Three Ideas to Set Up Community Privacy Settings
Create a general policy where the public (i.e. anyone with internet access) can read discussions but can’t participate; only approved members can create accounts and post. This open/closed hybrid lets approved members maintain control of the conversation and receive an exclusive value, but still lures in nonmembers -- they can see everything going on, but now understand the value of membership since they can’t currently participate. Keeping the community open but protected from nonmember posts also helps your community’s SEO, so prospective members can find you through general searches.
Give the general public full access to a few areas, but not to the entire site. Even if people aren’t members of your organization or current customers, they can still create accounts, login and participate -- but only in designated areas. Create teaser content that gives them a glimpse into the community, so they’ll want to sign up and learn more. This can be a great way to let prospective members interact with current members -- current members are often your best recruiters. Create a specific discussion area where non-members can ask current members questions -- you’ll learn what people’s needs are, what current members love, and who your best ambassadors are.
Depending on your platform’s configuration settings, you can also allow nonmembers to participate in discussions, but put all their posts in moderation. That way, they can contribute, help create content and learn how valuable your organization is, but you still keep track of their participation. This is another good hybrid approach, more nuanced than simply “opened” or “closed.”