Membership Business In Telegram: The Definitive Guide
Part 1. Introduction
Our world is growing increasingly digital today, there’s no way around it. Messaging through online channels is how consumers prefer to contact friends, family, and businesses today. The platforms that will remain successful as we venture into the future are the ones that understand the importance of this kind of digital connection right now.
That brings us to one social media app that is enhancing this kind of connection. Telegram is a very popular messaging app (~300M users) with a focus on security and speed. It wasn’t probably built with membership businesses in mind, yet it has grown to fulfill this purpose for its expanding user base.
Many creative entrepreneurs around the globe are already using Telegram to run their profitable mastermind groups, paid newsletters and podcasts, online courses, etc. Especially in the age of coronavirus where all business is being conducted through digital communication, seamless messaging is a foundation for any profitable operation.
If you’re an entrepreneur, startup member, freelancer, or solopreneur reading this, you’re probably thinking that you should spend time learning the ins and outs of Telegram. It’s the right kind of mindset, considering Telegram is aiming to have 1 billion users by 2022: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/telegram-statistics/. Additionally, from 2014 to 2018, the app had a 417% increase during that period, proving its relevance in an increasingly digital world: https://www.wordlead.com/facts/telegram-statistics/.
At the end of the day, Telegram is touted as a company committed to transparency and helping other startup ventures get off of the ground when it can seem like money and resources are limited. Though the server side code remains confidential, Telegram makes its client side code transparent for developers to analyze and leverage. It’s this very technology that has caught the attention of membership businesses.
In this tutorial, we’ll cover everything you need to set up your membership business in Telegram.
We assume that you already have an idea or maybe an existing membership business to work with. If you don’t have an idea, you should pick one first and then get back to this guide. Once you have done that, dive into everything you need to know about Telegram for membership businesses below!
Hold tight! 🚀
1.1 What makes Telegram so cool (for membership businesses)
There’re several factors, actually:
- Easy to set up. For a “traditional” membership business you might need a website running on Wordpress or any other CMS based on your own server. With Telegram, you don’t even need a server (and hosting, too)!
- Free hosting. Telegram is 100% cloud-based, which means your premium content or community chats can be hosted in the cloud for free.
- Fast and lightweight. One of the key benefits of Telegram-based membership businesses over web-based membership businesses is low bandwidth tolerance. Telegram transfers less data than a typical website does. Therefore, your users will have a smooth experience even if their internet connection isn’t great.
- Mobile-first. As we all know, in 2020 most things are done on mobile devices (including shopping, content consumption, chatting with family and friends, whatever). Those who provide a better mobile experience have a significant advantage over competitors. Telegram can give your users a great mobile UX with their sleek and functional apps for both major platforms (Android and iOS).
- Communication at your fingertips. Another benefit of messaging over traditional websites — a minimal distance between you and your end user. This app brings you both closer than you could possibly be with a traditional “site and email” combination. You’re just one tap away!
- High opening rate for messages. Typically, average an opening rate in messaging apps is much higher than an email opening rate. What it means for you is that it would be easier to reach your subscribers, keep retention high, and reduce churn.
- Bots. Telegram Bots are tiny apps that live inside Telegram. They can chat with you directly or work in groups and channels. There’re bots for accepting membership fees, voting, formatted posts, community “reputation” scores, and much more. Bots can drastically enhance your user’s experience without a need to install something.
1.2 What can be a members-only area in Telegram
In Telegram, a members-only area may consist of private Telegram channels and groups in any proportion.
Here’s an important thing to understand about channels and groups — both of them will appear in your customer’s Telegram dialogs list, right where their friends and family reside.
Each time someone will make a post in members-only channels and groups — they will bump up to the top of the list.
So your members will remain updated even if they rarely check their email inbox or visit your website.
1.3 Wait, there’s no “make channel paid” feature in Telegram?
Oh, so you’re a power user! That’s right, Telegram by itself doesn’t help creators charge a subscription fee for their content. But it doesn’t mean you can’t!
As you may already know, there’s Telegram Bots. These bots are capable of many things including payments and managing channel/group members.
All you need is a good membership bot!
1.4 How will your customers pay?
Telegram itself doesn’t have a built in feature for accepting subscription fees. Luckily, you can have your own membership bot built with InviteMember for that purpose.
The process is simple:
- A user will launch your membership bot in Telegram;
- The bot will ask to select a subscription plan;
- It will show a link to an InviteMember-hosted payment page;
- After a successful payment, your bot will send a confirmation via Telegram and will add a customer to your members-only channels and groups.
1.5 Do I need a website?
However, it’s nice to have one — you can use it as a beautiful landing page in your marketing campaigns. It won’t be used for accepting payments and managing subscriptions.
Part 2. Set everything up
Now you understand the basics of running a Telegram-based membership business. Awesome!
It’s time to set everything up.
Some business components described below are optional so you don’t have to do all the steps. But it’s good to know about them.
2.1 Your membership business components
Here’s the list of the most common parts of an effective Telegram-based membership business:
- Members-only area. This is what your subscribers are paying for — access to your members-only area.
- Membership Bot in Telegram. The bot will be used by your subscribers to pay and get access to the members-only area.
- Payment gateway. You need to accept payments automatically. You can use Stripe/Skrill/PayPal/CoinPayments/etc.
- Public channel (optional). You can have a public Telegram channel to build your following base and promote your membership.
- Support system (optional). Your membership bot will have a built-in support system already, but there are some alternatives on the market.
- Landing page or a website (optional). Since payments are handled by the membership bot, you don’t have to create a website. But it’s still good to have one for marketing and informational purposes.
Now we’ll go through all these components.
2.2 Create your members-only area
The core building blocks for your members-only area are Telegram Channels and Telegram Groups. If you’re not familiar with them, here’s a quick introduction:
- in channels, only admins can post (so it’s like a blog, great for premium content distribution);
- in groups, everyone can post (so it’s like a forum thread, great for communities).
You can have as many of them as you want, in any proportion. For example:
- 1 private channel (premium content only);
- 1 private group (membership community only);
- 1 private channel and 1 private group together (premium content and membership community);
- 2+ private channels (premium content divided in several channels);
- 2+ private groups (several membership communities or one community divided in multiple groups);
What is the best structure for you? It really depends on the core value of your membership business. Here are some questions that might help you decide:
- Are you a content producer (newsletters/trading signals/betting tips/video lessons/etc.)? Use a private channel for the content delivery (and free hosting, too).
- Do you want your content subscribers to chat with each other? Add a private group to your subscription plans and customers will get access to the both.
- Do you want to have multiple “feeds” of your premium content? You can create several private channels and post in them accordingly.
- Are you a community manager, not a content producer? Probably you don’t need a channel at all, a private group might be enough.
- Is your community large enough? It’s a good idea to split the conversations in two or more private groups just to keep it more organized.
If you can’t decide what structure is best for you — start small. One private channel (if you’re selling content) or one private group (if you’re selling premium community access) would be enough in many cases. You can add more channels/groups as your business grows.
Ok, so we have your members-only area structure. Now the easiest part — create it in Telegram (the instructions given below are for a channel).
In your Telegram client, find New Channel button.
You should simply enter a name (“Daily Yoga” in our case). You can set a description and make sure that you’re creating a private channel, not a public one (this is important, as this is a members-only channel).
Here’s what a newly created channel looks like:
This is the place where you can post your members-only content.
Here are a few tips to make your channel (or group) look nice and professional:
- Upload a userpic. If you don’t have your own logo, you can easily get a free photo/icon from websites like unspash.io and iconfinder.com. Just make sure it looks great in small scale and is cropped to a circle.
- Pin a welcome message. Pinned messages are a great way to help new members onboard get in the groove when they have just joined your group. You can put some some intro there, maybe a couple of links. Pinned messages always appear on top so it’s easy to find it.
Group creation process is the same, find New Group button and repeat the same steps.
Again, make sure you’re creating a private group, not a public one!
2.3 Create your membership bot
Your membership bot is the core part of the whole system as it ties everything together: your members-only area, your payment gateway account, and your subscription plans. It’s a layer between you and your customers.
In the past, you had to hire a developer to create a membership bot for your business.
Luckily, today there’s InviteMember — the membership bot platform for paid Telegram Channels and Groups. InviteMember allows you to create your bot by yourself.
Launch @InviteMemberBot in Telegram and create a new project
Here are the steps you need to complete:
- Connect your members-only channels and groups (see instructions for channels and groups);
- Define your subscription plans (how much, how often, and for what exactly your customers will pay);
- Connect your payment gateway account (to check out how will it work without real money, you can use any of “Test” options like Stripe Test/PayPal Test/Skrill Test);
- Add a Telegram bot token created in @BotFather (so InviteMember can “register” itself as a “backend” for your bot).
We understand that this whole process might look a bit complicated, so here’re a few resources that might help you:
- InviteMember Help Center https://help.invitemember.com/en/
- InviteMember Support @InviteMemberSupportBot
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions!
2.3 Open a live payment gateway account
To accept real money, you need a live payment gateway account with Stripe/Skrill/PayPal/etc.
InviteMember supports several payment gateways (both global and local ones), so please check out this link to find out what suits you best:
2.4 Prepare your legal documents
https://iubenda.refr.cc/JV5QPWG (this is an affiliate link that gives you 10% discount)
2.5 Start a public channel (optional)
Having a public channel is a great way to promote your paid services.
To create a public channel, follow the steps described above for the private channel creation process with these distinctions:
- Make sure to create a “public” channel. Public channels are available for everyone, private ones — by invitation only.
- Choose a good channel username. Your channel will receive a public link that starts with “t.me”. For example, we have a public channel “InviteMember News” available here: t.me/InviteMember.
- Set you channel description. That’s the place where you can (and should) put links to your membership bot, website, and probably a support bot. It will appear in your channel profile. Check out our channel description (@InviteMember) as an example.
2.6 Set up your customer support tool (optional)
This step is optional because your membership bot built with InviteMember already has a built-in support system:
If that’s not enough, we suggest the following options:
- @SuchChatBot (recommended) — Telegram-first customer support tool with quality Telegram integration and professional customer support features (learn more);
- use a dedicated Telegram account with a public username to use as your “support” contact;
- you can use a public group chat where users can ask other users and you can engage in discussions, too.
You can learn more why we recommend SuchChat here: https://medium.com/invitemember/customer-support-via-telegram-d5abe19b1bf6
2.7 Create a landing page or a website (optional)
There are many landing page builders out there. Here are some of them to help you get started:
- Carrd https://carrd.co/
- Tilda https://tilda.cc/
- Wix https://wix.com/
It’s super easy to integrate such websites with your membership bot — just put a link to your bot somewhere. Your bot link has the following format:
https://t.me/BOT_USERNAME (where BOT_USERNAME is what you entered in @BotFather when you created your bot)
Make sure that everything looks seamless, functions professionally, and is optimized for usage! Once everything is set in stone, put a link to your membership bot on your website/social media so your users can start the bot and pay.
As we wrap up this article, we’re going to impart information on one of the most popularly asked questions today: how do I promote a membership business? It’s not an easy question to answer. It really depends on the niche/market you’re working with today.
Here’s a general strategy that we leverage to market our own products:
- Figure out where your audience resides (what do they search for in Google, what channels do they watch on YouTube, what thematic websites do they visit, what Telegram channels do they use, which blogs and email newsletters are they subscribed to, what podcasts do they listen to, etc); You need to know where your ideal buyer spends their time. That way, you can position yourself strategically, place “yourself in their shoes,” and go right for the middle of that lead funnel.
- Try to get there (write blog posts with your keywords to get ranked in Google, make YouTube videos, write answers on Quora, buy ads or agree on cross-promotions with blogs/Telegram channels/newsletters/podcasts, be active on Twitter, etc). It takes effort to cement your business in the digital world. But, if you put in the effort, that kind of optimized content can work as a lead generation tool for years on end.
For example, if you’re an expert trader and you’re selling your market analytics/trading signals, it’s a good idea to create a profile on TradingView to share your trading ideas and promote yourself. Or, you can create on a page myfxbook (or similar public tracker that connects to your account) so everyone can check out your trading performance.
It’s up to you to make your brand visible. If you put in the time, it will certainly pay off.
That’s it for this guide!
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or feedback regarding running a membership business in Telegram!