Deciding whether to gate your community or leave it open to the public is one of the biggest decisions you make when building your platform.
Gating long-form content is a common strategy with B2B marketing. But when it comes to giving your members a place to hang out (as is the case with your community support and feedback forums), it’s quite a different matter. Recent years have seen a shift towards the gated community model, particularly in the B2B sector. Although there are cases when it’s better to remain open to the public or adopt a hybrid model, gating user-generated content provides some clear advantages.
Let’s look at some of the reasons to give your members a more private space to chat.
Promote Confidentiality and Collaboration
One of our customers, Patagonia, uses a private forum to collaborate with their remote product testers and get feedback in realtime. Although no one in their right mind would share confidential information on a forum, public or otherwise, B2B companies often find themselves dealing with moderately sensitive information that they probably wouldn’t want appearing in the results pages of Google.
After all, your customers will often head to your community forums to seek help with certain issues pertaining to their own companies. Do they want this to become public knowledge?
Gating your community, or at least a portion of it, offers a degree of privacy and intimacy that a public forum (which is typically indexed by search engines) simply can’t provide.
Increase Content Quality
While few forums are completely open to the public (meaning that anyone can post without having to register), a fully gated community encourages open, constructive participation and relevant content.
Gating your community also offers easier support for freemium models. Non-paying users would only have access to a general public forum while paid users would have access to a more exclusive and tightly controlled area of your community.
As we’ve discussed, gating your B2B community, or at least a portion of it, helps with audience segmentation which, in turn, assists with moderation. After all, a smaller and more private community is less difficult to manage and moderate.
While you mustn’t underestimate the value of your public community portal (which is what the rest of the world will see), a gated section gives you greater control over who posts what. There will also be fewer misplaced posts to relocate, since members with access to the gated forums will likely belong to certain product tiers and, as a result, have a more specific focus when it comes to their participation.
Narrower Target Audiences
With an owned online community, as opposed to those on the world’s major social networks, you’re able to retain far more control. Enhanced access to data and a branded design means you’ll appeal to a more relevant and targeted audience. Gating your online community or specific parts of it allows you to narrow your target audience even further, and to assign moderators and customer relations personnel to more specific tasks. The result is improved customer service and greater satisfaction.
To Gate or Not to Gate – Which Option is Best for Your Community?
In short, it depends. On the one hand, a forum that’s open to the public offers potential customers the chance to get a feel for how well your product or service is supported. That’s an important selling point, especially when it comes to the B2B.
That’s why you’ll likely be better off going for a hybrid approach that offers members of different tiers a more focused and intimate environment in which to collaborate, while still giving public access to the everyday informational resource they need to work with your products and services.