Pensil is an all-in-one community platform that allows you to create and manage online communities, cohort-based courses, and discussion forums. Whether you want to engage your audience, grow your brand, or monetize your content, Pensil can help you achieve your goals. However, building a successful online community is not an easy task. It requires planning, strategy, and execution. In this blog, I will share with you 10 best practices for building a Pensil community that is active, valuable, and sustainable.
One of the first steps to building a Pensil community is to define your community values. What is the purpose of your community? What are the benefits for your members? What are the expectations and norms for your members? Having a clear vision and mission for your community will help you attract and retain the right members, as well as foster a sense of belonging and trust among them.
To communicate your community values, you should create a separate Space on your Pensil platform. A Space is a group or a section within your community where you can host discussions, files, live sessions, and more. You can name your Space something like “Welcome to our community” or “Community guidelines” and use it to introduce yourself, explain the goals and rules of your community, and highlight the benefits and opportunities for your members. You can also use this Space to collect feedback, suggestions, and testimonials from your members.
When you launch your Pensil community, you may be tempted to create multiple Spaces for different topics, categories, or segments of your audience. However, this can be counterproductive, especially if your community is new and small. Having too many Spaces can dilute the engagement, make it harder for members to find relevant content, and create confusion and fragmentation.
Instead, you should start with only one conversation Space where you can host all the discussions and interactions among your members. This will help you create a sense of unity and cohesion, as well as generate more activity and visibility for your content. You can use the card layout to organize your posts by tags, filters, or keywords, and make it easy for members to find what they are looking for. You can also use the pinned posts feature to highlight the most important or popular posts at the top of your Space
As your community grows and matures, you can create more Spaces for specific topics, niches, or subgroups of your audience. For example, you can create Spaces for different courses, levels, interests, or locations. You can also create Spaces for different types of content, such as live sessions, resources, announcements, or Q&A. However, you should always keep your number of Spaces to a minimum and only create them when there is a clear demand and benefit for your members.
Pensil offers two types of layouts for your Spaces: card and list. The card layout displays your posts as cards with images, titles, and summaries, while the list layout displays your posts as a simple list with titles and dates. Both layouts have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type and purpose of your content.
For resources and static sections, such as welcome messages, guidelines, FAQs, or tutorials, you should use the card layout. This will make your content more attractive, engaging, and easy to scan. You can also use the card layout to showcase your live sessions, webinars, or events, as well as your integrations and custom code. For example, you can use the card layout to embed your website, e-commerce page, or any other external page with a simple script
For conversations and discussions, such as questions, feedback, or stories, you can use the list layout. This will make your content more concise, focused, and easy to follow. You can also use the list layout to display your newsletters, updates, or announcements, as well as your gamification features. For example, you can use the list layout to show your karma points, badges, milestones, or leaderboards.
One of the key features of Pensil is that it allows you to create both open and gated communities. An open community is a community that is accessible to anyone on the internet, while a gated community is a community that requires a login, registration, or payment to access. You can also create hybrid communities that have both open and gated Spaces.
However, when you create your Pensil community, you need to make it VERY clear what is publicly visible and what is not. You don’t want to confuse or disappoint your members by exposing their private information or content to the public, or by hiding your public information or content from potential members. You also don’t want to violate any privacy laws or regulations that may apply to your community.
To make it clear what is publicly visible, you should use the visibility settings on your Pensil platform. You can set the visibility of your entire community, as well as each individual Space, to public, private, or hidden. A public Space is a Space that is visible and accessible to anyone on the internet, while a private Space is a Space that is visible but not accessible to anyone who is not logged in or registered. A hidden Space is a Space that is not visible or accessible to anyone who is not invited or added by the admin
You should also use the lock icon to indicate which Spaces are gated and require a login, registration, or payment to access. You can also use the description and summary fields to explain the benefits and requirements of joining your gated Spaces. For example, you can write something like “This Space is for premium members only. To join, you need to sign up for our monthly subscription plan.”
Another best practice for building a Pensil community is to have pinned posts at the top of each Space that describe the expected behavior and etiquette for your members. Pinned posts are posts that stay at the top of your Space, regardless of the date or popularity of the post. You can use pinned posts to communicate important information, rules, or guidelines for your members, as well as to welcome new members, introduce yourself, or highlight featured content.
For example, you can have a pinned post that says something like “Welcome to our community! This Space is for sharing and discussing your experiences, challenges, and tips on learning Spanish. Please be respectful, supportive, and constructive with your comments. No spam, self-promotion, or hate speech allowed. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact our community manager.” This will help you set the tone and expectations for your Space, as well as prevent or resolve any conflicts or issues that may arise.
Pensil is a constantly evolving and improving platform that offers new and exciting features for your community. However, some of these features may be in beta, which means that they are still in testing and development, and may not work as expected or intended. Beta features may also change or disappear without notice, which can affect your community’s functionality and experience.
Therefore, you should beware of beta features and use them with caution. You should always read the documentation and instructions for any beta feature before you use it, and make sure that you understand the risks and limitations of the feature. You should also backup your data and content regularly, in case something goes wrong or you need to restore your community. You should also inform your members about any beta feature that you use, and ask for their feedback and suggestions on how to improve it.
One of the advantages of Pensil is that it allows you to integrate and customize your community with other tools and platforms that you are already using or that can enhance your community’s value and experience. For example, you can integrate your community with your website, blog, podcast, newsletter, social media, email marketing, CRM, analytics, payment, or e-commerce platforms. You can also use custom code to add or modify features, functions, or designs on your community
However, you should also be careful when using integrations and custom code, as they can also cause problems or conflicts with your community’s performance, security, or compatibility. You should always test your integrations and custom code before you implement them on your live community, and make sure that they work properly and smoothly. You should also update your integrations and custom code regularly, and fix any bugs or errors that may occur. You should also inform your members about any integrations and custom code that you use, and ask for their feedback and suggestions on how to improve them.
Pensil is not only a platform for hosting and managing your online community, but also a community of its own. Pensil hosts regular events, such as webinars, workshops, Q&A sessions, or meetups, where you can learn from the Pensil team and experts, network with other Pensil users and community builders, and get inspired and motivated by the best practices and success stories of other Pensil communities.
Therefore, you should make time for Circle-hosted events and attend them as much as possible. These events will help you stay updated and informed about the latest news and developments of Pensil, as well as get tips and tricks on how to grow and optimize your community. You will also get the opportunity to interact with other like-minded people who share your passion and vision for online communities, and who can support you, challenge you, and collaborate with you. You can also share your feedback and suggestions with the Pensil team and influence the future direction of the platform.
You can find the schedule and details of the upcoming Circle-hosted events on the Pensil website, blog, newsletter, or social media channels. You can also join the Circle Community, which is a Pensil community for Pensil users and community builders, where you can access exclusive content, resources, and opportunities, as well as join the discussions and conversations with other Circle members.
One of the ways to monetize your Pensil community is to use an external paywall, such as Memberful, Patreon, Substack, or Gumroad, to charge your members a fee to access your gated Spaces or content. This can help you generate revenue from your community, as well as create a sense of exclusivity and value for your members.
However, if you’re using an external paywall, you need to make sure that your members can manage their account easily. You don’t want to frustrate or lose your members by making it difficult or confusing for them to sign up, log in, cancel, or update their subscription or payment details. You also don’t want to create any discrepancies or conflicts between your Pensil platform and your external paywall platform.
To make sure that your members can manage their account easily, you should use the integration and automation features that Pensil offers for your external paywall platform. For example, you can use the Memberful integration to automatically sync your Memberful subscribers with your Pensil members, and grant or revoke access to your gated Spaces based on their subscription status. You can also use the Zapier integration to connect your Pensil platform with your external paywall platform, and automate tasks such as sending welcome emails, invoices, or reminders to your members.
You should also provide clear and visible instructions and links for your members to access and manage their account on your external paywall platform. For example, you can use the custom code feature to add a button or a widget on your Pensil platform that directs your members to your external paywall platform, where they can view or edit their subscription or payment details. You can also use the pinned posts feature to explain the steps and processes for signing up, logging in, canceling, or updating their account on your external paywall platform.
The last and most important best practice for building a Pensil community is to remember that your online platform is not your community. Your online platform is just a tool or a medium that enables you to create and manage your community, but it is not the essence or the identity of your community. Your community is made up of the people who share your vision, values, and interests, and who engage with you and each other on your online platform.
Therefore, you should not focus too much on the technical or functional aspects of your online platform, such as the features, design, or integrations, but rather on the human and emotional aspects of your community, such as the relationships, interactions, and experiences. You should not treat your members as users, customers, or subscribers, but rather as partners, collaborators, or friends. You should not measure your community’s success by the numbers, metrics, or revenue, but rather by the impact, value, and satisfaction.
To remember that your online platform is not your community, you should always put your members first and listen to their needs, wants, and feedback. You should also create a culture and a vibe that reflects your community’s personality and spirit, and that makes your members feel welcome, comfortable, and happy. You should also celebrate your community’s achievements and milestones, and acknowledge and appreciate your members’ contributions and efforts. You should also have fun and enjoy your community, and not take it too seriously or stressfully.
Pensil is a platform that lets you create and manage your own online community with ease and efficiency. Unlike Zoom, Pensil offers you more features, customization, and engagement options to make your community stand out and thrive.`
Online communities thrive on engagement, but how do you motivate your members to participate and contribute?