September 4

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7 Best Online Community Platforms to Build an Engaged Group of People

By Hanson Cheng

September 4, 2021


Having an engaged community is worth its worth in gold. People starting discussions, others responding and everyone living in perfect online harmony.

Sounds like a dream doesn’t it? It all starts with choosing the right online community platform.

Community platforms help companies and communities communicate efficiently online. It allows all members to discuss current topics and get clarification where needed.

If you want a community full of engaged and active members, the right community platform might be something to consider.

In this article, I'm going to talk about the best community software available right now so that you can be aware of what is available and make the right decision. Let's get right into it.

Top 7 Community Platforms To Consider

Community software companies are beginning to play an important role in online communities, especially when it comes to providing tools for communication and collaboration. 

These solutions provide tools that help members get connected with the company’s brand, products, or services by creating customer discussion forums where they can post questions, suggestions, or complaints. 

This forum software gives everyone the chance to be a part of one community united by a common topic.

Here are our top 7 community platforms to consider.

1. Tribe

Tribe is particularly focused on customer community-building features, and it provides its members with course creation and monetization tools. 

Tribe enables you to create a completely white product experience while also customizing every aspect of branding - from logos and widgets to colors and domain names. It allows you to use a library of applications and integrations to expand your community's capabilities.

Every successful business should make an effort to connect and provide the best experience for its consumers - Tribe allows a business to do just that. It is the world's first all-in-one community platform for creating, managing, and growing online communities that build lasting relationships with the most valuable customers and supporters.

With Tribe, you can start a new community or expand an existing site into a social networking powerhouse. It has custom post types for events, groups, memberships (or teams), and nodes – which means it's perfect for everything from online schools to business organizations or small businesses looking to open their storefront. 

Tribers can also easily integrate their existing sites with Facebook and Twitter using the social login feature so users don't need another username and password to remember; all while still keeping their profiles separate from those of other social networks.

2. Hivebrite

Hivebrite is a tool that allows organizations to manage their alumni networks, volunteer platforms, and other professional connections. The platform has all of the features you'll need. You'll plan, produce, edit, and moderate content for events and sales tickets, as well as deliver emails and push notifications. You'll break down smaller networks within your network. You can also use the tool to set up membership tiers, charge subscription fees, and accept donations.

This means that Hivebrite can be used to manage the entire lifecycle of a group, from its inception as an idea to building up and growing a community around that idea, launching it into the world by holding events or selling things other people made.

This tool is being marketed for alumni groups as one of its main target audience; however, Hivebrite can also be used by activist groups and solidarity networks. For example, if you wanted to create your own bakery cooperative/workers' center/autonomous zone, Hivebrite could help you administer all aspects of growing your business - and do so in a democratic manner.

3. Circle

Circle is a one-of-a-kind community platform dedicated to community development. The user interface is simple and easy to use, and the Circle team has put together a unique social network that allows users to post articles, videos, images, etc., while simultaneously rewarding them for their efforts.

This makes it easier to locate and participate in relevant conversations. It's also available on the go, with iOS and Android apps available. This means that your community can take it with them wherever they go. Simply put, this is the social network of the future.

This plugin makes it easy to add payment processing software as well as membership functionality directly into your WordPress site. It also works with other popular membership systems like Memberful and MemberSpace. Users can also use their existing login credentials to connect with Circle using custom Single Sign On(SSO) integrations.

4. Facebook Groups

We can't have an article on online community platforms without mentioning Facebook groups. These tools allow people to join other people based on similar interests. The group owner can moderate the posts and schedule events, such as mass announcements or informative posts. These posts can include all sorts of multimedia, including images, videos or just text.

Facebook groups also have the option to allow people to schedule events and upload files. It is important to highlight that groups can be public or secret, depending on the preference of the group owner. The security settings are however set by the group admins.

Facebook groups also have useful applications for event marketing like hosting contests or sending invitations to an event. They could also use tools like polls to engage the members of their group. Facebook groups are just like communities - all within the walls of Facebook itself.

By setting up your custom URL, you can promote your group and bring other members into it by sharing the link with them.

5. Disciple

Setting up an online community on Disciple is straightforward; all platform features are ready-to-use right out of the box. The 'Disciple' native live streaming capability allows you to broadcast in your community without using Zoom or another third-party software. 

This means that your followers can chat with you right in the same window as your video, which makes for a more engaging and encouraging community. By messaging one another, members can help each other out when it comes to common issues.

Disciple has a lot of lucrative monetization alternatives, allowing you to offer subscriptions and charge for access to either the entire community or select sections within it. The one who can provide high-quality online communities is sure to make a name for themselves and stand out from the sea of internet content.

Disciple can be the perfect platform to do so.

6. BuddyBoss

BuddyBoss is a WordPress-centric community software rather than a standalone website service. This covers all of the basic requirements for using open source community software when it comes to creating your community site.

The installation process is completely automated and you will need only a few clicks to get the software up and running on your server.

You may offer community courses via WooCommerce so sharing your knowledge will be easy. As open-source software, BuddyBoss can be used for free, but you might want to purchase a license if the site is commercially oriented.

BuddyBoss allows you to have your own branded mobile app for iOS and Android devices. Giving access to your members on the go is a possibility.

Your site is also likely to generate more revenue because it is compatible with WooCommerce, hence allowing you to sell courses and products. It's simple to use and gets the job done. It also has capabilities such as push notifications, in-app purchases, and so on.

7. Mighty Networks

The most popular hosted platform for content producers might be Mighty Networking. It enables you to create Quick Pages, Polls, and Complete Articles which means that you do not need to code anything.

Mighty Networks is all in the cloud so there are no hardware costs for you and you don't have to self-host your comments in a third-party community solution.

Mighty Networks also sells premium packages for its customers, which include access to the Analytics Tool, extra storage space, and more.

Community Platforms vs. Help Desk Software, CMS, and Collaboration Tools - What are the differences?

The differences between the above mentioned software can be difficult to grasp. One of the main differences lies in what kind of community you would like to have. 

Some platforms may allow for the development of an online support group, while others are mainly used to develop professional communities that help businesses collaborate through different kinds of documents and files hosted on their respective servers.

Let's dive a bit deeper into this.

Community Platforms are used to develop online communities that bring people with a common interest together and allow them to interact via different kinds of tools.

Help Desk Software or Customer Relationship Management solutions are mostly used by companies to manage and maintain their customer relationships, track customer support tickets, automate the process of answering questions, etc. 

Collaboration and Content Management Software helps you keep your website content up-to-date, organize it better and distribute it across multiple web pages - making use of a WYSIWYG editor. 

It also allows you to communicate with other users within your organization so they can edit/contribute freely without affecting one another's work.

Key Use Cases For Community Platforms

You might want to use community platforms in these situations:

  • When you would like to build an online community for your existing customers
  • When you would like to develop a professional community where people from different fields can share knowledge and ideas
  • For building online support communities or customer support ones
  • If you need an all-in-one collaborative software solution that also features a help desk and CMS capabilities
  • When you would like to develop an internal web portal for your employees where they could share ideas and knowledge

Let’s expand on each of the above.

When you would like to build an online community for your existing customers

The easiest way to manage your communication with existing customers is by using a community platform. These platforms are particularly great if you would like to focus on user-generated content, social interactions, and user retention.

When you would like to develop a professional community where people from different fields can share knowledge and ideas

If you want to create an environment that allows for the collaboration of professionals, then keep in mind that website builders are not the only tool you can use. Community platforms come with advanced features that facilitate teamwork - such as file sharing, version tracking, commenting, etc.

For building online support communities or customer support ones.

If you would like to build a community that is focused on customer support, then you need one that comes with customer service features, such as ticket management or automated answers. A community management platform can help with this.

If you need an all-in-one collaborative community software solution that also features a help desk and CMS capabilities

If you are looking for more advanced features than those provided by website builders, then community platforms and CMS platforms might be the ones you are looking for. These come with advanced collaboration features as well as help desk capabilities which are great to have in one product.

Image Credit: http://progress.com

When you would like to develop an internal web portal for your employees where they could share ideas and knowledge.

Most community platforms and CMS solutions allow you to create internal web portals for your employees. This way, they can collaborate and communicate with one another and share their ideas on your private intranet.

Community platforms are great if you either need a cost-effective solution. Usually, there is no need to worry about getting help from IT experts - everything should be pretty simple for those who use these tools every day. 

So, whether it comes down to customer support software or a more sophisticated collaborative environment, community platforms are probably the tool that you have been looking for since they are so versatile in what they can do.

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Community Platform

When choosing a community platform software, you need to consider a few things. Let's consider the factors to keep in mind.

Community moderation

Community moderation is one of the most important features to consider when choosing an online community software.

Some online community platforms come with built-in moderation tools which allow you to ban spammers and delete offensive messages and topics to keep your online community safe for all members.

Image Credit: http://cogitotech.com

Some of them even have an anti-spam filter that weed out comments based on specific criteria before they even come to your attention.

User management tools

If you want to keep your online community safe and sound, then make sure that the platform provides tools that allow you to manage user accounts such as editing profiles and enforcing naming conventions.

All online community platforms let you create groups within your online communities so that you can organize members better into different categories based on their role, profession, or interests. As an example, it becomes easier to find out who the freelancers are, who the developers are, as well as finding those that are interested in project management software

You can also let users create their groups in case you want them to interact with one another.

Advanced features

When choosing an online community platform, it is a good idea to go for those that offer advanced features because they are more versatile and can be used for different purposes such as building customer support communities or even collaborative environments. 

These platforms come with ticket management capabilities, custom themes, multimedia support (e.g., images and videos), file sharing, etc. You might even have platforms that integrate with some of the best sales funnel software for further business growth.

On the other hand, basic online community software comes with simple features that might not meet your needs when developing internal portals or managing customer relationships via help desk solutions.

Gamification

This is an important aspect to consider when choosing a platform. Communities that are made up of people who want to interact with one another can benefit from gamification features such as points, role assignments, or badges for top contributors, etc. 

These advanced functionality tools can help you motivate users and keep them coming back because they desire to gain those achievements and rewards.

Image Credit: http://hurix.com

So, it all comes down to what type of online community you want to build, but most online community platforms offer basic functionalities that should be enough in the majority of cases. Additional features then come down to personal preferences.

Customer engagement and customer support

One of the most important things for any business is to improve customer engagement. The more you know about your customers, the better you can understand and serve their needs. It's as simple as that. 

But, how do you engage with them? Some businesses think that they need to have a blog while others report good results after using Facebook or Twitter for sharing interesting posts (either news or helpful articles).

However, when it comes down to providing customer support, especially online support via help desk software or customer support software, user communities become extremely useful and helpful because members share information, tips and tricks via web discussions which provides essential knowledge about what customers are looking for in case of problems. 

In addition, community users may come up with an answer even before they realize that a question was asked.

Rich user profiles

Some platforms let users create rich profiles (i.e., with images, videos, etc.), which is a great feature to have when building an online community because it provides a better idea about members' expertise and skills. 

This means that you can understand more who your community is made up of and can tailor your message accordingly.

Mobile friendly app

Having a mobile-friendly community is essential because users are now using their smartphones to check for updates, ask questions or search for specific content. 

Most online community software platforms have developed native apps that you can install on your smartphone and tablets easily.

Acquire new customers easily

Adding new customers to your community platform should be a breeze. For example, it may be done by e-mail or via the registration page. 

You can add users manually or have them added automatically to your community platform. If privacy is a big concern for you, then manual user acquisition may be a better choice because it allows you to monitor all incoming requests and decide whether they should join or not.

Another advantage of having an active online community is that new customers will find your company more easily which makes it easier for them to get in touch with you. 

These are people who didn't know about your business before but became interested after finding out how others interacted on the platform.

Collaboration ideas from the community

Some users may require assistance from the community to solve their problems, while others may wish to share ideas with other users regarding your product or service.

The latter is great for generating collaboration and it's one of the reasons why online communities have become so popular among companies and customers alike. 

You can encourage sharing by adding a dedicated discussion board where people can post questions and comments that will be viewed by the entire community members.

Users will be able to reply if they have an answer, or simply like/upvote a thread if they find it useful. 

It's important not to limit users' interactions because such platforms work best when people feel free to express themselves to help others improve their experiences, give unbiased feedback on products or services, or just simply thank individuals who helped them fix a problem.

Ability to provide Questions and Answers

Another great feature that a lot of people rely on while shopping online is the ability to get fast, reliable, and honest answers about a product or service they're looking for.

While most companies have FAQ sections on their websites to answer some common questions, user communities are more helpful when it comes to such issues because knowledgeable users can provide tips and tricks based on years of experience.

This means that you don't have to worry about less helpful comments being published as part of your help desk software or customer support platform.

Event management and promotion

Many online communities also come with built-in event management features, which makes it easier for companies to host webinars or various types of live events. 

In addition, some platforms are developed to work best with specific e-commerce gateways to generate more sales and profits from each user you get into the community.

Another great feature is the ability for your customers to take part in special offers and promotions organized by your company. 

You can set an expiration date for such events (i.e., running a 30% discount on all items sold until further notice) as well as choose when they should start and end based on your business needs.

Custom Domain Name

Most online community platforms are built on top of a CMS platform that allows for quite a bit of customization of the interface (i.e., logo and colors).

In addition, it's possible to set up a custom domain name if you don't like the default one selected by the platform developer. This will allow you to host your community business website without using your company's main domain name. 

However, this approach may take more time and effort to set up as well as require additional maintenance.

User experience

One of the best things about online community platforms is that they allow users to create topic-specific discussion boards. This means that you can add a dedicated support section, product or service reviews, and any other type of content depending on what your company offers.

Another great thing about these platforms is that you'll be able to choose from different types of memberships and membership levels to ensure more freedom for those who are allowed to view specific content while keeping others away from sensitive information such as financial details or email lists.

Integration with social media

As you may already know, many online community platforms are integrated with popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. This means that users will be able to follow specific hashtags to bookmark content they feel can help them with their current tasks.

This type of integration is also useful for companies because it allows them to reach different people across the web without having to set up a new profile or page they would need to maintain regularly. 

All you have to do is take advantage of your existing efforts to make this strategy work out as planned.

Analytics

By using many of the above listed SaaS, you will be able to have access to real-time information about customer retention, workflow success, automation, and other important metrics that will allow you to be in control of your community management platform. 

In addition, key features will give you information to make your community management software much more interactive. This means that member management will become a piece of cake. 

Having moderators is also important when thinking about analytics. Such people can help with new features, online courses, and even the management system as a whole - ensuring that the numbers generated and analytics provided to you as the community owner, do make sense.

Other factors

There are other things to consider when choosing an online community platform, but the most important thing is whether it can help you achieve your business goals and objectives or not. 

Some of these platforms allow you to use gamification features, have an activity feed, integrate APIs with existing software solutions and offer support - some even have slack integration to help with general management. 

Make sure you find out as much as possible about each one before deciding which one suits your needs best. Having a feature-rich community is crucial. You might also consider enterprise solutions where there is a set pricing based on the number of members you actively have on the platform.

Being able to white-label your community might also be something to consider. This means that the community features will seem as if they are all yours, and not another company's. 

Next, being able to create subgroups with your platform will make the job of a community manager much easier since people with different, yet related interests can group up together. After all, finding your online niche market is always key to starting an online business and seeing long-term success.

Finally, if you can integrate your platform with a CRM, you will also be able to handle the marketing side of the business much easier.

Conclusion

In conclusion, online business community platforms are powerful sales and marketing tools that allow you to get more customers, improve brand awareness, generate leads, increase customer loyalty and build a strong network. 

As seen in the list above, there are many different factors you need to consider when choosing the platform that fits your company's unique needs best. Therefore, our advice is to consider each factor carefully before making a decision in order to find out which one is right for you. 

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Last Updated on September 13, 2021 by Hanson Cheng

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Hanson Cheng

About the author

Living in Bali with my Fiancee and puppy, (Alina and Pickles). Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter. Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

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