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Episode 131: How We Built a Membership Site and Why You Should Too with Bethany Smith and Megan Porta

Takeaways From This Episode:

Megan and Bethany created a partnership with Eat Blog Talk as they expanded the podcast to create a valuable membership community.

They talk about relevant membership sites people use regularly today (Disney+).

They explain the value of diversifying what they offer the EBT community and how this helps diversify their income.

They talk about the importance of providing valuable content. It’s important not to always relying on ad revenue to earn income, thus making some of the content available to paid members only (but no ads to deal with).

The value of community was another big draw to creating a membership site for both women. They want to give food bloggers more networking and community as they grow their blogging businesses.

Once you’re a member to the community platform, everything is available to the member. Personal messaging, challenges, mastermind groups, threads on relevant topics, AMA’s and exclusive podcast episodes are all there.

Bethany outlines the different platforms available for this type of platform. EBT community is created through WordPress, one option available.

Be aware of your tech savvyness so that you know if you’ll be building a platform, if you’ll be working with someone or if you’re hiring someone to create it completely.

Many plugins were used to create the structure the women wanted. They had to outline the pillars of the community that were most important to them and then build out from there how to attain that technically.

Membership Guys was a strong resource to get started on this project and be able to ask questions of experts in this area about how to attain what you ultimately want to give your audience.

You can create an idea, share it with your audience on Facebook and then if there’s no interest, let the idea go. If people give you good feedback, go for it.

Do you want people to be able to interact on their own with private messages? Are you putting public threads together? Will you offer video service on your site? Think through all you want to offer so you can research all the services/widgets/plugins you’ll need to talk to each other to make it happen.

Marketing is important – you have to do more than put a product out there!

Researching how to set up payment is important – Annual, monthly? Offering your audience a discount for selecting an annual fee paid up front?

Helpful Resources From This Episode:

What Eat Blog Talk’s membership platform runs on:

BuddyBoss – A theme & plugin that extend WordPress into a social network.

Paid Memberships Pro – A plugin to manage membership levels and hiding content.

Gravity Forms – A highly powerful and extendable form plugin.

Gravity View – A way to show a business directory.

Discourse – Our forum system

Books & resources:

The Membership Guys – Get proven, practical advice, tips and resources from the membership experts. And they have the Membership Academy which provides all the training, resources and support you need to create and grow a successful, profitable membership site.

Book recommendation: Launch by Jeff Walker

Transcript of Episode 131

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host. Megan Porta

Megan Porta:

Food bloggers. Hey, if you have not yet joined the new, amazing Eat Blog Talk community, you have to go do it. You will find so much value inside, including connecting with other food bloggers in a much deeper way and having access to all kinds of exclusive value, such as bonus podcast episodes and mastermind groups, and a resources and service providers directory, and so much more. Go to Eatblogtalk.com for more information, and we cannot wait to see you inside.

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Megan Porta:

Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. This podcast is for you food bloggers, wanting value, information and clarity that will help you find greater success in your business. Today Bethany Smith, and I will be having a conversation about how to set up a membership site for your business and what the benefits are of doing a project like this.

First, before we dive in, I thought I would acknowledge that I am not doing a proper formal introduction today like I normally do for Bethany because you’re going to be hearing a lot more from us as a team because Bethany and I are officially a team now. Recently we took on the venture of creating the Eat Blog Talk community platform, which some of you are a part of. So now we are officially co-owners of Eat Blog Talk. So say, hi, Bethany, let everybody know you’re here.

Bethany Smith:

Hi. And I’ve been on, on the podcast several times. So hopefully most of you are kind of familiar.

Megan Porta:

You are a seasoned pro here. So it seems very informal every time we chat, which is probably a good thing. Um, but we do have a structure and we have a topic today that we would like to talk about, having just gone through the process of creating this membership site for Eat Blog Talk, we were kind of brainstorming a few weeks ago, like, Hey, it might be good to talk people through this process in case they want to create something similar for their food blog or maybe another venture, a side venture that they have. So today we just kind of wanted to run through that and we hope that the information we share will benefit food bloggers and just give them insights. And maybe another option to think about when they’re thinking about maybe diversifying or starting other projects, other big projects, that might be on their minds. Before we talk about how we set up the platform for the Eat Blog Talk community, let’s talk about why we did it. And why food bloggers consider a project like this and how it would benefit their followers. So why memberships Bethany? Can you talk us through a few reasons why this might benefit food bloggers?

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. So it’s a great way to provide, um, great and exclusive content, um, to your audience. So for us, the audience is you, listeners, food bloggers. Um, but for food bloggers, you know, whoever your audience is, um, and then also to create recurring revenue for ourselves, right. Um, but it’s, especially in our case, in the case with a lot of food bloggers, uh, we were looking at what we are providing all this great content through the podcast. Um, and we had, we had the forum already there and it was kind of like looking at how to monetize it a bit. Which always feels a little awkward to talk about, but we’re doing it as a business. And so we need to find ways to, to make money from it and find a way that, um, we could provide the best kind of value on both sides. Where we are making enough that we can continue to do this, right, because our time, like we need to be paid for a time in some sort of fashion. Um, and you know, that’s something with food bloggers with the way, uh, sites, usually, most food bloggers look at it as, Oh, I need to get ad revenue, um, from the display ads. And, you know, that can fluctuate so much that can you, you know, it was hard to make any money until you’ve been doing it maybe for two or three years with that. And so it’s kind of hard.

So I think a membership, um, like the membership model, so having people pay either monthly or annually, um, however you want to do that, really is a great model. Um, I kind of wasn’t sold on it for a long time, but then I started hearing more and doing more research, um, into some examples. Like Netflix is one we all know about. And I think they kind of started this model earlier and it’s like, how can they make so much money? And you’re just paying them like $9 a month or whatever it is. Right. And even, uh, I think actually Disney plus when they launched last fall and they made, I don’t know, some like insane amount of money, like $300 million in one day or something when they launched, I don’t know, cause they’re Disney. Right. But it’s like, are they also about $9, seven, eight, $9.

Megan Porta:

It’s like seven because we do it too. We started doing it right away. We were like $7 a month is not bad. And then you see it every month, but we use it all the time. And I don’t know that we would have really used it without that membership model, honestly.

Bethany Smith:

I mean, it’s, it’s just so interesting. Cause people feel like, Oh, that’s not very much that I’m paying. And then, um, but whoever, I mean, if it’s all set up correctly, hopefully, you know, like it really adds up fast. Um, and I was reading about Costco too, and I guess that most of their revenue actually comes from their annual membership dues. Um, and so that’s, you know, they take a loss on a lot of their products. Um, I mean, that’s why their prices are better. I mean the bulk thing too, but it was just like interesting once they really started reading into some of that about like, this is a way that you can really provide a great service to people. And then, you know, you, as the business owner can make a profit, um, with that. So I think that is kind of the why behind it. It just really, it, you know, it all depends how you set your pricing and all of that.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. You have to think through all of that still, but yeah.

Bethany Smith:

And we’ll get into a little, a little bit with that on how you can, um, some of those steps here. So.

Megan Porta:

Yeah, you said that way better than I could have. I think that it’s really important to point out what you did about the free content, because food bloggers are so known for producing this amazing quality content and then we put it out for free. And then we rely on ad revenue, thinking that we’re really not putting anybody out. That’s like the least resists, the path of least resistance is relying on ad revenue, but actually ads are kind of putting our users out a little bit. I mean, that’s a whole other debate. But yeah, I think food bloggers generally have kind of a hard time asking people for money. And this is a newer thing that we’re getting more comfortable with because of the need to diversify. And we’ve seen how relying on ad revenue is, does not always work out the way we want it to. So when you make all that free content, it’s great and your audience loves you for it. And they’re so appreciative, but at some point, and this is the point we got to, Bethany, Because I don’t know, like at some point you just have to start earning a little bit of money from all of that hard work you’re doing. There’s nothing that I love more than producing value and giving it to people and all of these podcasts that we put together. I love it. I love offering that as a free resource for food bloggers, but it is a huge investment of time and energy. And I spend a lot of time on this project. So I love that now we have something that’s producing value and delivering it, but that we can also get a little money back from. So it’s kind of a win win for everybody.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. And I’ve thought kind of, I think when we were starting this project, um, I’ve thought to myself, like, I wish I could just make all this stuff for free and just tell, you know, like these guides or be on podcasts and just tell everybody all this information and like not have to worry about monetizing it or, you know, cause it’s always like, click here to get on my email list. Then I have to upsell you this and whatever. And like, I think the membership, I mean, we do a little bit of that with the membership stuff, but I think it’s, it is a nice model because you kind of be like, okay, just come in, pay this monthly fee and then like, that’s it.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. Yeah. You’ve got access to all of it. Once you’re inside, it’s all there and it’s not confusing at all. Before we decided on, or I should say before you decided on the tech stuff, because that was kind of your side. Um, we had to decide like what kind of model we wanted and how did we kind of go through that process?

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. I mean, I, so I sat down and I did kind of make a list of the things we wanted. So, um, so I’d say there’s three kind of models in general. Um, one would be learning based. Well really two and then a combo. Learning base, which is probably what a lot of people are familiar with. You go on there, you watch videos, you know, like training videos, maybe they have a forum or something. And then, um, you know, the whoever’s doing the membership site puts up new videos, new trainings, new whatever, every month or whatever it is. Um, some are where they’re pretty static videos and they just add a little bit of new content every month too. Um, the other would be community based, which is more what ours is. Um, so that would be actually like, making Facebook for yourself. Like that kind of thing, which actually is a joke kind of in the web design community that all of our clients are always like, can you just make me Facebook? We’re like, no, they’re like a multibillion dollar company. Um, but uh, we’ll talk through like ways that you can get a little bit close to some of the features that, uh, Facebook has and then you can have a combo of those two. Um, so we, so really one of the things that was driving it for me was this idea of making a service providers and resource directory. Um, and we had talked about putting that in the forum, um, as a way to drive traffic because before all this started, you hired me as a community manager in the forum. And we were thinking maybe to put ads on that eventually, um, to get ad revenue and that’s how we’d make money. Um, but I think over the next few months, we kind of realized that that maybe it was going to take longer than we thought and wasn’t the best option. Um, and the service providers and resource directory, I, um, was trying to run through the forum, but it was really awkward. And I finally just decided, this isn’t the right, like container for it, right? Like this isn’t gonna work in the forum. And so it needed to be on the website and just kind of through that and thinking about how, Oh, we want users to submit, submit their own information. And I mean, we ha, we were having discussions about other things too. So it wasn’t just that. But, um, just through that, I think that was kind of the catalyst for me thinking through some of the features we wanted. And we were also going through the, um, StoryBrand book with Donald Miller, uh, together. Like we had a little book group for that. And so, it was just becoming clear that we wanted to focus on community, right. And getting food bloggers connected with each other. And, um, so I remember writing down, I should have looked for that piece of paper, but, um, you know, I wanted a way to be able to list the service providers and that people could, um, could list it themselves and change their information. Possibly have, have, um, a way to, like give stars on it, you know, like five stars, uh, that sort of thing. And then, it just wrote down some features about how food bloggers could connect with each other. Like maybe we could have, they could connect by location or they connect in all these different ways. And I don’t think I had a lot on my list. Megan, did you remember what we were talking about at that point at all?

Megan Porta:

You know, I don’t think we did have a lot. I think this kind of just unfolded kind of naturally like one thing led to another and another, but yeah. I remember the resources directory being the one thing that we really wanted to provide to food bloggers because there’s nothing really else like that out there. So I think that’s kind of the key, is finding the couple of things that you really want to focus on and just letting it evolve from there. Because from there, then we had other ideas and we were like, Oh, it’d be really great to do mastermind groups. And we can coordinate that inside. And then we had the idea of challenges. How fun would that be to do challenges? And then, you know, like just piece by piece, I feel like everything kind of came together. And then we had already been doing the text based AMAS or the, the live chats in the forum. And so then we thought, well, it would be really cool to do that in video format and do that live. So we made that work. So there are features that you have to think through upfront and think about what you really want and need, and then just let it kind of fall into place from there. So video was one. I know that you hear so awesome Bethany, at the last minute you were like, I’ve got to get this video working and you, you made it work. Oh my gosh. You’re amazing.

Bethany Smith:

Well, I had known that was just something I kept putting off. Right. Cause it was like everything else.

Megan Porta:

I know. But you made it work, you brought it together and it was great. But you do have to think about that. Like, is this a platform that can support video? And you did know that it would, we just needed to figure it out, but also thinking through like, are you going to have lots of video? Are you just going to have a few live videos? Is it going to be a lot of downloads, a lot of files, PDF files. And then like you mentioned, kind of simulating Facebook, is it going to be an environment where you can allow people to interact with each other and direct message each other and all of that? And like, how are people going to connect? If you’re building a place built around community that obviously you want people to be able to connect with each other. So just kind of like thinking through those core things, those pillar things that you really want and then going from there. Cause we just, we had like a few pillar things that we both really thought were important. And then I feel like it just kind of all evolved from there. Right?

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. And once we like, I’ll talk here in a second about kind of the tech we did end up using. And once I kind of found that it also was like, Oh, they’re doing this on here. We can do that too. Um, that type of thing. Um, so the other thing also to really think about is what things you already have. So I’m going to assume if you’re listening, you probably have a blog or maybe you don’t, maybe you just have an Instagram page, but think about how integrated you want that to be. Um, maybe you really want to integrate and maybe you don’t, maybe, you know, you already are selling courses somewhere else and there’s a way to integrate that. Um, so we already had the forum, uh, which runs on Discourse. And so I needed to make sure that there was a way to have some sort of integration between those two. Well, that was my ideal. Um, I mean we could have just done it where it was like, okay, this is what we’re having in this membership thing and then have a link out to the forum. But ideally there would be some, some way that it was kind of linked together. Um, so write those down too, like, cause that, I mean, that is going, if you really have something where you’re like, this thing already exists, I really need it integrated. That’s going to be a huge factor, um, into what, whatever software plugins or things that you, you decide to use.

Megan Porta:

So we don’t have this in our notes at all, but I was just thinking, we’re talking to food bloggers. So what kinds of ideas would food bloggers have for creating a membership site? And I’m not very familiar with other food bloggers who do stuff like this, but what are some ideas maybe you and I can just brainstorm, like if they want to create a site, um, either integrated with their food blog or separate, what would those be?

Bethany Smith:

I mean, I think there are a lot of options, but yeah, I agree that, uh, food bloggers really, this is not something that many do. I’ve seen a few do it. Um, I think, uh, Physical Kitchness, um, is doing it.

Megan Porta:

And what does she provide?

Bethany Smith:

Um, so she has Club Kitchness, which I’m looking at it right now. I haven’t looked, uh, for awhile. Um, I think it’s just kind of like, uh, she’s in some fitness stuff too. So it’s just kind of a health and wellness, um, monthly subscription thing and she has community, I’m looking, I’m just reading her site now. Community support, focusing on short, effective workouts, meal prepping made for you. Um, so I think it is just really similar to the free content we all put out, she’s just choosing to put some of that, you know, behind a paywall is kind of what it’s called, right? And so, um, it’s just a way to work, you know, with a smaller group of people and provide the same type of thing that you’re doing.

Megan Porta:

And a community like you had mentioned before. I mean, there’s so much power in community, so if you can get your audience to feel like they’re a part of something. I know, Hey Grill Hey did this too. And that’s kind of what they tapped into. Everyone in their community felt like they were part of something. Like they were a part of the Hey Grill Hey community. And it really bonded them. I have a friend who is in it and I didn’t even know it. And he was like, Oh, I am part of her community. It’s so awesome. And he was saying how amazing it is and how it’s like this inclusive thing. So it doesn’t necessarily need to be like a novel idea, but you can take some of your content, put it somewhere else, have people pay for it and then just really focus on that community aspect.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. And I think that, um, having a bit of a niche probably helps. I’ve also heard of people doing, uh, like cooking courses through a model like that. You could do meal planning,

Megan Porta:

Oh that’s a good one.

Bethany Smith:

Things you could do all sorts of things. I think, yeah, it doesn’t have to be this grand idea. And I think, and I do think it is this great thing that people really are willing to do because they can be part of that community. And then, um, I think one of the keys would probably be for food bloggers to be present in it because then your readers, customers, whatever would feel like they had more exclusive access to you. Which is a large selling point for that. Um, so I know, just kind of in the, in the membership community, which I guess I’m a part of now, um, they also will talk about things where you kind of maybe have a blog and then you have a free Facebook group. And then from that free Facebook group, you kind of upsell your membership, um, things. So that’s kind of a way to go about doing it. I think people are really getting really used to these membership models, paying whatever per month because we’re, we’re getting used to it with like Disney plus and Netflix and all of that. Right. So it’s not quite as strange of an idea as it was maybe even five years ago.

Megan Porta:

You see them more and more definitely. Oh, I just want to say too, to encourage food bloggers to not write this off, just because you don’t want to like put out your audience by making them pay. Because people, if they’re willing, most people are willing to do something like this. If they really like you. And there is, there’s no harm in just trying it. Like you could start really, really simple and just put up a community and see how people respond. And if people like that, then you can ask them what else they would like. And go from there. You don’t have to create this big, huge thing in your mind before you get started. I would say if it’s something that’s on your mind to do, just start with something really little and see how people respond.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. And I think that’s where creating a Facebook group first can help. Cause then you can see, there’s a term, like, feel like it’s LMV or something like that. It’s like the least, it’s like this product, you put it out there,

Megan Porta:

Most viable product or at least, okay. Least viable product. Right. LVP. Okay. I might be saying that entirely wrong. I think that’s it.

Bethany Smith:

That’s a really kind of easy to put out for you and you can just kind of judge the interest, um, that’s out there. So, so one of the resources we use, was, um, the Membership Academy from the membership guys. Um, and that was really helpful just with us kind of thinking through some of this because neither of us had done a membership thing before. And so, there’s just like little things we wouldn’t of known. Um, and they have a, a roadmap. So it’s like all these steps. I think there’s nine of them and it’s like, do this step first. And it takes you through all this stuff. And then second, third. And so, if you are interested, that’s something you can join and um, they’ll, they’ll walk you through and there’s a forum there. You can ask questions and all sorts of things, but, uh, that’s kind of where I’d suggests people start to, to get some ideas.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. So to repeat that, it’s Membership Guys, and if you just Google them, they’re really easy to find, they’re everywhere. In fact, if you Google anything relating to membership sites, their name pops up. And then I just looked it up. It’s called Minimum Viable Product. So MVP. Yeah. And then also, The Launch Book, which, you know, I love Bethany, by Tony Walker, I believe. Um, he talks about that same kind of concept as like putting up a Facebook group just to get a feeler.

Bethany Smith:

Jeff Walker.

Megan Porta:

Did I say Tony? I’m getting all of my authors mixed up.

Bethany Smith:

Megan reads a lot.

Megan Porta:

I’m like Donald Walker, like I dunno. So yeah. Launch Book by Jeff, Jeff Walker, um, he talks about doing something called the seed launch, which is like a test launch. So you create a Facebook group basically, or any sort of group, free group. And then you just do like a test and you see how people respond to it. If people don’t respond to it, then it dies. If they do, then you kind of make it, help it grow, like put planting the seed in the ground and help it to grow. So definitely, before you do a membership, before you actually like really launch into it, in some way, test it out, because I would hate to see anyone put tons of effort into something and then realize that their audience didn’t like it.

Bethany Smith:

I think what the launch book talks about too, that’s important, what I’ve seen several times as you do. Um, and we see this just with food blogs in general too. Is it so much about promotion and marketing? I mean, you could have a great thing, but if you’re not really out there talking about it, getting more followers, all this stuff, like it, people aren’t going to find it. You know, like that’s, for me, that’s a hard thing too, cause I am so like doing the tech side, doing the backend stuff and making this amazing thing. And then it’s like, but nobody signed up. It was like, well, you’re not really telling them about it. You’re not convincing them to be, you know, like the whole marketing promotion thing.

Megan Porta:

The whole marketing concept. Yeah. I am terrible at that. I’ve never been good at it. I mean, I’m getting better because now I have Bethany in my life to remind me that I do need to do those sorts of things. Thankfully.

Bethany Smith:

I just, like tell you too is, I’m not great at it either.

Megan Porta:

You’re way better than I am. At least it’s on your mind and your radar. I used to be like, Hey, I created a product. Here it is, buy it. And that was my strategy. And I’m finding that that was not the most effective strategy. So that’s another piece of the whole membership thing. Like really, really think through it, whether you join a site like the membership guys, because they do encourage you to do that. Or find a book that’s really good. Find another course or something that you can go through that helps you to think through that because marketing is a huge piece of this. We are constantly, every day we were thinking through marketing, like posting on Instagram and doing a story. And I mean there’s every day, there’s something that we’re trying to do to get the membership up and running. Yeah.

Bethany Smith:

Well, and I think just with, with food blogs in general, right? So, I mean, it’s true with that, with getting people, but um, to your site, but yeah, like SEO for a lot of, is a focus for a lot of food bloggers, but for a membership site that may not be the best way to drive traffic. I mean, it kind of depends on your target audience and what you’re doing. So you may have to come up with a different, a different tactic with that.

Megan Porta:

It requires different thinking. What do you think about like pay like when people think about how they’re going to structure their pay, because we went back and forth with this. I feel like for a month we were like, do we do a monthly, annual, one-time, ongoing? So how do you recommend that people figure out what they want to do for payment?

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. I mean, I think actually in the, in the Membership Academy thing, you, when they have a worksheet and stuff and you went through that and were kind of like, okay, this is what we’re going to do. And at that point we were just like, this is what we’re going to do. Um, but we did, so we have monthly, um, people can pay monthly and then annually is, or you can, which is the model you see often, right? You can do this monthly or there’s a discount if you pay annually. Um, and we’re always open, there are several membership models that close after a certain time. Um, honestly I don’t understand that. I think the thought behind that is to drive, to really drive traffic and make it feel exclusive. Like you can only get in for these few weeks. Um, that’s not the one we decided to go with. People can sign up at any time. Yeah. And like the Membership Guys will kind of walk you through some of that. I think if you, I don’t know, probably different types of memberships lend themselves to doing something like that. Or if you, yourself feel like, Oh, I can’t spend time in there every week for the rest of my life. And you’re like, I kind of want this big push at this certain time. There’s just things to think through. I don’t know if you Megan, like have thoughts on…

Megan Porta:

Yeah, I think doing the onetime thing definitely is not a structure for something like this. And if food bloggers are thinking, like, to focus on community of some sort, probably not the best idea. I would definitely go with like an ongoing membership where people can come in at any time. And then, I do think that having both a monthly and an annual cost option was really beneficial because you can add, you can tie bonuses to the annual because obviously you want people to sign up for the annual, that’s better for them because they get in for an entire year. That’s amazing. They’re committed. And it’s like an investment for them. Um, and then they get a discount too. Usually I think it’s good to give like a couple mountain, a couple month discount if people are doing the annual and then obviously it’s good for us because then we get that money up front and it helps us to alleviate costs that we have. So I think providing both options is really good and having an incentive with the annual.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. And just starting out the annual has been great because we’re getting that money right now. Like when we first launched, you know, once everything is really rolling, it’s still nice, but you really see the benefit, like your first few months.

Megan Porta:

Yes. And there are costs upfront, so it’s like we have to cover those costs somehow. So having a few annual memberships come in is really helpful.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. So, and that kind of leads into the next one with which, which is some of the other, um, the options of, so getting more into the tech side and the ways you can build out on this. So there are a lot of different options to do all sorts of different memberships and membership sites. Um, so, so ours is actually built off of WordPress. And so I’ll talk about that in a minute, but there’s several out there. Um, Kartra is one that I’ve worked with a little bit, it’s really an all-in-one system. So, um, you can host videos, do courses on there, but you can also move your mailing list on there and you can also build landing pages on there. And I know there’s others like that. I think Kajabi is also like that. Think Click Funnels is similar. I don’t know if they have everything on there. Um, so that’s an option that you really need to think through. The benefits of something like that is it’s not as technical. Um, and you, everything is kind of there. Um, they’re not, so putting everything on there is often easier, but they also don’t necessarily have the robustness of say your email lists that you could possibly use, do if you had an email specific email provider, hosting thing, whatever they’re called. Like MailChimp or MailerLite or Flodesk. And will probably have more features specifically for your email. Um, so that’s something to think through. And then those platforms too, personally, like I always kind of worry a little bit like how long they’re going to be around, because they could like if they go out of business or whatever happens. And then, I mean, hopefully you can still access your, um, your videos and all of that, but you may have to then switch platforms quickly. Um, so that type of thing is something to think about with them.

Megan Porta:

I never thought about that. Like how long are they going to be around, even if they’ve been around for a while? Oh my goodness. What would happen if they were just like, okay, in two months, we’re out. That would be devastating if you had built this entire platform around their setup. I cannot even imagine. So I know Teachable is another option. I use them for courses and just like housing videos for courses. But I know that they do provide a platform for membership sites too. So, I say like, just really do your research. What do you want, do you want to get really specific about the things that you put on there? Do you not want to be as technically minded? Like maybe you’re not, thankfully Bethany is. So she was able to really dig into WordPress and figure out what we needed to do. Personally. If I were doing it myself, I would probably have gone the Teachable route or something similar.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing, if it, if it is something that you’re doing on your own and you’re not, I mean, you got to kind of gauge your tech savviness and what you’re willing to do and learn, um, with some of this. But I mean, that’s why these things exist. Like Teachable, Kartra, Kajabi, all of that, um, is because people aren’t as tech savvy and like, I don’t want to deal with that. That takes a lot of time and effort, but you can always hire somebody. Um, if you’re like, I don’t want to go with these kinds of all-in-one sites and want to integrate it with my website. Um, you could always hire somebody to put that together too for you. Um, but, so yeah, I mean, you just got to really think some of this through and decide.

Megan Porta:

So can you talk through what you did? I will have probably no input here. So I’ll let you talk through what you used and how you decided to use the plugins you did and all of that.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. So, well you’ve used them now though, Megan.

Megan Porta:

I have, but you’ve told me too, you’re like, Megan, you need to go use Buddy Boss. Like, okay. Thank you. I will.

Bethany Smith:

So our tech or the way ours is set up is WordPress, through WordPress. Um, and I don’t, I guess I just, I am pretty tech savvy with that. I’ve worked on WordPress a lot. And so I knew I could do that. Um, and then we were in the membership community and, um, or the mem Membership Guys, we call it membership membership.

Megan Porta:

Cause it is, it’s a membership membership.

Bethany Smith:

Go to Membership membership, they’ll tell you what to do. Um, so I have my list kind of, of the things we wanted and I had done some research, but I posted in the forum. There is like, so here’s some of the things I want, I’ve been hearing about it, a couple of different, um, options, what should they do? And they said, I should definitely use Buddy Boss, uh, which is a theme and plugin that builds off of WordPress. So we’re of course all familiar, if you use WordPress with themes and plugins, but it actually builds off, Um, Oh my gosh, I get all these terms confused, off buddy press, which is a kind of a social plugin, uh, for, for WordPress. And then, this builds upon it more and has the theme, um, that goes with it. So it all was really integrated really well. Um, so then, yeah, so that kind of put together the, the look and feel a little bit of the site and had all the widgets we needed and all of that sort of thing from there. Um, and so then if you’re working on WordPress and need a membership, you need like a membership subscription plugin or something to process your payments. Which is different than like your payments processor. I feel like I’m saying the same words, right. But we use, we use Stripe to actually process the credit card. Right? You need something else to help manage the like, sign ups really. So, uh, we’re using Paid Memberships Pro and there’s others, like Member Mouse and there’s several out there. Um, so this system, this is a plugin and it’ll come in and it will say, okay, so you want a monthly membership, it’s at this cost, do you want an annual membership at this cost and handles all of that, the registration, and you can do discount codes with it. Um, just all of that sort of thing. Um, which, like diving in and figuring all of this out was a little bit crazy actually, when I was making this list of the, um, plugins we’re using. Like, we’re really not using that many, but it felt to me, like I had a million on there because I was doing so much research and testing different ones out and all of this. So I think if you want to do a basic, um, membership site from WordPress, you actually don’t need, uh, a different theme. Like I was talking about Buddy Boss, you could just use, um, something like Paid Memberships Pro and take payments through that and have it set up that way. And you could just use your, um, whatever your current theme is or whatever, depending. Um, for us, because we wanted the social interaction pieces, uh, it was important to have the, um, buddy boss theme and plugin.

Megan Porta:

So is Buddy Boss what allows people to connect with each other?

Bethany Smith:

Yes. So any of, really the interaction stuff. So we have, so it gets kind of confusing cause we have a separate forum, but then within the Buddy Boss platform or a membership platform on WordPress, we also have groups that people can have discussions in. Um, people can, can connect with each other, like be friends basically and send each other messages. Um, just all those sort of Facebooky features is, um, coming from Buddy Boss.

Megan Porta:

And those are really nice to have, if you do want the community, I would recommend at least experimenting with that because I think people are already, we’re only like two weeks in to launching and people are already finding those features really valuable, I think.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. And that was really our core kind of feature when we thought about it, was having a way that people could connect and making it very community type feel. So if you’re doing it more educational, uh, just, you know, videos, downloads, uh, text on a page, you probably don’t need something like Buddy Boss, you could just do the Paid Memberships Pro like the membership processor and that would, that would work. And that would be something you could start with, um, just to kind of see how it goes without putting the rest of all of that together.

Megan Porta:

Too much work into it. Yeah. Yeah. And then what do we use for forms?

Bethany Smith:

So yeah, GRA we use Gravity forms for forms, but also for our, um, service providers directory runs on Gravity Forms and then an additional plugin, which is called Gravity Views, which allows us to have more of like a business directory. Um, and both of those have a lot of features that I have not explored yet. And I’m actually, haven’t used Gravity Forms a ton, but they have, um, a lot of different features that you can build out from there. So it’s kind of like this base software stuff that you can then people have added on all sorts of things. And so if you have Gravity Forms, you can then add other plugins that extend it and do all sorts of cool things. Um, so we’re not using it for too much now, but hopefully in the future we can do more, but it is what is running our, um, service providers list. So in there we go in, we submit it. But one of the really cool things is that, um, users can submit and then users can also change their information once, once they’ve submitted it, which was kind of important to me because I’m like, I don’t want to be in there editing things all the time. Right. I want to give our members the power to edit their own information.

Megan Porta:

And I am assuming that most forms don’t allow for user submissions. So that’s probably a unique feature.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. I mean, I’m sure, I’m sure there’s other ones that can do it, but yeah, you, you need something with a little more power to do that. And then the Gravity Views portion of it is really kind of the formatting and just the structure, creating it into a membership directory sort of thing.

Megan Porta:

Okay. What else for tech did you want to cover? Cause, um, yeah, you’ve covered all the main plugins and what you’ve used, but is there anything else specifically that people would need to know for tech

Bethany Smith:

I’m also using a plugin called Peter’s Login Redirect, which, um, because when you get into it and if you have different membership levels or I guess that’s the thing on ours, it’s a little more complicated too, is we do actually have a free level. So we have basic so that people can still use, um, the forum and access the service providers directory. So you can, if you’re on the basic free level, you can post and read anything in the forum. And then you can view the service providers directory. Um, if you want to post your own information in the service providers directory, you need to be a paying member. Um, so this complicated things a bit, um, because then it’s like when people log in, they need to see different things. Some things are restricted and all sorts of stuff. But these two plugins I talked about before really help with that, with Paid Memberships Pro, um, there’s a widget you can add onto your page and it will help you restrict, like on our home page, um, I’m using that widget and it says for these membership levels, show them this, for these membership levels, show them this. Um, yeah, it gets really crazy in there.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. That’s like, you can get really technical and really deep if you want to.

Bethany Smith:

So the Peter’s Login Redirect is when people like log in and, um, instead of it just keeping them on the signup page, it takes them to the homepage, um, which took me awhile to find a plugin that would work for that. So I wanted to mention that. Um.

Megan Porta:

Definitely. So I know we just did our first live video. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I know we had researched like Vimeo is a great option for integrating into a, an existing platform, but Vimeo is not cheap. It’s like 70 ish dollars monthly. So you found kind of a back end way to make video happen within our platform. So talk us through that.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. So, um, so Vimeo has all sorts of different levels. And what we were looking to do is I really wanted to keep people in our platform. So you’d go to the page and the video would just be on that page. You wouldn’t have to click out to watch elsewhere, like on YouTube or Zoom or something like that. Um, and Vimeo does have an option to do that. And I think it’s $75 a month. In, at this point, we’re only doing one video a month. We, we might do more, but like, we’re just starting this. And that just seems like a lot for one video a month. Um, so what I ended up using, and this also was, I did some research through the Membership Membership. The Membership Guys is a group, um, is I’m using Stream Yard, which is a streaming service that will help you stream to, um, multiple outlets. So I had to connect Stream Yard to our YouTube channel, which by the way, like, apparently if you want to go live on your YouTube channel, um, you have to request it and then they might not approve you for 24 hours. And they did not approve us quickly enough. So I, I don’t remember doing this before on my page cause I’ve gone live on different channels. Um, I don’t know. So anyway, I ran it through my channel instead of the Eat Blog Talk channel, which worked so, Stream Yard to YouTube. And then I took the YouTube link and embedded that into the WordPress site. And then, for the chat feature, because we wanted people to come in, cause it was a like interactive Q and A, um, I use Chatroll, uh, which I was able to just create basically this chat widget, that I just copy and paste it in there. And then people were able to go in there and chat and ask questions alongside of the live streaming video.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. It works slick. I watched the replay and it seemed pretty seamless. I mean, you set it up great. It looked like it was an official platform or like an integration that had just magically appeared. So you did amazing Bethany and I’m sure other people are grateful for your research because this is not something personally that I would want to be researching. It does not, um, ignite a fiery burning passion inside me to go figure out how to get video embedded on a platform. So we appreciate your legwork and thank you for sharing that. Oh my gosh. Is there anything else on the tech side that you feel like people should know?

Bethany Smith:

I don’t think so. Do you have questions, Megan, like listening and being in there some? Huh? You’re kind of like Bethany made it work. I don’t care.

Megan Porta:

I know, exactly. I’m just, uh, I’m just along for the ride, creating some content here and there, but yeah, the tech side is like totally beyond me, but once I got into it, once I got into those plugins, they make sense. Like the Paid Memberships Pro at first, I was like, this is so confusing. But now, after just a little use, I feel like, yeah, this makes sense. Of course, I understand how that works with Stripe or whatever payment processing service you’re using. And then also Buddy Boss at first was confusing. But now that makes sense to me. So, um, I think it’s just a matter of starting somewhere. And Bethany has given some really great ideas for tech, for starting out and then just learning from there. And you really can learn fast, especially if you know WordPress already. It’s really not like super daunting. It’s pretty doable. But the tech side for me is really boring, but definitely necessary. I mean, you’ve got to have some just good, you have to have a good structure in place if you really want your platform to be efficient and smooth and work well for not just us, but for our users that come in too. So what about that? That’s the question like how do you make sure that whatever platform you’re using can handle big, a big number of users? Like what if you have an influx of a hundred new people in a day? I mean, is that like, safe? I don’t know how that works on the tech side, but is it going to explode somehow or shut something down?

Bethany Smith:

Probably won’t explode. I feel like that stuff is showing our age. Like back in the day when like you could like hard drives would get really hot or something.

Megan Porta:

I remember that. And it was like, I remember being at work and there would be smoke coming out of my computer. And I was like, is that normal? And then people could smell the burning cell, but that doesn’t happen anymore. Things are different.

Bethany Smith:

Like how, I don’t. Yeah. I don’t know what you were doing that, but yeah. If they, that doesn’t happen anymore.

Megan Porta:

No, no.

Bethany Smith:

Um, but no, so that you will not like if you get a hundred subscribers a day, you will not set anything on fire. Um, I mean, I think that all of these platforms are, you know, any of these, like all in one things, Teachable Kartra or whatever. I mean, they’re set up to handle something like that easily. Um, some of them may have, you have like in their pricing that you, if you have this many members, you pay this much. If you have this many members, you pay this much. Um, and so if you’re expecting 10,000 members, you you’d be paying more. And a lot of that is going to be for those server capacity to deal with that. Um, but so with ours, which is on WordPress, it’s the server that we, were running on or hosting, um, which at this point I’m not worried about, but we may need to switch. And I don’t think it’s, I mean, so it would be more like the amount of information we have on there. And also the amount of, um, Oh my gosh, like concurrent users. So how many is on there, is on there simultaneously. Um, but I think at the levels of people coming into our membership, that’s not a huge, um, a huge concern and probably for most food bloggers, you’re not going to have so many people on there, right? Like we’re not like ESPN that is trying to just try to like stream a live championship game and everybody is on your platform at the same time or something.

Megan Porta:

You never know, like Thanksgiving dinner, if food bloggers are talking about how to prep sweet potato casserole, there might be a lot of people on.

Speaker 3:

We should do like some live streaming challenge for Thanksgiving or something.

Megan Porta:

I love that. That’s a great idea.

Bethany Smith:

Yeah. I don’t really know how that would work, but it sounds fun.

Megan Porta:

It does, that sounds fun.

Bethany Smith:

Um, so that that’s the thing, but I do. Okay. So what I would say is, if you’re a food blogger and you’re going to do something like this, um, most hosting plans are going to be fine, especially when you’re first starting out. But if you have, I don’t know if your brother’s hosting it in your basement or like something like that, you might, you might want to figure out a different solution. Um, so it’s something to be aware of. And especially if you scale and get larger and depending what all you have on there, if you have a lot of video, um, but just talk to your hosting and, and you can say, this is what I’m thinking of doing. Do you think I need to upgrade my plan?

Megan Porta:

Yeah. If you have a good host, they will definitely work with you with that. All right, Bethany. Well, we’ve provided such, um, immense information here. I mean, you could really like start, go out and start a site right now based on what Bethany has shared with you on the tech side. And then I hope that we’ve given you encouragement to start something like this, if it’s on your mind to do so, because I really do think this is a new kind of trend that people that are going to be embracing more and more because they want you, they want you as their expert in you’re an authority in a certain area. So, kind of embrace that with a membership site, allow people in, start a community, get your toes wet, see how it goes, and don’t let it be so daunting. And we will put a lot of this information, everything we’ve talked about in our show notes, just so that you have like the names of the, um, the plugins and kind of the process that Bethany went through and she created the, and she set up the WordPress site.

Bethany Smith:

If you can come to our membership platform and ask questions, we’re always there to answer them.

Megan Porta:

Yes. So you can find the show notes at Eatblogtalk.com/membershipsites, but you can also come join our community and see how that’ set up. And also just be a part of an awesome community of food bloggers. It has been so fun. We’re only two weeks in and people are really active and asking questions and starting discussion threads. And they’re like immersed in the challenges and we’re getting the mastermind groups set up in a week or two. And it’s just like, the vibe is good. So I hope you guys come join us inside. If you want more information, go to eatblogtalk.com and on the home page, you will be able to find us easily. So I hope you join us there and reach out to Bethany. If you have questions about general membership signups, because I will probably just forward your email to her anyway, and you can email her at [email protected] And, is there anything else before we say goodbye, Bethany?

Bethany Smith:

I think that’s all.

Megan Porta:

Well, thanks for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Intro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to Eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.

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