Membership Sites – Finding and Presenting Valuable Content

In our last article, we talked about making the focus of your membership site narrow. As an example, we took a wide-open, generic topic like “cars” and narrowed it down to focus on owners and fans of the Ford Gran Torino, a muscle car from the late 1960′s. We noted that niche content has a higher perceived value than general information.

You could start a membership site about something you know, or about something you’d like to learn about. But it’s actually easier and faster to make the site start paying if you don’t create any of the initial content. As a matter of fact, there are experts in almost any field who are full of information and would love to pontificate on a particular topic, but they have no platform for doing so. That’s exactly what you’re creating – a meeting place for experts and people searching for their expertise. You will be getting paid for providing and maintaining that meeting place.

So, if you’re not going to create the content yourself, where are you supposed to find valuable content for your membership site? (Again, we’ll be using our fictional Gran Torino membership site as an example in this article.) Here are several type of content. Don’t limit yourself to just one type, or one source. You need to be constantly on the lookout for content.

Written Information:

There are several sites on the web where authors and experts post information they’ve written, with the hopes that publishers looking for experts in their particular area of interest will come along and find them. EzineArticles is just one of many free article repositories. You could also do a search of blogs for your particular topic, using a blog search engine such as technorati.com or blogsearch.google.com . If you know that your particular niche has one or more professional organizations, you might search their site for authors or even contact a trade association and ask if they could recommend an expert willing to write for your new site.

If you hang out in an organized club or informal group of aficionados, ask one or more of your friends to write articles. Go ahead, make that shade tree mechanic famous! He’s always spouting off about how he tinkers with his car – offer to put your money where his mouth is. Have him write a feature article, or give him a column.

Video:

What’s better than a written article? Video! We’re conditioned to think of people who appear on TV and in movies as celebrities. Look at the late Billy Mays, or Offer “Vince” Shlomi – the “ShamWow guy.” They’ve garnered a species of trust simply for appearing in commercials, even though viewers see them in their true vocation as pitchmen. If you put your information out on video, people are even more likely to believe you than if they read the same information.

“Talking head” videos are almost as good as true product demonstration videos. We trust people who tell us things “to our face” while we can see theirs. While putting together a small video production setup can be done for well under $1,000 there are enough folks out there who already have the equipment, space and time. Troll video repositories such as YouTube.com and MetaCafe.com for people who have already posted videos pertaining to your niche, or strike deals with people who have something educational (or simply novel) to say to your target audience.

Audio:

Podcasts are audio segments that people can listen to on-line, or download to their MP3 players. These can take the form of interviews or talk shows. You can even recycle written articles and blog entries by reading them into a microphone and offering them up as audio files.

There are a number of people who create what are essentially “radio shows” that only appear on the ‘net. If someone else has produced podcasts about your niche, talk with them about making them available inside your site. Podcasts are great for interviewing experts and presenting information that people can listen to while they drive.

Go deep – and wide:

Let’s use our imaginary Gran Torino site again. It’s true that you need to produce deep sets of information about the main topic. Articles, videos and podcasts all about where to find original parts, who makes replacement parts, and where the best place to buy either of them might be a good example. Building a membership site with content management software like Caribou CMS allows you to offer all three types of media.

However, don’t stop with just one or two topics. Think about auxiliary topics that would compliment your membership’s main interest. If I were a subscriber to the site, I might want to show off my car at a rally or some other physical gathering. Now you’ve got tons of potential articles on: the rally location, how to buy, set up and use a car trailer, how to make money renting your car to photographers. The list is limited only by your imagination. It’s good to run an in-depth series, but don’t forget about other helpful topics.

Hire an expert:

Several times I’ve mentioned putting your friends to work, producing content for your site. But what if you don’t know anyone? What if your particular niche isn’t interested in self-taught gurus? Then go directly to the source – hire yourself an expert. They can write stand-alone articles under their own name, or you can interview them in text, audio or video formats. Experts know other experts, and might be able to suggest complimentary experts, or even opposing ones (mild conflict is always interesting). Look up professional societies, visit seminars and conventions, and read trade publications to find experts. You can also look for them on employment sites like Guru.com and oDesk.com . Friends will be happy to help you out a couple of times for free, but experts are in it for fame and fortune. You have an opportunity to offer them a little of both.

Our next article will deal with setting up various membership levels, and the one important level that will guarantee you get a constant supply of new members.