Content creators around the world have found immense success utilizing online community platforms to grow their businesses. Thanks to the ease of use that these platforms offer, anyone can get started building an online community or online course.
In recent years, a number of companies have grown in popularity for their ability to build digital businesses with a focus on community. One company that many creators have been drawn to is BuddyBoss, an open-source platform where users can build online communities, memberships, and courses. But just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they are the best option.
Ahead, we’re breaking down the difference between open source and SaaS platforms and providing you with some great BuddyBoss alternatives that will make your life easier.
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SaaS vs. open-source platforms
If you’ve done any research into the various online community platforms on the market, you’ve probably come across the terms “open source” and “SaaS.” If you’re not familiar with the tech industry, however, these terms can be pretty confusing.
So, before we jump into what BuddyBoss alternatives are the best, we’re taking a detour to talk about the basics of how these various platforms function.
When people say SaaS they are referring to “software as a service.” SaaS is a form of software delivery that allows creators access from any device with an internet connection through the cloud. So, in the context of online community platforms, a SaaS-based platform is usually a subscription-based service that is hosted and maintained by the provider and gives you access to powerful pre-built tools and features to develop your own online community.
On the other hand, open-source platforms are built on a framework where the software’s source code is available to anyone who uses it and can be inspected, modified, and enhanced to fit their needs.
To break it down a bit further, the “source” code is part of the software that is beneath the surface, the DNA, so to speak, that determines how the software works. So, the ability to manipulate open source software can be incredibly powerful in the right hands. But if you don’t have the skills yourself, it can be costly to use an open-source platform because you’ll need to pay programmers to develop your site.
Both options have strengths and weaknesses, but for most people, SaaS platforms will provide a much simpler solution that doesn’t compromise creative power. Let’s take a look at what BuddyBoss is all about and then we’ll suggest some Buddyboss alternatives.
What’s the deal with BuddyBoss?
BuddyBoss is an open source online community plugin designed to be utilized with a pre-existing WordPress site. When you choose to utilize the BuddyBoss plugin, you can build online communities and courses for members to engage with on your website. The plugins were built and designed by WordPress experts who wanted to create functionality for users to have forums and social networks, news feeds, and more.
In some ways, BuddyBoss has helped provide creators with an option to create their own private social networks akin to Facebook.
Where BuddyBoss excels
The BuddyBoss plugin’s main use is to provide online community creators with a framework to connect like-minded people together on their website. On the community you build through BuddyBoss, members can create detailed profiles, and you can assign them different roles (such as being a moderator). Additionally, creators can section members off into individual groups.
And because BuddyBoss was specifically built for WordPress, the platform is highly customizable and able to accept many integrations. You can create online courses through a Learn Dash integration, as well as charge for subscriptions and courses through third-party integrations.
Where BuddyBoss stumbles
While the BuddyBoss framework sounds enticing—who doesn’t love the ability to customize to your heart’s content?—that level of flexibility and customization comes at a hefty price. While it might seem like the pricing isn’t that bad (a WordPress website that is built for eCommerce will run you about $59/month and BuddyBoss is $228/year for the basic plan) you’ll also have to pay for all your integrations.
Your bill will add up fast if you’re thinking of offering any sort of robust experience like an online course coupled with an online community. Additionally, utilizing an open-source platform like BuddyBoss means that you’ll need to have some technical expertise in order to utilize all the bells and whistles that open-source offers you.
Now that we’ve talked about some of BuddyBoss’s strengths and weaknesses, let’s explore some of the best BuddyBoss alternatives.
What to look for in BuddyBoss alternatives
If you’re reading this article, then you’re likely passionate about the potential of building an online community. And whether you’ve used BuddyBoss in the past, or you’re just exploring your options, you may want to learn more about what other community platforms can offer.
With that said, we’ve chosen three aspects to look out for in BuddyBoss alternatives:
Native features and customization
Many people flock to open-source solutions like BuddyBoss because they want to have a strong sense of control and customization available to them. In reality, that control comes at a cost because of the software’s reliance on integrations.
The best BuddyBoss alternatives will give you as many native features as possible, so you can worry less about juggling multiple platforms (and fees) and more about designing great online communities and courses. Instead of relying on many different integrations, you should be able to tie together your community with an online course or event all under one roof.
Another concern for many creators is how they will be able to monetize their content and community. On more traditional social media sites like Facebook, it’s incredibly difficult to have reliable monetization options. Monetization is important because it gives you more resources—both time and money—to make your community awesome.
Additionally, it’s important to have different options for members to pay for your content. Not only does this allow you to appeal to different potential customers, but it gives people more agency to decide how and what they want to pay for. Some important features to look out for are the ability to offer paid subscriptions (one-time, monthly, and annually), online courses, virtual events, and gated content.
Most importantly, the transactions should be seamless for your members.
Whether you choose BuddyBoss or an alternative to BuddyBoss, your online community should be easy to access for your members. When we talk about the availability of a platform, we’re referring to it being available across web, iOS, and Android devices. This is important because your members live busy lives and incredibly aren’t tied to their computers at home. If you choose an online community platform with great mobile support, you’ll increase how long your members stick around and how active they are.
What are the best alternatives to BuddyBoss?
So, we’ve talked about the important aspects one should consider with a BuddyBoss alternative, now let’s take a look at some of the platforms to check out.
1. Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks is a powerful cultural software that brings together content, community, courses, and commerce, all in one place. It's flexible Spaces approach lets you customize what YOU need for your membership, adding things like live streaming, courses, discussions, static content, and live events. And you can build bundles, charge in 135 different currencies, OR use token-gating.
Unlike many alternatives to BuddyBoss, Mighty Networks grows with you. AND it gives you amazing apps out of the box for every device.
Pros of Mighty Networks
- Everything you need in one place and available everywhere. Mighty Networks is an all-in-one platform, so you can create an online community, online course, and virtual events that are connected and existing all in one centralized location. Your Mighty Network is also available across web, iOS, and Android devices.
More native features, fewer integrations. On a Mighty Network, you’ll have access to a wide range of customization options and features that have been designed to work effortlessly on the platform without the need to integrate a third-party application. This will bring more cohesion to your brand and will save you time and money on juggling integrations.
Great community analytics. Through Mighty Insights, creators are given detailed community data about how their members engage with their content, where they are coming from, and much more. All of this is packaged on a powerful website, so creators can make informed decisions for their business.
Cons of Mighty Networks
- While Mighty Networks has more tools and features available natively, one that currently isn’t available is a discovery tool for customers to find new networks to join.
The bottom line: Mighty Networks has changed the way creators build digital businesses powered by community. The platform is a great alternative to BuddyBoss because it has robust community building tools, as well as online course creation options. On top of that, the emphasis on native features means creators spend less money paying for multiple integrations to get what they want.
Kajabi is an online course platform that has focused on the importance of marketing tools for selling online courses. They believe that creators should have the features needed to build high-quality online courses and market them easily, so you can grow your digital business.
Pros of Kajabi
- Strong marketing toolset. There are few online course platforms on the market that can rival Kajabi when it comes to their marketing toolset. Kajabi has a lot of resources for creating emails, landing pages, and sales features that creators can use to get more eyes on their work.
- Some native features. Kajabi has designed some native features for creators to build their online courses such as video uploads, discussion boards, graded assessments, and more. And on top of that, while not ideal, they do have a wide range of integrations to utilize.
Cons of Kajabi
- Expensive. While Kajabi offers some great features for marketing and building online courses, their platform is one of the more costly ones available. Many creators utilize it, but there are cheaper alternatives on the market that offer just as many features, if not more, for the price.
- Minimal community building options. Kajabi is first and foremost an online course building platform. So, if you’re looking for a BuddyBoss alternative to build an online community, you’ll be a bit disappointed. While you can create a community space on Kajabi, the features are pretty basic compared to other alternatives.
The bottom line: Kajabi didn’t become a world-renowned online course platform for nothing. Their platform has some of the most powerful monetization and marketing tools on the market, but this also suggests where their attention lies: on sales. Part of building a community is forging strong connections with and between your members. With Kajabi that will be difficult.
Circle is a community platform designed to connect a creator’s members and content together, so discussions are all in one place. The platform is fairly new but has gotten a lot of buzz from content creators for how easy it is to integrate into a pre-existing platform they may be using. The platform is built to be analogous with competitors like on communication Slack or Discord. Circle has done a good job of giving creators organized, minimal community spaces that are focused around “Topics” or designated spaces for discussion.
Pros of Circle
- A solid set of community features. Circle’s main focus is to give creators a way to build minimalistic online community spaces for businesses. You can create private groups, members can write detailed profiles, and you can easily integrate third-party apps into the service.
Integrates easily. While we don’t think that integrations are the best solution for creators, we can’t deny that Circle has a plethora of options for integrating third-party apps’ services to supplement your community. This will be a costly endeavor but it is an option.
Cons of Circle
Their mobile app is only on iOS. A big hurdle right now is that Circle’s mobile app experience is only available through iOS. This cuts out a large portion of potential members from having mobile app access to your online community services.
You pay more for everything. Circle gets expensive when pretty much everything that's included with Mighty Networks is a paid add-on. You'll pay more for extra members, Hosts, mods, and spaces -- while Mighty lets you have all these things unlimited.
Bottom line: Circle is an ok option for a creator who is entrenched Teachable and can’t move away from it -- that's waht it was designed for. You’ll be able to integrate easily, but ultimately the platform has minimal monetization options, is only available on iOS for mobile, and lacks a robust array of native features. These are all major roadblocks you’ll have to overcome.
Conclusion - Want to try Mighty Networks?
At Mighty Networks, we’ve built the best online community experience out there because we’ve believed in the power of online community building since day one. Our platform is designed to take away the hassle of managing multiple integrations to stitch together the experience you want to offer your community members.
Instead, on a Mighty Network, you’re getting an all-in-one platform that allows you to build awesome communities and couple them with online courses and virtual events. The best BuddyBoss alternative should utilize all of the bells and whistles that a SaaS platform can provide, and a Mighty Network does that.
Here are just a few of the many things you can do with Mighty Networks:
- Offer paid memberships.
- Have your own branded app that is accessible in the App Store and Google Play store.
- You can post videos, images, and audio clips.
- Natively live stream within your Mighty Network.
- Create polls, discussion boards, quizzes, and Q&As.
- Build fully customizable online courses with dedicated communities
More customization, flexibility, and mobility sounds pretty great, right? Let’s get started building your community.