Making the Most of Your Membership Features: Understanding Membership Management Versus Community Management

Building a strong membership community takes time and patience — not to mention some great membership features to make your community somewhere people want to stick around for the long haul. 

One area where people often get tripped up when thinking through how to handle their membership features is with membership management and community management. 

Initially, they think they’re pretty much the same thing, but the functions they serve will be quite different.

If you want your community to get the most out of their membership features, you need to clearly understand the differences between handling both membership and community management.

So what IS the real difference? And how do you handle both of them WELL? Let’s break it down. 

What is Community Management? 

One of the best things you can do for your membership community is to have someone who can fill the role of a leader (and perhaps cheerleader) in your community.

Yes, YOU are a leader, and people who join probably expect one of the membership features to be interacting with you, but do you actually have the time to be available to people all day, every day?

Probably not. 

Community management is focused on encouraging engagement within the group — starting conversations, answering questions, running contests, making announcements, and more. 

Great communities foster relationships and connections, so you want someone who’s able to cultivate that with your members. You retain and grow your community by keeping members engaged, which isn’t going to happen if you’re only posting once a week. 

Depending on your expertise, you may be fantastic at helping people with the topics of the membership but not so great and fostering community, and that’s OK! Your expertise is essential to the membership but you can typically hire out the engagement fostering much easier. 

Your subject matter expertise is NOT replaceable — but the ability to nurture members and spark conversation in your community IS.

Remember, you want your members to feel good about their participation so they become your biggest fans, and strong community management is one of the most effective ways to make that happen. 

Another critical aspect of community management is enforcing boundaries. The people in the community need to have a clear understanding of what boundaries and expectations are in place, and you need someone to keep things on track.

Good boundaries that are consistently enforced ensure that everyone in the community feels safe — which is critical to an enjoyable experience for everyone.  

What is Membership Management?

There are two major components to most memberships — the content and the community.

While community management is focused on membership features related to the experience of your members, membership management is all about the content your members get and actually making the program RUN. 

The actual content you produce for your membership community may vary dramatically from month to month, or it could follow the exact same structure each time. Whichever way your schedule works, you need to ensure your content is available to your members on time, every time. 

Typically, there are lots of moving parts when running your membership community. There are email announcements, email reminders, links for sessions, replays, downloads, tutorials, and more — all of which need to be handled. 

Then, there’s also managing access to the community. Who gets what, when do they get it, and how’s it delivered to them? 

As the primary leader of your community, your role generally needs to be focused on creating all the content and making sure it serves your members well. This content creation doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) extend to the nuts and bolts of delivering the content via your community platform. 

Getting Help Delivering on Your Membership Features

Now that you understand the difference between community management and membership management, you’re probably thinking about what kind of help would be best for your membership. 

When it comes to hiring, keep in mind that someone good at community management generally has a very different personality and skill set than someone good at managing the membership content.

Someone who’s comfortable handling the membership features and taking care of all the details behind the scene may not be suited to being your front-facing person who mingles with your members. 

By focusing on hiring for excellence in one area, not both, you’ll likely have a lot more success.

For a community manager, some skills you’ll want to look for include:

  • Excellent communication skills, especially written.
  • Ability to problem solve.
  • Social media savvy.
  • Adaptable.
  • Attention to detail. 
  • Motivating with good people skills.

When hiring a membership manager, skills you’ll want to consider include:

  • Strong understanding of various tech used for membership management.
  • High level of attention to detail.
  • Ability to systematize steps and functions.
  • Troubleshooting skills. 

By distinguishing between these two roles, you’ll be able to ensure your membership features are being handled effectively while your community is getting the attention they need. I’ve seen way too many people try to go it alone with their memberships, or expect one person to be able to do it all, so I hope this helps you have a clear understanding of these two very different roles. 


Want help with managing your membership?

Simplify Now offers membership program management services so you can be confident that everything is happening on time, every time. 

Let us manage the moving parts so you can focus on creating connections and doing what you do best. 

Check out our Membership Program Management package right here.