It’s a great time for online communities, as more and more creators and brands are trusting them as the best vehicle for delivering value to their members.
But when you look at the best online community platforms, it’s surprising that many industry leaders in online communities don’t offer community app options.
A community app is a no-brainer. It puts your brand community in the hands of the people who want to hear from you the most, and lets you serve your audience in all sorts of neat ways. And, let’s be honest, lots of people don’t even have desktop computers anymore–so if you don’t have a native app, you’re probably behind the curve.
In this article, we’ll give you 7 contenders for the best community app of 2023. Each has a slightly different approach and specialty, but there’s definitely something here for everyone.
What is a community app?
A community app is a software solution that brings the features of an online community–things like discussion forums, member profiles, and content–onto a user’s mobile device. Most community apps are designed-for-mobile versions of web apps.
In less formal terms, it’s an app that runs a community! Online communities are becoming more and more common in their own right, and lots of brands are also looking to add communities to their existing offerings as a way to serve their audience better. With a community app, at minimum, you can bring great discussions into your users’ hands.
But many community app options go far beyond a forum function, giving you a ton of amazing features to build with, things like courses, subgroups, the options for paywalls, live streaming, and analytics.
Plus, the best community apps also give you a white-label platform to build your own brand and not theirs.
What to look for in a community app
Usually, when we think about what to look for in a community app, we’re talking about features. The community features are what make up the daily experience of your community app and all you can do with it. It’s the features that will delight and engage your members.
Which is fair game. So we’ll start here. But below we’ll talk about some other things worth considering too–things like the app company’s experience and track record, customer support, and approach to building.
Here are some features that you can look for in a community app solution:
- Discussion forums
- Member profiles
- Chat & messaging
- Content options (video + short- and long-form text)
- Live & pre-recorded courses (LMS)
- Event hosting
- Event scheduling and RSVP
- Custom groups and Spaces
- AI community features
- SSO and security features
- Custom branding
- White-label app & notifications
On top of features, here are a few more things to watch for:
- Experience: Look at the track record of the company, what experience they have developing community solutions and whether your community app will be around for the long haul.
- Support: Support is vital for any community app, and even more so if you’re building a white-label app. Make sure you’ve got people in your corner if there are tech troubles.
- Product Roadmap: Some community app companies are still shipping the same product they were 5 years ago. And some are committed to constantly evolving and growing, adding new features for their users.
Why businesses should build community apps
Because you’ll make more
Want to know the #1 thing we see when brands launch a community app? NEW REVENUE!
Honestly, a community app has so much potential to open up new value, new products, new ways of delighting your clients and customers.
Here are some REAL LIFE examples we’ve seen from creators, brands, and organizations that have built a community app with Mighty Pro:
- A podcaster and author sold 5,000 seats to a $997 course in 10 days!
- A non-profit onboarded 9,000 national members!
- An entrepreneurship organization launched to 5,000 members and recouped their investment in 2 ½ weeks!
- One social impact SAAS company added Pro to their regular conferences and saw a 70% increase in contributions & engagement!
Because your funnel sucks
It’s time to kill your sales funnel. Put it out to pasture. You don’t need to be one of the brands jamming unwilling customers through miserable (and blatantly obvious) steps toward a “BUY NOW” button.
Quit forcing customers and create… community.
Community takes the focus off of pushing the next sale and moves your members toward a “value journey”. You can build connection, members can find a place to belong, and they get value from YOU and your brand…
This opens up new business opportunities you’ve probably never even thought about–90% of paid communities make sales in addition to a membership fee! Your existing members are ALWAYS the focal point for growth.
Because your engagement will explode
There’s a reason social media apps do so well. They put community in the palm of their users' hands. The result is notifications that keep you coming back and a habit that can form around your community engagement.
That’s why, the number one word for a community app is ENGAGEMENT.
A community in the palm of your members’ hands is way more accessible than one that sits on a laptop they don’t always open.
Why do you need a community app?
So why do you need a community app? Above we talked about thighs like increased revenue, better retention, and growing engagement. Well, obviously for the reasons we talked about above.
But if that’s too fuzzy, here’s the black and white. The real deal.
When it comes to the possibilities of the creator economy, a community app is the ultimate way to monetize, with higher margins and revenue potential than pretty much any other online monetization method.
- If you’re a thought leader or influencer with an existing audience elsewhere, launching a community is a great way to build deeper connections with your followers.
Here are a few of the many reasons people choose to launch a community app:
- To sell memberships
- To offer a premium experience
- To deliver value a website can’t
- To upsell new products and services
- To sell courses
- To host live events
- To livestream
- To offer group coaching or a mastermind
Oh yeah… and one more thing. What do the features above have in common? Most brands and creators are running them on 12 different platforms and running themselves ragged trying to keep up.
A great community app will center all of your activity and energy in one place, saving your time and money.
The best community app
Whatever your vision is for an online community app, there are a lot of options to make it work for you. Here are some of the best community apps for your brand.
1. Mighty Networks
The best community platform
Mighty Networks is powerful cultural software that brings together community, courses, content, and commerce. And our flexible Spaces let you mix in live streaming, live events, discussion forums, member profiles, chat and messaging, and more! Mighty has the best-in-class community features, is top-rated on G2, and is constantly growing and evolving.
With Mighty, you can monetize your community in a ton of different ways, from the option to easily sell community memberships, courses, events, coaching, private groups, or bundles of all of these things in 135 currencies or with token-gating.
All this comes on an intuitive and elegant Mighty Networks app for Android and iOS, giving your members access to your community on your phone–including logins, notifications, and all the features of the web app like livestreaming, courses, memberships, discussions, and content options.
It’s the best community app out there. And if you want your own app completely under your own brand, keep reading 🙂
Mighty Network Features
- Top-rated community platform with every feature you could ever need: livestreaming, live and pre-recorded courses, memberships, events, member profiles, and content.
- Lots of monetization options: sell courses, events, memberships, and bundles in your own currency or even with token-gating
- Enhanced analytics and a custom dashboard
- Unlimited members, moderators, and admins on every plan (no hidden fees)
- A beautiful Mighty Networks app for every device.
- Community AI-assist with Mighty Co-Host™
2. Mighty Pro
The best community platform + your own app
Mighty Pro is a premium, white-label community app builder that makes it really simple to get a beautiful community app under your brand. It takes the rich features of a Mighty Network that we talked about above, and white labels them under your own app. That’s YOUR app in the App Store and Google Play Store. Your brand. Not ours.
Mighty Pro has built apps for Adriene Mishler, Drew Binsky, TED, Cambridge University, and Fortune. You get the Mighty Pro Team behind you: a team of Account Executives and Community Strategists who have scaled 7-figure creator brands and 8+-figure subscription businesses. We’ll work with you to strategize, plan, and launch your community app under your own brand in the iOS and Google Play store. We also provide ongoing support throughout your app’s lifecycle, walking you through valuable analytics and making sure everything is working smoothly.
And Mighty is the leader in community AI, building in features to help boost human connection and creativity in your community. With Mighty Co-Host™, you get a Chat-GPT-powered community assistant, that can generate course outlines, help you with writing posts, give you icebreakers, and even automate conversation with the Infinite Question Generator (and it can be turned off if you prefer).
We’ll even handle the migration if you need it–saving you the headache. Mighty is the ONLY brand that lets you build and monetize a community and upgrade to white-label apps when you’re ready.
If you’d like to learn more about what we could build together, schedule a call with us.
Mighty Pro - Pros and Cons
Mighty Pro - Pros
- G2’s best-rated community platform
- Best feature set: Live streaming, interactive forums, custom activity feed, elegant course creation, virtual events, Spaces, charge in your own currency, sell bundles
- Advanced analytics & custom dashboard
- Ongoing VIP support
- Your brand in the App Store & Google Play Store
- Innovative roadmap
- AI Integration (Mighty Co-Host™)
- The Mighty Pro Team behind you
- We handle integrations
- It quickly pays for itself (ask us how!)
Mighty Pro - Cons
- It’s a premium service (but users can start with a Mighty Network instead)
3. Wild Apricot
Best for live community events
Wild Apricot is a membership software specifically created for nonprofits and other similar organizations. It does also feature a community app option, making it a contender here. With Wild Apricot you can build member databases, use it to contact them, and charge for membership fees and dues. It even has the option to create unique websites for individual chapters. So, for example, if a national association had regional chapters, they could each create their own subspace.
One of the best things about Wild Apricot’s community app is its functionality for live events. While it lacks a lot of the features for a robust virtual community that a platform like Mighty Pro has, it does have some good features for running a live conference. So, for example, your members could pay membership fees, scan a QR code for registration, and have an event schedule within the app itself–rather than having to lug papers around.
Wild Apricot Pros and Cons
- Good member database features
- Mobile event management + ticketing (with the app)
- Website-building features
- Options for regional chapters and subgroups
- Very basic forum features
- Dated interface
Best free community app
Discord is a well-known platform for gamers, that’s mostly free–making it one of the best free community apps. Created for PC gamers, Discord gives you the capability for live streaming and chat. You can create your own forum (AKA “server”) and bring people together for conversations.
Discord is great for friends who want to get a conversation going, and it’s a good free community app. The primary form of communication will be via text or voice chats–each of which happens in their own channels.
But if you’re looking for a community app you can build your own brand on, charge for access, or create courses, it’s not the right option. This means it’s not really for businesses, organizations, or even creators–it’s way too limited.
Discord Pros and Cons
- Engaging forum platform with cool features
- Solid text and voice chat tools
- Free to use
- Difficult to monetize a community or grow a business
- Features are limited (ie. you can’t teach a course or host a planned virtual event)
- The membership features are limited (especially for a growing community)
Second best community platform + app
While we talked about Mighty Networks above as the best all-in-one community app builder, Disciple is another option. Based in the UK, it has a premium app plan that starts with a base of 500 users–you can pay to add more members and features as you go. It has some good customization and member management capability for your app.
As far as app features go, Disciple gives you the option to create a forum that hosts multimedia posts. You can also build courses for your members and live stream. It also comes with an activity feed and notification options that let each member know what’s been happening in the community.
One of the downsides to Disciple as a community app is that there are different user experiences between the app and the web app. This might not be an issue for those who only use the app, but if you have a community that can be accessed through both a website and an app, it could be an issue. For example, live streaming is only available on the app, not on the website.
Disciple Pros and Cons
- Good content features and forum functions for building a text-based community
- Member engagement features like livestreaming, groups, and polls
- Monetization through subscriptions, in-app tools, sponsorships, etc.
- Different experiences between web and mobile app (limited web-app features)
- Community only (no courses or events)
- Tiered pricing based on adding features, members, etc.
Kajabi is best known as a course platform, that’s where it shines. But Kajabi has recently added some community features that make it a possibility for those who want a community app.
On the course side, Kajabi mixes a good LMS with a solid set of marketing features: things like custom landing pages, upsells and down sells, integrated email, and funnels. These features have given Kajabi a reputation as a good platform to sell courses.
But with an increase in people looking to add course communities, Kajabi recently replaced their old–extremely basic–community platform with a new alternative they call Kajabi Community 2.0. Kajabi Community 2.0 is an improvement on the old community engine. It gives users a forum engine, and some good community discussion features.
Kajabi makes this list for their course engine, but even the upgraded community engine is missing a lot. There aren’t really ways to subdivide your community with spaces, activity feeds, or discovery. They also haven’t added advanced membership features like members near you, livestreaming, or other features you commonly see in the community apps on this list. In fact, Kajabi still hosts their own community in a Facebook Group–which says a lot.
Last but not least, Kajabi Community 2.0 exists as a separate product from Kajabi’s main course page–meaning your users would have to sign in at two different places. This makes it feel like 2 different products. And to get a white-label app you need to pay for a third-party to “wrap” Kajabi content.
All in all, Kajabi never really grew into a community business model–it’s awkwardly tacked on. If you’re looking to really build and scale a business with a courses and community app, Kajabi is an option–but the community part is its weakness.
Kajabi Pros and Cons
- Well-known course platform with a really good traditional LMS (not as strong for live courses)
- Marketing features like emails, funnels, and landing pages built-in
- The community itself is really basic (they host their own community on a Facebook Group).
- Separate log-ins for courses and community.
- Very limited community features, missing things like events, livestreaming, and membership features.
- Complicated to get a white-label app
Circle is another platform that comes with a good native community app for iOS. Circle gives users a set of discussion features for a community forum, with useful things like livestreaming and member profiles built in. They also recently added the option to create live or pre-recorded courses in your community.
Like the other options on this list, Circle has monetization platforms like creating membership plans and charging for access. It gives you good ways to organize your content with spaces and has a clean, user-friendly design.
There are two downsides to Circle. The first is the price–you get charged more as you add more users, admins, seats, etc. The other downside is the community app itself. Circle is a good community platform, but its track record with apps has been hit-and-miss. The iOS app has been in operation for years and is really good. Circle only added an Android app last year, which is still in Beta mode–users report frequent crashes.
Circle Pros and Cons
- Good community platform with lots of useful features (member profiles, livestreaming, courses, etc.)
- Strong web app and iOS app.
- Clean design and good UX
- The Android app is new & glitchy (but this could improve in the future)
- Additional costs as your community grows for more seats, admin, users, etc.
Examples of a community app
If you’re looking for some inspiration, or just curious to see what sort of community apps people are building, here are some examples we’ve built with Mighty Pro!
- Mindbody One (Customer Community)
- Code Red (Coaching and fitness)
- Oiselle Volée (Running & apparel)
- Wealth Builders Community (Personal finance)
- Kula by Yoga With Adriene (Yoga)
- Slow AF Run Club (“Back of the pack” runners)
Ready to build your community app?
When you build with Mighty Pro, the best community app is... YOURS! Let us help you create an amazing community, under your brand.
Schedule a call with us and we’ll show you what you can do!