There’s so much planning that goes into building a great online community, one of the key decisions is where you should host your community. There are loads of platforms out there to host your community on - but you need to ensure that whatever you choose is right for your needs.
That’s where we come in - this article tells you the key information about the top community platforms on the market to help you make the right decision for your community.
The first platform we’re discussing is Slack, a popular business messaging tool. Although not really known for its community-building capabilities, this platform is a popular choice for creating communities of professionals since the Slack app is so well distributed within these audiences.
Slack is very user-friendly and easy to use with conversations easily split up by topic in channels and sections. There is a free plan for Slack, but it is fairly limited as you can only search the past 10k messages and make 1:1 video calls.
Slack is better for real-time communication than for asynchronous discussions but has a wide range of integrations such as GoogleDrive, Dropbox, and Zoom. These might be useful for your community to share ideas or host group meetings without the need for the paid version of Slack.
Okay here’s a quick round-up of additional information you might need before we talk pricing.
- Members directory
- File browser
- Video calling
Slack doesn’t have:
Slack has four pricing tiers:
- $6.67 per active member per month
- $12.50 per active member per month
- Enterprise - for larger companies, you can contact Slack for a quote
Circle is a great option if you’re looking for a standalone community platform. It has a modern design and an intuitive user interface. Chats can be split up into different sections and the Circle widget can easily be embedded on your website.
Currently, there is an iOS app but not an android app and Circle has custom single sign-on integrations - meaning members could use their membership credentials from your website to log in.
Circle has three pricing tiers:
- $39 (+4% transaction fee) per month
- $99 (+1% transaction fee) per month
- $399 (+0.5% transaction fee) per month
Facebook is a very popular place for communities due to the huge user base of the social media platform. It is super easy to create a community but there is a limit on the number of community members - this means Facebook isn’t for you if you want to host a large community.
There is a lack of ownership and control over what your members will see since this is based on the Facebook algorithm and there may be privacy or distraction concerns. Facebook groups do have access to the Facebook live feature to host events or meets though.
Creating a group on Facebook is completely free, so might be helpful when starting out or on a budget.
Vanilla Forums is a customizable community platform that has a variety of community management features and integrations with sales apps such as Salesforce and Zendesk. The platform is also open source and supports white label apps.
The platform is only really a forum and can’t be used for selling memberships or online courses. It does have gamification, moderation, and events features though.
Vanilla Forums has four pricing tiers, starting at $689 per month. Reach out to them for more accurate pricing.
A simple but effective platform, Discourse allows you to organize conversations and moderate them. A mobile app is available and translation into 45 languages is available. The platform also allows users to reply via email and use various plug-ins. There is also a built-in reporting dashboard, but very limited engagement tools.
The code for a Discourse community is free and open source - you just have to pay to host your community (this can be with a 3rd party that isn’t Discourse though).
If you did want Discourse to host your community the prices are:
- $100 per month
- $300 per month
- Enterprise - reach out to Discourse for a quote if you need a bigger plan
Tribe is another white label community platform that can be used to host a customized community space. The forum-based platform can be added to existing websites and apps and allows members to discuss, post multimedia content, ask questions, and take polls. The forum can be organized into different sections.
Some extra key features of Tribe are:
- Integrations with 20+ popular apps including Zapier giving you access to many more apps
- SEO to make your community searchable on Google
- Gamification and notification features to keep members engaged
- Moderation and reporting tools
- Translation into 25+ languages
Unfortunately, Tribe does not offer direct messaging, hosting online courses, or live events.
Tribe has four pricing tiers:
- $59 per month
- $299 per month
- $599 per month
- Enterprise - reach out to Tribe for a quote
Mighty Networks is a versatile all-in-one community platform that allows members to share articles, polls, questions and answers, direct messages, and attend live streams. Use your own branding and monetize subscriptions, members, or online courses through Mighty Networks.
The platform also offers an organized chat system and an activity feed, making it very user-friendly for your members. Users can enjoy apps on every device and the platform can integrate with Zapier.
Some additional features of Mighty Networks are:
- Analytics tracking
- Moderation tools
Mighty Networks has three pricing tiers:
- $33 per month
- $99 per month
- Enterprise - contact the platform for a quote
To sum it up, there are a lot of community platforms out there - each with its distinct pros and cons. This article has covered a few popular platform choices and outlined the benefits of each as well as any shortcomings they may have.
Remember to choose the community platform that is best suited to your community and organization. Some features may be necessary for your community's success (hosting online courses for example), whereas others may take the backburner. There are options to suit any community needs and budget constraints on this list.
Happy community building!
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