What is a community platform?
A community platform is a virtual space where a group of people united in interests, goals, or other commonalities (including identity, purpose, or ideologies) come together to meet, connect, and build relationships with each other. Typically, a community platform is structured with a leader and members of the community. A community leader is typically an individual, but can also be a brand, company, or organization.
The biggest benefit of online communities is that they can bring people together from all around the world. There are no geographic or physical barriers to membership. Modern community platforms provide ways for members of a community to also meet up in the real world with other people who are physically close to them.
There are different types of community platforms available, and choosing the right one depends on the goals, motivations, and starting conditions of community leaders. For example, your choice of community platforms may be different if you are starting a community from scratch for the first time with no social media following or email list, versus when you want to build a new destination for your social media followers to meet and build relationships with each other in the context of an online course or paid membership.
Community platform features
Typical features of a community platform include discussions, messaging, and member profiles that enable the group to share stories, experiences, ideas, and opinions with other members. More recently, community platforms have begun to add new features, such as polls and questions, events calendars, sub-groups, and, in some cases, online courses that offer a community leader more ways to build relationships between members.
The biggest difference between community platforms is whether they exist on their own as their own “destination” website and/or mobile apps, or are a part of a larger platform such as Facebook’s Facebook groups, Reddit’s subreddits, Discord’s groups, or Slack’s teams.
Communities that exist as their own destinations offer more focus for members, as well as branding and revenue opportunities for leaders. However, they also require a leader to bring members to a new website, which isn’t always easy. In contrast, communities that are a part of larger platforms offer a steady stream of new members, but require the leader to compete for someone’s attention not just upfront but throughout the life of the community. As social media has become more controversial, this has become more challenging.
Examples of community platforms
SWEAT: Kayla Itsines’ fitness community platform is both browser- and app-based. The platform is host to online workouts, recipes, shopping lists, and customized workouts that match fitness levels and goals. Members can also connect on the private platform to share pictures, inspire, and motivate each other.
Mighty Networks: This white-label community platform service provides all the tools a community leader needs for hosting and growing their own online community. Examples of communities the platform hosts include Octo Members (by Lee Robertson), which brings together online finance professionals, and Wanderful (by Beth Santos), which connects female solo travelers.