other departments - or at least account for it that way in your business model.
Hope that helps.
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This is the question that every support community deals with. As you point out, having material that is open to view and the search engine can find helps increase awareness and traffic. While there is also a cost to create and maintain support material and assistance. The value of the paid subscription or a support contract has to provide a benefit over the free that is "worth" the cost.
One approach is to use the open area for product information and the conversation. Monitoring this conversation, we step in to recommend moving the conversation behind the login if they did not get help form another customer (member). Another value add is to put some thought leadership information on the open side with a link behind the login for a more in depth discussion.
I would also look at moving old material out, such as products with end of availability or end of service. This provides something for people with these without increasing costs. You can also use that opportunity to link to upgrade and replacement information.
Knowedgebase articles and FAQs are a bit tricky.
Just my personal thoughts and opinions.
Thanks Mike Crocker and Rachel.
It's really valuable to get different perspectives on this because as you point out, there probably isn't one right answer. In this particular scenario, the organisation's product is information and advice. They do research and reports, providing recommendations and articles to paying subscribers.
There is clear value in having a community as members can also contribute advice and recommendations, but the concern with a public community is that the paid-for advice may be discussed and hence the outcomes of the research will them become public, and people won't need to subscribe to get the results any longer.
It might be a matter of managing spaces in the community well, with certain topics in the public area, and others requiring a login to gain access.