Online Membership Community Growth

3 Stages of Growing an Online Membership Community

Building an online membership community can be a challenging and rewarding undertaking.

We’ve helped a variety of coaches, educators and thought leaders build membership communities of different types and sizes. During this time we’ve learned a lot about the different stages of growth and their respective strategies.

Here are 3 clear stages to help you on your journey.

1. Creator stage

The “Creator” stage is generally the first step of building an online community. This generally involves your initial content offering and membership model.

Some common strategies for growth in this stage include:

  • Creating unique content
  • Modeling your membership
  • Driving early revenue
  • Getting early feedback from members

Most creators can get their community off the ground via online courses, member-only content, one-on-one engagements, or other quick revenue generators. At this stage you are experimenting and failing to see what works and what doesn’t.

2. Group stage

Next is the “Group” stage where you’re building revenue and momentum around group focused engagements. This helps creators get out of the grind and allow for group activity to influence growth.

Some common strategies for growth in this stage include:

  • Curating group engagements and discovery
  • Offering “LIVE” content
  • Building member-to-member networking opportunities
  • Leveraging supplementary content

This group stage can be a breath of fresh air for solo founders who are looking to free up time and let other voices contribute to the membership value. At this stage you are creating the foundations for your community.

3. Community stage

The final “Community” stage is where you’re allowing the community to grow itself. This is the ultimate goal for most organizations and thought leaders who wish to build something that can run without them being heavily involved.

Some common strategies for growth in this stage include:

  • Creating and managing culture
  • Leveraging systems and automations to scale
  • Building member created content engines
  • Driving value through connection and community

There’s a great saying in the community world – “People come for the content, but stay for the community.” You will realize that at this stage. In other words, if you’ve built a true community that can grow itself the content will become secondary. At this stage you have created something that will evolve into its own thing far beyond what you initially created.


There are certainly micro stages within each of these 3 stages, and each membership community certainly has its own unique needs. However, hopefully this post provides you with a high level overview of helpful insight and strategies.

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Ali Jafarian

Ali is the founder of MemberDev. He's a serial entrepreneur and software engineer with over 15 years of experience building technology. Ali's spent the last decade focusing on membership websites and the subscription business model. He enjoys helping small businesses with early stage development and growth.

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