There's no shortage of course hosting and community management platforms on the market right now. So when I heard all the hype about a new program called Skool, I initially ignored it.
However, I had a few trusted friends tell me that it was different and worth checking out. I have always been a fan of the creator Sam Ovens and trust that he wouldn't release a half-assed program.
So, as I often do for the sake of this blog, I signed up and created a community in Skool so I could share with my readers whether or not it's worth switching from another platform or not.
The test was well worth it, and you REALLY need to learn about this program.
I ended up launching a test program on Skool called AIP Insiders and the results blew me away. The engagement has been through the roof and it feels like a night and day difference compared to running my community through a Facebook group or another tool like Circle.
It could be a gamechanger for you if you're planning on launching a course/community or want to level up an existing one.
Let me preface by saying this... No software will make a bad community great. The true X factor is you, your moderators, and the value you provide to your members.
So, let's get into my quick little Skool review so you can decide if it's a good fit for you or not.
After we review it, I'll share with you the 15 tips I've learned so far that will help your community thrive and drive real revenue for you.
Part #1 Skool Review
What Is Skool?
Skool's schtick is that they bring your courses together with your community in one place. This is cost effective but also hyper convenient and easier to manage.
The program is extremely minimalistic and focuses on engagement rather than having every possible feature.
The distinguishing function of Skool is its focus on gamification to drive engagement. It does this through a leaderboard feature that lets members earn bragging rights and the ability to unlock courses by engaging and completing various actions within the community.
Skool Is an Alternative To...
There are more than a few alternatives to Skool. The biggest names include Circle.So, Thinkific, Kajabi, Socialglow, Discord (managed through Whop), Mighty Networks, HiveBright, Socialglow. Many people prefer to use a completely free solution like Facebook as well. I've written at length about hosting your courses and communities on Facebook here if you're curious.
Who Is the Best Fit for Skool?
Skool is great if you want to quickly build a community on a platform you own that is free from the distractions of a place like Facebook.
Inexperienced creators might not even notice the lack of marketing tools, but if you want a fully optimized sales funnel, you will need to look elsewhere OR be prepared to put in a little elbow grease and pay for extra tools like hosting, ThriveCart or ClickFunnels.
Skool Review: How Skool Works
The real differentiator for Skool is how course content is unlocked through engagement and completing various tasks throughout the community. This community aspect is primarily focused on posts and comments, where users can interact, like, and comment on each other's posts.
You can set it up so that members can't access certain trainings until they've reached certain levels of engagement.
Admins can ALSO award 'gems' to posts or comments they find particularly valuable, making these contributions stand out and encouraging more interaction.
This method is highly unique but clearly works.
If you don't want to offer "courses" for levels, you can do things like Skool does where they offer a trip to their headquarters for anyone who gets to tier 7.
You have full control over what content is unlocked, how much is required to unlock it, and who can unlock it.
When you create a group in Skool, there's a classroom section for hosting courses. These can be single or multiple courses, featuring modules with titles, descriptions, transcripts, and progress tracking. Resources can be attached, and discussions are encouraged under each module.
The Skool Calendar
Skool's calendar function helps schedule events like Q&A calls, which are automatically converted to each member's local timezone. This feature ensures that all members can easily keep track of events.
Skool Review: What I Loved About It
1. The interface.
It's simply gorgeous. Lean and aesthetic like a freaking olympic swimmer.
In a world where every software seems to be trying to do as much as humanly possible, Skool is keeping it lean and easy to navigate.
They've focused on making the tool extremely easy to use for community members and easy enough to use for us community builders.
2. The leaderboard.
The gamification of the program is what brings everything together. So many online courses lack any resemblance of community. Skool is completely different, and the leaderboard and tiers make it that way.
3. The simplicity.
This is a pro for some and a con for others. Part of what makes it simple also makes it limited in some functionality you might want.
One thing I've learned though over my years of buying, using, and reviewing software is that most features go completely unused and having more features can, ironically, lead to a poor user experience. Sometimes doing "just enough," is perfect.
4. Broadcast to members.
Unlike places like Facebook that are flooded with notifications from groups, pages, and friends vying for attention, Skool admins can email their members with post updates. They can also notify them via the Skool app. This is an amazing way to reach your community with a much higher rate of attention.
Skool limits the ability to broadcast to your list via email to 1x every 72 hours, but that is plenty, and it doesn't cost you anything else. You don't need to integrate another email marketing software to send broadcasts.
5. The mobile experience.
Skool has apps on both iOS and Android app stores, and they are fantastic. The experience is great not just for the students either; it's also great for managing the program.
The other day I needed to remove a module that had some very misleading information on it. I was able to do it quickly straight from my iPhone. I couldn't ever do that with other apps.
Skool Review: What I Didn't Love About It
1. It's another username and password members need to create.
It's just hard to talk people into yet another membership area. I wish Skool supported a Facebook, Discord, or Google log-in system. That would make it a bit easier to convince customers to come over.
In fairness, this is the case for almost all of these types of programs.
2. No front-end marketing tools.
You will not find a funnel builder, autoresponder, or any of the functions you'd see from a tool that is more focused on the sales process. For example, Kartra, Clickfunnels or ThriveCart all provide robust sales funnels, bump offers, and more, but you can't do that in Skool.
You can do this, of course, but you'll need to do it off of Skool. I'll continue using ThriveCart for my funnels and Skool on the backend.
It feels very much held together by Zapier integrations, which is ok if you're the type of person who knows how to manage that and the 3rd party tools you use are supported.
Many of the biggest programs on Skool have their own front end sales pages and funnels. It's simply irresponsible for a modern marketer to sell something without these sorts of systems in place. It's amateur to just say "this is the price, pay here, and here's access." The amount of money left on the table there is staggering.
3. No group chat functionality.
It could be argued that the discussion boards have the same effect, but if you wanted to do a chat of just a few people (say 5 friends) you can't currently do that. I'd be shocked though if that isn't added.
4. No video hosting or live streaming.
You will need to spend a little on a webinar software. This isn't a huge deal either. We use WebinarJam and many people prefer Zoom anyway. Tools like Circle offer included live streaming, but they cap it at very low numbers like 100 before you have to pay to add more. If you have over 100 members, it becomes less economical quickly.
5. No affiliate program for communities.
The value of word of mouth advertising can't be overstated. I drive about 40% of all sales to my programs through affiliates. You can still use affiliate programs in your Skool flow, but you'll be paying for them elsewhere and integrating them yourself.
6. No (built in) one time payment options.
It's monthly recurring or bust with Skool. If you want to do a one time payment, you'll need to use a program like ThriveCart. There is also no option for charging annual rates (which are proven consistently to raise average customer lifetime value).
Types of Skool Communities
Skool supports free and paid communities and you can accept payment through Skool's system or through a 3rd party tool like ThriveCart using a Zapier integration.
There are currently 18 different categories of communities on Skool. I've highlighted the ones that seem to be the most popular and successful.
Skool Review: Examples of People Earning with Skool
One of the coolest features about Skool is that they have their own community (built with Skool of course) for users. People are sharing crazy success stories in there, and Sam Oven's ran a contest recently that showed the behind-the-scenes earnings of some of the Skool communities.
The biggest winner for new MRR was the Avacado HealthPro community. They charge members $100/month and currently list
The best way to really get a feel for whether or not you want to use it with your community would be by joining one of the existing ones. This will give you a feel for how everything works, and you'll see the user side experience. I found this to be wildly helpful when I started looking into Skool. Visit their communities page here and find a large community (free or paid) to join.
Choosing a plan with Skool is very easy. There's only one option and it's $99/month. It comes with everything, and no user gets more or less.
Most of the alternatives offer a plan in this range, BUT they rarely are capped at it. You get less features than you will on Skool unless you upgrade or buy add-ons.
If you run a paid community and charge through Skool, you will pay a payment processing fee (it's impossible to not) of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. This is cheaper than Stripe because Stripe charges an additional 1.5% for international cards and 0.5% for subscriptions
Part #2 15 Skool Tips
Skool won't do all the work for you though. There are some things you'll want to do to make sure you're getting the most out of your community. Let's dive in.
Not Yet a Skool User?
Awesome! That means your community is likely not living up to its full potential (or you haven't launched one yet and you're leaving money on the table).
Skool is worth every penny of the $99/month it costs, but I want to make the offer even sweeter for you. If you purchase Skool through my affiliate link here, I'll do a free 1-on-1 call with you to help you get set up and strategized for success.
#1 Have Unlocks at Every Level (But Especially Level 6)
If you don't plan on having unlocks, you really aren't getting most of the benefits of Skool. Seriously, the unlocks are the heart of the program. The gamification is what drives engagement.
More engagement leads to a better community.
Engaged members see better results, which leads to word of mouth marketing for you which means, you guessed it, more sales and less churn!
I mention level 6 specifically here because that is the level that requires above average, consistent engagement. However, it's also realistically obtainable.
The best thing you can do is have unlocks at each level eventually. I'd start at level 6 though and make it something that is genuinely awesome and then do the others after.
#2 Unlocks Don't Need to Be Courses
Don't let the words "Classroom" or "course" fool you. Unlocks don't need to be courses. They just need to be delivered in the same style as a course.
They will always appear in the classroom area, but they can be things like access to events (in-person or cyber) or downloadables (PDFs, eBooks, Worksheets, etc).
For my unlocks, I have courses, bonus videos and useful spreadsheets.
They include a training video and a link to open and copy the spreadsheet. This is what that looks like on the inside.
Get creative here, you could also offer things like free software or discounts on other things you offer. That's big "win-win" as it could drive additional sales off Skool.
If you want to deliver a digital download like an ebook or cheat sheet, you'll just need to host it somewhere. If you have a wordpress website, it's very easy. You can learn how to host your files and make them downloadable for free here.
#3 Encourage Members to Download the Mobile App
I don't have the data, but we can safely assume that having a mobile version of Skool handy will dramatically boost the engagement rates for members.
Whenever I want to use Facebook less, the first thing I do is delete the mobile app so I'm forced to use it on desktop.
Don't leave this to chance, in your welcome message to members, remind them to install the app.
I recommend that you do two things.
First, add it to your welcome message.
Next, make an action post for it.
You might also want to add do a "Send email to all members," notification when you make the action post and then once or twice later on as new members join.
#4 Make Sure Your Group Name Is Descriptive and Clear
The discover feature in Skool is only going to get more popular over time. If your group is public and you want to drive sales organically through Skool (why wouldn't you?), make the title obvious.
Instead of something vague like "Born for This," that could apply to any number of niches, be more descriptive in the title and the description below it.
This one is perfect. It makes it painfully obvious what the group is and what to expect.
Ask yourself, "what words would someone type in to find my group?" Then make sure that you include those words in your title and description.
#5 Use a Video + Max Images
Skool doesn't give us a ton of real estate to promote our groups. So it's important that we use every bit of it that they give us.
The best way to get as much bang for your buck as possible is through video. You can embed videos that appear on your group description page.
This group actually used 5 separate videos.
You can also add images which are a great way to quickly explain more about your group than you can fit in the 1,000 character limit they give you.
#6 Leverage the "Online" Feature to Message Members While They're on Skool
If your community is small enough for it to be feasible, reach out to your members who are online.
This is a great way to make people feel seen and valued. Both of which are conducive to increased retention and a more thriving community.
#7 Stoke the Flames of Competition
I regularly like to post and congratulate members who have reached new levels as well as give props to the top weekly contributors.
This is just like gasoline for engagement.
#8 Organize with Categories
Categories give structure to your group. New members will reap the benefit of a deep pool of existing posts and engagements. Categories make it easy to skip between them and find exactly what you're looking for.
Adding emojis in front of your categories is a nice touch.
#9 Pin a Welcome Message with Rules
Bonus: Make a short welcome video that explains the group and how Skool works.
#10 Add Important Links
Bonus: Make a short welcome video that explains the group and how Skool works.
You'll find the place to add links inside of your admin area. You can add the arrows like I did with the reminder in the group description.
#11 Format Text with YayText
You might be surprised to see that Skool doesn't allow you the ability to format text in your discussion posts. No bold or italics options are available.
This isn't a missed feature, it was actually a feature that was removed. Sam Ovens said that people couldn't control themselves and were making all bold posts, so they killed it.
However, you can bypass this using YayText.com.
I used this for my welcome post and that was about it.
#12 Have an "Action" Category
Action items are a great way to drive engagement. Adding an "Action" category makes it easy for members to see all of the available action items so they can go level up most quickly.
I call mine ⚡️ Action Posts (Level Up). I feel like it's better than just "Action" since that isn't super clear.
Just make sure the action points are relevant and important.
#13 Send an Auto-DM
Skool lets you send a message to all new members of your community. This is an awesome chance to remind them of important first steps or action items.
Just be prepared to answer replies. Don't turn this on if you don't have the bandwidth to reply to messages back.
#14 Use Zapier Integration to Automate Email Collection
If you aren't familiar with Zapier, this part can be a little tricky, but it's worth doing.
Without this integration, you'll have to add the emails of new members manually into your
Here's a tutorial showing how to set up this integration. Keep in mind, the steps will be nearly the same with whichever email software you use.
#15 No Question Goes Unanswered!
The best way to get people to stop engaging in your community is by letting their questions go unanswered. Make a habit of checking your group daily and answering questions.
If that's not something you can make happen, consider hiring an admin or moderator to do it. People will do it for free, but you should pay them if you're making money on the community. Just my 2 cents.
Bonus Tip: Build a Front End Sales Funnel
I actually use WordPress and ThriveCart on the front end of my Skool community. I do this for the following perks.
- Affiliate program. Skool has confirmed they have their own affiliate program coming soon, but in the meantime, this worked wonders for my initial launch.
- One time payments. Skool is focused on the recurring payment model. I love that model too, but on my sales funnels, I like to do one time payments. ThriveCart made that doable.
- Upsells, downsells and bump offers. What is an offer without a funnel anyway?
- Paying out my co-creators automatically through JV contracts. This is an amazing feature no one seems to know or talk about. 50% of my earnings went to my partners Liz and Toni and ThriveCart allowed me to pay them automatically on each sale.
- More room for selling folks on the offer. Skool doesn't give you true sales pages. With WordPress and ThriveCart, I was able to create a long form sales page that I could actively split test.
I included this as a bonus tip because it's far from necessary and for many people, it might just slow them down from taking any action. You can always come back later and make a full-blown sales funnel.
Don't Forget Your 1-on-1 Call!
Reminder, purchase Skool through my affiliate link here, and I'll give do a free 1-on-1 call with you to help you get set up and strategized for success.