If you’re trying to build an online community, you might have come across Circle.so.
If you’ve been thinking about trying Circle community or are currently using it and have outgrown it, this post will talk through 13 alternatives to Circle.so and walk you through some pros and cons of each one.
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What is Circle.so?
Circle.so is a community platform that includes features like discussion forums, chat & messaging, livestreaming, and courses. It also gives you different ways to host and organize content created by both hosts and members.
The Circle platform gives users monetization features, adding paywalls to different spaces to sell memberships, courses, and/or events.
Circle.so starts from $49/mo for the basic plan, but accessing the full features requires at least a professional plan ($99/mo).
Circle community was launched by three former Teachable employees who wanted to create a product to host online communities to supplement Teachable courses.
Benefits of a Circle community
Building a Circle community has some disadvantages, but here are some of the advantages of a Circle community:
- Interactive discussion forums
- Build event, chat, content, or course Spaces
- Member profiles
- Charge for memberships, courses, and events with gating
- Workflow options
- Good iOS app
- Customization tools
Cons of the Circle platform
- Content silos between space types (e.g. you can't add a discussion forum to a course space)
- Poor content organization features (no custom activity feed)
- The LMS is very basic, missing things like assessment tools. It's better for cohort courses.
- Almost no option to create landing pages for selling courses, community, and events
- Limits on everything: max 100 members in the basic plan, max 20 Spaces in the pro plan--you constantly hit the wall, which leads to...
- Hidden fees for extras like additional members, admin, or moderators. Extra costs for additional spaces too
- The Android app was only just released and users report bugginess
- Customization is limited to colors and logos
- The analytics feature is really basic
- If you outgrow Circle, you'll need to move to another platform for a branded app
What to look for in a Circle alternative
When we're ranking features that you should look for in a Circle alternative, here are some of the ones to watch for!
- Discussion forums
- Member profiles
- Chat & messaging
- Live streaming
- Pre-recorded courses
- Live courses
- Live events (w/ RSVP)
- Multiple currencies & token-gating
- Trustworthy apps for iOS and Android
- White-label apps (under your brand)
The 7 best alternatives to Circle
1. Mighty Networks
The Best Circle Alternative
Mighty Networks is a powerful unified member platform that brings together community, courses, content, and commerce. Mighty is ranked the #1 community management software by the review site G2, and it's the best alternative to Circle community.
Mighty gives you flexible Spaces -- each one works like a container that can hold community discussions, live streaming, virtual events, courses, and more. But, unlike Circle, Mighty lets you do all these things in the same Space, choosing which features to turn on or off.
Mighty gives you more ways to monetize too, you can sell memberships, courses, events, premium access, and bundles. Offer discounts, build different kinds of packages, and charge in 129 more currencies than Circle or even monetize with token-gating.
And Mighty gives you a better feature set at a lower cost than the Circle platform. While Mighty's Business Plan is the same price as Circle ($99), Circle.so charges you extra to add more Hosts, members, moderators, and spaces -- On Mighty ALL of these are unlimited.
Here are a few more features Mighty beats Circle on:
- More features for member management: top members, "who's online," members near you, member categories, and ambassadors
- More customization options: branding, light and dark mode, and branded apps when you're ready
- More analytics power: Mighty Insights™ gives you tons of useful data in an easy-to-understand dashboard
- More community AI features: Mighty Co-Host™ runs on Chat GPT and can help you create a Big Purpose, generate a community name, define your brand, create landing and sales pages, and more. And it keeps discussions going with icebreaker generators, member discussion prompts, profile assist, and the "make it better" text editor. Circle's AI is mostly a text editor.
Since you get all the same features and a ton more for the same cost or less, Mighty Networks is the best alternative to Circle.so. (If you want to go deeper, we have a full side-by-side comparison of Mighty Networks vs. Circle.)
- More engagement features than Circle (i.e. livestreaming, polls, Q&A, group chat)
- More flexible Spaces, with a better UX that lets you put ANYTHING you want in one Space
- Better new member sequences, discovery, and content organization
- Powerful, yet easy to use
- Reliable apps for every device type (Circle only recently launched an Android app)
- Charge for courses and subscriptions in 135 currencies or token-gating
- Unlimited members, Hosts, and moderators
- Doesn’t integrate directly with Teachable (because you can host your course on your Mighty Network without paying for another platform)
2. Mighty Pro
Best for branded community apps
If you're looking for all the features of a Circle community and more, all on your own app, then you need Mighty Pro. Mighty Pro harnesses the power of a Mighty Network, with all the features we covered above.
But with Mighty Pro you also get your own branded app (not ours) in the App Store and Google Play Store. Our team will work with you to design an app that meets your needs and fits your brand.
Imagine, your courses and community with:
- Your branded notifications
- Your branded livestreaming
- An app habit centered on your app
- Your detailed brand analytics
Building on Mighty Pro means both tech AND strategy support from our Mighty Pro team: Account Executives and Community Strategists who have scaled 7-figure creator brands and 8+ figure subscription businesses.
Here are some of the awesome results of Mighty Pro customers:
- One personal finance app launched a course and generated $130K in five days.
- A podcaster sold 5,000 seats to a $997 course in under 2 weeks.
- One community launched a 13-week add-on course and generated an additional $100k in revenue in 2 months.
- A non-profit onboarded 9,000 national members.
- A YouTuber launched a live challenge 4,000+ members joined.
- A faith-based community expanded to 470 leaders in 67 countries.
- One social impact SAAS company mixed Pro with their regular conferences and saw a 70% increase in contributions & engagement.
Listen to Cristy "Code Red" Nickel talk about moving her courses to Mighty Pro.
Pro comes with advanced Mighty Co-Host™ AI features, including auto course outlines, icebreakers, profile assist, "make it better" post edits, and the Infinite Question Engine.
In fact, with Mighty's engagement features, you can successfully run a community on just a few hours a week.
And, if you're an existing Circle customer, we'll take care of the migration.
Schedule a call today and we'll show you what we could build together!
Strong on courses, weak on community
Kajabi is one of the best-known online course platforms. It you're looking for a Circle alternative that gives you a pre-recorded course with built-in marketing features, Kajabi might be a good option. It has a powerful set of marketing features built-in, things like upsells, email targeting, funnel/landing pages, and more.
But Kajabi is a bit weak on online communities and even teaching a live course. It used to have 0 real community features. But Kajabi recently launched a new product to try to boost its community weaknesses: Kajabi Community 2.0.
Its an improvement on their former (extremely basic) community function, that adds "Circles" (topic clusters), discussion forums, messaging, and live events.
The downside to Kajabi Community 2.0 is it still doesn't compete with Circle or Mighty Networks as a community forum. People taking your course have to create separate logins and access a separate community area -- it doesn't work well with the course functions.
This means Kajabi isn't the right alternative to Circle for standalone communities or cohort courses (live courses), but it can be a good choice for marketing and hosting a pre-recorded course.
- Can be customized and branded
- Lets you create discussion posts and comments
- The community itself has very limited functionality
- Kajabi is extremely expensive—almost 2x as much as Circle or Mighty Networks
Branded enterprise community apps
The next Circle alternative we'll talk about here is Disciple. It gives you a community platform with branding options, and good content tools. Members can share text, videos, or images, and Disciple has discussion forums, Q&As, and even an activity feed.
Disciple gives you tools for mobile app monetization -- it is app based first and foremost. You can monetize with gated content and subscriptions, manage memberships, and even us a built-in email feature to reach your members.
Disciple has two main weaknesses:
- First, it's an app-based solution. The web app is missing a lot of the features (e.g. livestreaming), creating access issues for desktop users.
- Second: The pricing model is really strange. Instead of a flat fee, you end up paying by the feature. This has pros and cons, but generally adds up to being more expensive than Circle or Mighty Networks.
- App-based community forum with a (limited) web app.
- Build a digital business that sells subscriptions or gated content.
- Customization and branding features
- Good member management tools: lists, email, groups, topics, friends, messaging, etc.
- Missing monetization features for courses and live events
- Different UX & features between the app and webapp
- Feature-based pricing (can get expensive)
Corporate forum platform
Bettermode was formerly called Tribe, and it's a decent alternative to the Circle platform.
Tribe was just a corporate forum platform, but they rebranded and relaunched with some better community-building features.
The forum function lets you host and sort discussions with content and spaces, plus member management tools (profiles, roles, etc.). And it has content creation options, things like images, videos, and polls.
Bettermode has apps that can be white-labelled, multilingual support, email white-labelling, and customization.
It's a good tool for a corporate community-only build. It's missing monetization features of any kind, so it's not the best Circle alternative for a digital business. And it has no courses and no live events.
- Forum-first community with spaces and some member options
- Build under your own brand and white-labelling (apps, email, etc.)
- Custom website builder
- No monetization features
- Missing courses and live events
- Community is limited to a simple discussion forum
Discord is another popular team chat platform. It’s similar to Slack in that it creates a text-based communication solution that helps community members have conversations. Also, like Slack, Discord allows you to create dedicated channels for discussion topics. It also has easy options for voice chatting since it was created for gamers to collaborate.
As an alternative to Circle.so, Discord is comparable to Slack. It’s a good option to create channels for discussions and has the added bonus of easy live calling between members—which could be helpful in some situations. But it’s not really a good platform to build an engaged community on, and doesn’t have nearly the capability of an alternative like Mighty Networks.
- Free & easy to use
- Add voice and video chats
- Has many of the same conversation functions as Circle.so
- Limited tools for growing a community, and would be almost useless for growing a business (very few monetization options)
- No options to host virtual events
- No course functions
- Not functional for organizing a large community
Slack is another alternative to Circle.so. With Slack, you can create specific channels for dedicated conversations, which replicates one of the main features of Circle.
Slack is common, and a ton of companies use it. So, there’s a good chance some of the members will know Slack already from work.
Slack also has a dedicated app that works well and is available across all devices (unlike Circle.so).
- Intuitive and familiar to users
- Available on mobile and web
- Works well for groups that already know each other
- No custom branding
- No direct monetization options
- No options to create online courses
- Charges per member
- No subgroups
8. Higher Logic Vanilla
Customer Community platform
Higher Logic Vanilla is another Circle.so alternative that gives you features for creating and managing customer communities. It can be branded under a corporate brand and gives you some good membership management tools; members can be organized into different groups and you can add polls and questions.
As an online forum solution, Vanilla is made for customer support, companies can engage and answer member questions, connect it to their knowledge base, or even to CRM and CEP solutions like Salesforce or Zendesk.
Higher Logic is an alternative to the Circle platform for brands looking for customer communities. It's not a full community solution for brands looking to monetize and sell digital products and memberships.
The other downside to Higher Logic is that some of the branding is extremely outdated--for examplem, here's the UX for booking an event:
- Build customer forums under a corporate brand
- Add member management features and customization
- Integrate with knowledge base and tools like Zendesk and Salesforce
- Not a full community solution
- Extremely limited subscription and monetization tools
- No apps or white-label apps (webapp only)
Alumni almumni management alternative
Hivebrite includes features like dedicated subgroups, forum functions, and even a job board for students to explore. And it's one of the few options on this list other than Mighty Pro that gives you a branded mobile app.
Hivebrite's best connecting feature for alumni networks? Its tools for events--including event apps. It can handle invite emails, tickets, and event calendars. And it has some monetization features like event ticketing and donor campaigns.
Although the live event features are cool, the lack of comprehensive community features bump Hivebrite down the list of Circle alternatives.
It's really missing the type of comprehensive tools you'd expect in an community platform. And the limited virtual event options with no livestreaming or video tools knock it down the list even more.
- Live event management and useful alumni features
- CMS tools with job board
- Good live event tools
- Apps under your brand
- Undewhelming community experience
- Missing features to run virtual events
- Doesn't have livestreaming, native video, or courses
reddit is a popular social network that is dedicated to discussions, and millions of people are already there. Like Circle.so, reddit allows users to create “communities”—formerly known as “subreddits.”
Functionally, a reddit community has many of the same features as Circle.so, including an interactive discussion forum. Users can create posts, comment, and get notifications. They can also upvote their favorite posts or comments.
Like the other options on this list, reddit has a solid app for every device—which Circle doesn’t.
One major drawback of reddit is that you need to have been a user for a while with enough “karma” to get approved to start a community. This means that, if you create a reddit account today in the hopes of starting a community there, you’d need to wait for at least a month and work hard at engaging with other posts before you even have a chance of starting a community—and it’s no guarantee. Plus, you’re bound by a set of rules created by reddit, so you don’t have a lot of freedom to just build whatever you want.
- It’s free & widely used
- Must be a reddit user for 30 days and need “positive karma”
- Not much more than a forum
- No ability to monetize
- reddit owns and controls everything
Another alternative to Circle.so is Discourse. Discourse lets you create a simple discussion board and organize conversations. It also has basic engagement tools that you can use to respond or react to posts.
Discourse can be expensive, plans on the website start from $100/mo. Although the code itself is marketed as “free,” and you could theoretically use it to build a community, you need to pay for hosting somewhere. You would also need coding knowledge to set up the free code from Github if you chose that route. In fact, you might even have to hire a developer to help you set it up. It’s definitely not a simple option. This means that Discourse will either be expensive or extremely complicated.
- Easy moderation & flagging inappropriate content
- Clean, simple design
- Good notification system & discussion organization
- Expensive and complicated to set up
- No chat functionality
Thinkific is a good course platform, and they've recently added some community features that make it a decent alternative to Circle.so.
As an e-learning solution, Thinkific is strong--much better than Circle. It has good curriculum-building features with advanced quizzes, webinars, surveys, and feedback.
Thinkific is a bit like a Kajabi, but it's quite a bit cheaper. However, it's also missing the marketing features that Kajabi has. The tradeoff comes at a price.
Like Kajabi, Thinkific has tried to create some community options to accompany its courses. The result is a basic community platform that actually feels a lot like a more basic version of Circle--with a similar layout and feel.
- Good course platform with really strong LMS options
- Some integrated marketing features
- The community feature is pretty basic
- Thinkific recently launched a mobile app--but the reviews are terrible
13. Facebook Groups
A Facebook group is a well-known and free alternative to Circle.so, and works to connect people. People with existing Facebook accounts can join in and take part in a conversation.
While you’d think that Facebook would be a solid alternative to a product like Circle.so, it’s actually a terrible place to host a community.
Engagement is limited. Features are limited.
You’ve probably joined Facebook groups that had thousands of members and never thought about it again. Facebook often won’t notify you when there’s activity in the group. And the fact that the group may be free to join—unless it’s monetized through another platform—probably means that people don’t actually care about taking part.
Add to this the way that Facebook is making money off of your community—by collecting and selling your users’ data—and you’ve got a recipe for a group that probably won’t go very far. As more and more people boycott Facebook, you don’t want to start a community on a platform that potential members will refuse to use.
- Widely accessible & easy to use
- World-class products, apps, etc.
- Many people are already on Facebook
- Limited engagement features
- You’re competing for attention with every other group, post, and cat video
- Monetization is complicated
- Some members may refuse to use it
There are a lot of great options on this list. But none of them do what Mighty Networks does, allowing you to create a vibrant community, host discussions, sell memberships, go live, build dedicated subgroups, and create elegant courses. All for a price that’s cheaper than many of these other options.
A unified member platform helps your community grow faster, helps you earn more, and is radically easier to run.
Come try it for yourself! It's free for 14 days--no credit card required.