Right now is a great time to choose a software platform and build an online community.
We’ve all been rethinking the way we connect with each other due to COVID-19’s effects on our lives. More and more people are at home trying to find new ways of connecting with others and finding community.
If you’ve been thinking about online communities, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of platforms out there. We can’t front, the process can get easily overwhelming. But the good news is, we’re here to help.
Ahead, we’re putting two community platforms to the test: Mighty Networks vs. Circle. But first, let’s explore what online community platforms are all about.
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In this article...
1. What is an online community platform?
An online community platform is a service that gives you robust tools to design and build a website for a group of people around a theme, topic, or idea.
Online communities are just like physical ones in that they are a group of like-minded people who have come together to achieve a common goal.
But online communities have a number of benefits that physical ones don’t. They are more accessible to a wider range of people. And they are much easier to scale with your community’s growth.
Next up, we’re going to talk a bit about how you cultivate an online community in the first place.
2. How do you cultivate an online community?
Cultivating an online community starts by bringing like-minded people together to achieve a common goal.
The most successful communities take it a step further, designing members’ experiences and helping those members form connections with each other. We’ve found that great online communities tend to share three major features:
A clear purpose. Communities become stronger when everyone is on the same page about what they are building together. A clear purpose means that you should be crystal clear in articulating what the group’s main goal is and the steps you need to take to get there.
Many ways to interact with each other. Communities are better able to sustain themselves when you provide members a bunch of ways to interact with each other. Some features we love are discussion boards with commenting, direct messaging, member profiles, breakout groups, and text chat.
When you have these three aspects available to you for building your online community, it’s a lot easier to keep your members excited, motivated, and along for the ride.
Before we dive into our head-to-head between Mighty Networks vs. Circle we’ll look at what the two platforms are and set up some criteria for how we judge them.
3. Mighty Networks vs. Circle: Who are they?
Mighty Networks is an all-in-one, white-label community platform, online course builder, and event hoster that lets you bring your community, online courses, and content together in one place, under your own brand and domain name, instantly available both on the web and on elegant iOS and Android apps.
Mighty Networks unlocks a new era for independent communities creating and mastering something interesting or important together. Not only does a Mighty Network let you create engaging content and host important conversations, but it also lets you divide your Network into groups and subgroups, plus charge for memberships and online courses. You can even livestream from your Mighty Network, which adds an extra level of spontaneity and community that members love!
Circle is a new community platform that is designed to add a community component to your existing tech stack. It includes space to bring together discussions, members, and content.
Rather than including native course creation capability, Circle integrates with other course products like Teachable–making a good option to add a community if you already have an existing course elsewhere.
Now, let’s break down the criteria we will use for evaluating Mighty Networks vs. Circle.
4. Mighty Networks vs. Circle: Judgment criteria
When there are so many online community platforms to choose from, it can be hard to know what software to pick. We’ve come up with some guidelines that will make that decision easier. Our top criteria are:
Customization and a robust feature set. Your online community thrives when you have a lot of tools to experiment with. Why? Because it gives your members new opportunities and experiences to interact with one another. We are talking about online course creation, paid memberships, discussion boards, polls, Q&As, member profiles, livestreaming, video upload, and more.
Monetization options. Having powerful options for how you make money from your content is important. It’s also key to have different ways for your members to pay for what they want. You’ll want to be able to provide flexibility for payments (think monthly, annual, or one-time fees). And you want to make those transactions seamless for your members.
Mobile Apps. The best online community platforms will make your content available in as many ways as possible. If your members can access the community or course from a variety of places they will be more invested. Online community platforms that can be built for and across the web, iOS, and Android is a must.
Ease of management and admin. Being able to manage your online community with one tool, or tools that play well together, means you’ll spend less time on your tech stack troubleshooting and more time interacting in your community. A good community platform should make your life easier as a Host.
Ability to scale—and costs to grow. You’re starting an online community because you want it to grow, right? Make sure you’re thinking about future-proofing. Does the platform allow for unlimited members, moderators, and courses? A good community platform should grow with you.
While there are a number of different avenues to explore with online community platforms, we believe these are the most important.
So without further ado, let the battle begin: Mighty Networks vs. Circle! Okay, maybe we can relax a little…Let’s dive into how these two platforms stack up.
5. Mighty Networks vs. Circle: Customization and features
In this category, we’re looking at which online community platforms offer more ways to customize and experiment with the space you create. Customization and robust features are important because they allow you to find new ways to engage your members and appeal to different needs.
Mighty Networks gives you access to a ton of great features and customization. Its all-in-one, simple-to-use interface makes it super easy to start and run your community, serve up great content and live experiences to your members, and build and charge for dedicated subgroups.
But Mighty Networks is more than just a community builder. You can also create great online courses and either include them for your existing members or charge for access. And you can add your logo, brand colors, and customize exactly what your members see. No Mighty Network looks the same —you can build a community space that utilizes your brand assets and can be tweaked to fit your style.
Here are some of the main features of a Mighty Network:
Live, robust, and branded mobile app /or web access (iOS & Android)
Livestreaming capabilities so Hosts can go live directly from their Mighty Networks to members across web and mobile apps
Engaging discussion boards that all members can use
Upload directly and post pre-recorded videos, images, and audio clips within your Mighty Network.
Easily create branded subgroups that can either be free for members or monetized independently as an upsell. These small groups have dedicated dashboards and chats.
Create polls, quizzes, and surveys.
Direct & group messages between community & subgroup members.
Intuitive online course creation for engaging teaching that includes video lessons, engagement tools, Q&A forum functionality, and more!
An “activity feed” feature makes it easy for members to keep track of all the awesome content you’re providing.
Add paywalls and different membership tiers that are either community-wide or dedicated to a specific group or course.
This combination of features lets you combine planning and great design with the ability to be spontaneous, which can be your secret superpower. Structured features, like courses and an activity feed, make it easy for members to immediately get value out of your community and feel like they have a clear way to start and jump right in. And more spontaneous features, like livestreaming, events, and group chat mean the community feels alive and exciting.
Now, let’s take a look at Circle.
Circle’s primary focus is creating a discussion group, but it also has some basic event functions.
When you integrate your online community with Circle, you get a clean-looking community space that will be familiar to people who’ve used popular social media sites. While it’s simple, and has fewer features than Mighty Networks, it was designed this way. That’s because Circle was created to add a simple community option for creators and entrepreneurs who host their courses and content elsewhere.
Circle also allows creators to make different “topics” (basically discussion boards) for members to interact with.
Here are some of the main features of Circle:
You can create private subgroups within the community & members can chat across these
Members can create their own profiles & browse a directory of other members.
You can integrate existing content easily into your community space.
Members can access the community through an app (iOS only).
Integrates with other online course platforms like Teachable
The biggest problem with Circle’s customization and features is that it hinges on you having a pre-existing community and content to consolidate in one place. For example, you can’t create an online course on Circle. If you want to offer a course, you’ll need to use a separate platform and then integrate it into your Circle community space.
This is why Mighty Networks is a great alternative to Circle because you can build a community from the ground up on your Mighty Network.
Summary -- Customization and features
Mighty Networks is a fantastic all-in-one solution, letting you build and monetize your community & courses on one platform. If you are planning to create online courses now or in the future (or want to keep your options open), it’s easy to add one when you’re ready.
Mighty Networks has everything you need to maximize engagement, livestreaming, apps for every phone, and beautiful and engaging interfaces.
Circle is a great solution for those who only need to add a community function to a course that already exists on another platform, especially Teachable, or who prefer to keep their course and community on two separate platforms.
Now, let’s move on to monetization options.
6. Mighty Networks vs. Circle: Monetization options
Another important category to consider with online community platforms is your monetization options. When we talk about “monetization” we’re not just talking about ways for your members to pay for your content. Monetization is also tied to the kinds of features your platform offers, such as online courses and paid memberships.
When it comes to monetization, Mighty Networks allows you to create a plan that tackles multiple fronts. When you create an online community space on Mighty Networks you can make it free or charge a membership fee. You can easily create and modify plans, see which users are subscribed to which plan, and show/hide the options to purchase. And you can offer the same plan in hundreds of local currencies so you can better reach a global audience.
On top of that, you can build and sell online courses for members to purchase. You can also add paid subgroups which give you another great revenue source. So, for example, you could charge for access to your Mighty Network, but also create a paid mastermind within your Mighty Network. This gives you additional streams of revenue and a new way for members to engage with your work. Best of all, you can determine whether memberships renew monthly, yearly, or are a one-time fee.
Circle has recently added a paywalls feature to its communities, meaning that you can now create plans and charge for access. This could include adding a paywall to the community itself, or else choosing specific spaces or groups to add a paywall to.
There are still some limitations to your monetization options with Circle. Since you cannot sell courses on Circle, you would need to use a different platform if you wanted to build or charge for courses. So your members could end up interacting with two different payment platforms, which could potentially be confusing. You also can only charge in USD right now, which could limit your growth in other countries.
7. Mighty Networks vs. Circle: Mobile App Options
In this day and age, people are increasingly interacting with content and communities through their phones and mobile devices. We believe that the best online community platforms allow you to build a space that is available where your members are.
Mighty Networks has developed powerful tools to make your online community available whenever, wherever.
When you use a Mighty Network, your users will be able to access your branded community wherever they are across the web and via the Mighty Network app available on Android and iOS. When you upgrade to Mighty Pro, you can even have your own branded app in the Apple app store and Google Play store!
This means that your members can interact with each other and your content whenever, in whatever way works for them. And you can add a custom domain, as well, to make sure it feels like your home.
Circle offers a clean and easy-to-navigate design for your online community website, and a mobile app for iOS only (not Android). You can pay more to remove the Circle branding on the website version and use a custom domain, as well.
8. Mighty Networks vs. Circle: Price
While the pricing options for Mighty Networks and Circle look similar, it's important to look closely at which features are included for the price. You can see the difference in this chart:
Mighty Networks - Community Plan
Circle - Basic Plan
Chat & Messaging
Accept Payments in USD
Accept Payment in Local Currencies
Built in Polls & Questions
MN- iOS & Android
Circle - iOS Only
Hosts & Moderators Allowed
Summary - Price
Livestreaming is included in all Mighty Networks plans, and is not included in Circle.
For the same price, the Mighty Networks premium plan gives you the ability to create, host, and sell online courses. With Circle, you’d need to pay for an additional platform for courses and host them elsewhere. For example, if you used Teachable, this would cost an additional $29-$99/mo.
Mighty Networks doesn’t charge more as you scale—you can add unlimited members and moderators and Hosts on even the basic plan. Circle charges you more to add extra members, moderators, or admin ($10-$20 extra monthly for each).
9. Mighty Networks vs. Circle -- Which one is right for you?
You’re starting a community from scratch and want everything in one place.
You want the option to add courses without having to switch to a new platform.
You want a ton of great features to increase engagement, including livestreaming and apps for every device.
You prefer to keep your courses and community separate
You want a very minimalistic design
Want to try Mighty Networks... Free?
Why not give our powerful course and community-building features a try? You’ll be able to build the online community of your dreams and there's no limit to how much you can experiment and grow.
Better yet, all of our features work across the web, iOS, and Android which gives your members more flexibility and accessibility to how they interact with each other and your content.
Sounds pretty great, yeah? Check us out!
Ready to start building your community?