Moving a Community for Women Over 40 From Facebook Groups to a Paid Subscription App

If you’ve ever Googled a medical condition or a new symptom that you’ve experienced you know that the search results leave much to be desired. When Nina Lorez Collins posted about symptoms of perimenopause on Facebook, she saw that many women in her network were looking for a space to talk about the same symptoms that she was experiencing. The conversation flourished into a Facebook group of over 30,000 women looking for answers and support through all stages of menopause and aging.

As the What Would Virginia Woolf Do? community (now The Woolfer) continued to grow, it tested the limits of Facebook’s product and support and Nina found herself looking for alternatives. She faced the realization that she could not sustain the group as a free community. It needed dedicated resources and income to continue operating at the same level.  If you’re looking to launch or move your community to a paid model or debating changing community platforms, Nina offers lots of suggestions on what to consider as you’re negotiating with new platforms and keeping your community in the loop.

Nina and Patrick discuss:

  • Recognizing the product limitations of community platforms, along with your community’s product must-haves
  • The emotional, financial, and product hurdles that come with moving from one platform to another
  • How Woolfers stepped up to help those that wanted to join the paid community but couldn’t afford it

Big Quotes

On feeling used by Facebook (3:44): “As we grew, [Facebook] would occasionally reach out to us [because] they were interested in featuring us in videos or they asked us if we wanted to join their subscription pilot when they started it. We had ended up saying no. Every time we tried to reach out to them with a question or for help with something, we wouldn’t hear from anyone. They would direct us to their big Facebook groups for people who are managing groups, but it was so impersonal, and I started to feel a little bit used. Here we were directing all this traffic and having all this intense engagement and we couldn’t really get an answer from anyone.” -Nina Lorez Collins

Facebook’s propensity to silently take features away (4:21): “[With Facebook Groups], we would lose features. We had the topics feature for a long time, which we really loved and used and then it disappeared one day. Dozens of times, we wrote to Facebook and couldn’t figure out where it had gone and couldn’t get an answer. The lack of ability to communicate with these people who were essentially hosting us was impossible. … It started to feel increasingly over time like there was so much we couldn’t control, and it didn’t make sense. I started to feel a little bit like we were slaving away for this machine that we couldn’t manage the way we wanted to.” -Nina Lorez Collins

The pros and cons of breaking away from Facebook (22:05): “A friend said to me, ‘… I’ve come to be addicted to Facebook. I’m not feeling addicted to the [new community] app, so I have to remember to check it.’ I thought that was interesting. On the one hand, we’re relieved that we’re breaking our addiction to Facebook, this thing that we resent. On the other hand, it is like second nature to all of us. I mean, they’ve made it very smooth. While our app has a lot of the same features, it’s different.” -Nina Lorez Collins

Thoughtful Woolfers addressed the barrier of joining a paid community (28:40): “We were very concerned about people who might feel that the cost [of joining the paid community] was prohibitive and we immediately had lots of Woolfers offering scholarships. We did create a way for members who wanted to sponsor people and for people who wanted to be sponsored. We’ve to date, I think, sponsored 280 women. [They] have gotten into the app for free through the generosity of other Woolfers, which is awesome.” -Nina Lorez Collins

About Nina Lorez Collins

Nina Lorez Collins is the founder of The Woolfer, a community for women over 40. The Woolfer started as a Facebook group called “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?” and has recently migrated to its own platform and app.

Nina has written a book, What Would Virginia Woolf Do? And Other Questions I Ask Myself As I Attempt to Age Without Apology, which came out in April 2018. She’s a graduate of Barnard College, has a Masters degree from Columbia in the field of Narrative Medicine, and has a long professional background in book publishing, both as a literary scout and then as an agent. She has four nearly grown children and lives in Brooklyn.

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