The Membership Guys

To drip or not to drip? The value of timed content release

If you’ve spent much time looking at online courses or membership sites and their associated plugins and software, then you are probably already familiar with the terms ‘drip feeding’ and ‘content dripping’.

If you’re not already familiar though, drip feeding is essentially time-releasing your content so that it isn’t all available to someone immediately after they sign up to your site. But unlike simply providing ongoing content (where new content is released into the general membership regularly), your content is released on a set schedule based, usually, on when the member signed up – so for example someone signing up in May receives the same content on month 2 of their membership as some who signed up in February did.

Why would you use drip feeding?

This kind of content release can be a good way of preventing ‘download and run’ members who join your site, watch or download all your content and then cancel straight away or ask for a refund. So it essentially stops people from consuming all your information upfront and then not needing you or your site anymore.

For monthly membership sites it’s a way of delivering new content each month and providing ongoing value so that members want to stay longer. With the drip feeding method the content can all be created in advance, so you could have a years worth of content dripped out to members without you needing to create additional content each month. You know that every member, whether they sign up in January or June, will receive the same content in month 3 of their membership and that they will follow a specific path. It’s much more automated than a more library type membership site with ongoing content.

Perhaps the most obvious use for drip feeding though is with courses. If you’re running a fixed time frame course – for example 8 weeks – then it makes sense to drip this content out to your members weekly in order to keep them engaged and moving through the course, especially if you’re also offering a community or coaching element alongside this and want everyone to be on the same page.

Whether a course or more traditional membership it’s also a good way of avoiding overwhelm if you’re providing a lot of information, and of ensuring that members have the time to take action on what they are learning, rather than just moving on to the next piece of information.

Drip feeding also allows you to time your content release with payments. For a monthly membership site that’s kind of a given, but if you’re running a course that allows people to pay in installments then using content dripping and having someones access removed if their payment fails for some reason means that they don’t receive all of your content for only a fraction of the cost of those paying the full price.

How does drip feeding actually work?

There are two main ways that you could drip feed your content. 

  1. The most typical method is based on time since registration. In this instance your content is set to release a set number of days after a member joins – this could be 7 days, 30 days, 90 days, whatever you prefer. Every member who joins will get access to that content on the specified day of their membership, regardless of when they joined. So a member joining in June would receive the same content on day 7 as a member joining in February did.
  2. The other method works based on the first piece of content being released on a set date. So say, for example, that you are running a course and you want it to start on December 1st, but you want members to be able to join any time between now and that date. You couldn’t use the traditional content dripping method to achieve this as your members would all have joined at different times and therefore the content would be dripped out to them at different times too. However, what you can do is set your first module to be released on the 1st September, and then the next module 7 days (or 30 etc) after that. So your members all receive exactly the same content on exactly the same day, even though they joined at different times. At the moment only certain membership plugins support this type of content drip – Wishlist, MemberPress and DAP being the main 3.

How you actually set up your drip feed will depend on your membership plugin. Some plugins do content dripping as part of their content protection (for example with MemberPress and DAP you set the drip schedule when you create your protection rules), some offer a shortcode that you wrap around the content you want dripped (s2Member), some provide an option to set the drip settings on your actual content page (OptimizeMember) and Wishlist uses a process called ‘Sequential Upgrade’ requiring you to create a new membership level for each time you want new content to be released (which isn’t ideal if you’re going to be dripping a lot of content!).

Often the dripped content is added to a members account automatically behind the scenes or when they next login to their account. However, if this process isn’t working effectively and your new content isn’t being given to members when it should be then you may need to setup what is called a ‘cron job’ on your hosting – this tells your site to perform certain tasks automatically at certain times. That might sound a little technical but most hosting providers can help you to set this up if it’s needed, and the main membership plugin where it may be required is Wishlist Member.

Whilst each plugin will have a different way of setting up your content drip, they will usually explain how in their set up instructions and it’s often a simple process of just selecting the day you want the content to be released. Not all membership plugins offer a content dripping option though so, if it’s something you would like to do, ensure that you choose a plugin that allows for this.

When would you not drip feed content?

Drip feeding your content definitely has its benefits and can be a great tool for aiding both retention and engagement with your content. However it’s certainly not ideal for every site.

If you’re selling a standalone course then often you will want to deliver all that content at once, especially if it’s a one time payment (and especially if your members are likely to be impatient, like me!). Similarly if your membership or course contains content that people are likely to want to consume at their own pace then again, offering everything upfront can work well. And for library type sites consisting of lots of different courses or content then ongoing content release may work better than dripped content, particularly if you have a community where people will be discussing the content too (as it can be a little frustrating if members are discussing content that you don’t have access to yet!).

For our own Member Site Academy we opted not to use drip feeding and to regularly release new content instead. With our site there isn’t a set programme for people to follow – it doesn’t provide an A-Z path, rather lots of separate courses – and members are all at different stages in their journey and needing different information. So providing a library of content and courses made more sense so that members can jump in and make use of what they need, when they need it. There wasn’t really any logical drip release schedule that would work for our members. The fact that we still provide regular new content means value is continuously added as with drip feeding, but allows for a more flexible release schedule.  This is a similar approach to other sites like Digital Marketer and Fizzle – when you’re offering a lot of different courses or topics in one membership, drip feeding that content can actually do you a disservice as people are joining for access to all the different information.

Whether you decide to drip content or not, the important thing, with a monthly membership site at least, is to ensure that you are providing something that offers value each month – whether that’s new content, a live call, or simply a buzzing community.

What do you think – are you a fan of the drip feed approach or prefer to provide (or receive) everything all at once?
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