People around the world are looking for new and innovative ways to connect with others who share their interests. They’re looking for community. And brands and businesses are building some AMAZING community spaces, whether free or monetized.
You don’t need thousands, or even hundreds of members to call what you’re building an online community.
But you do need a community platform that lets you create a unique virtual space where your members can master something interesting together. It’s just a matter of finding an online community platform that will enable you to support your members, grow your community, and deliver results and transformation to your people.
The problem is that with so many options on the market, it can be hard to know how to evaluate community platforms and which one to choose.
Ahead, we’ll define what we mean when we say community platform, provide clear criteria for evaluating community platforms, and take a look at the best online community platforms on the market.
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In this article…
What is a community platform?
A community platform is a dedicated virtual space where you can connect a group of people who share the same goals, interests, or motivations to meet and build relationships with one another. The best modern community platforms offer members different ways to connect with each other, the content, and you — from direct and group messaging from polls, live events (virtual or hybrid), and online courses.
When you have to cobble these features together over a variety of community websites and social media platforms, you and your members will feel unfocused and exhausted.
But with an all-in-one community platform, you get easy-to-use features, different ways to monetize your community, ownership over your data, and it provides you with tools to create your own “network effect” (each additional member that joins your community adds value to each other and your brand).
What should you look for in an online community platform?
Look for an white-label community platform that gives you the tools to grow, design, build, and nurture your community, and to do it all under your own brand.
Some of the best online community platforms will even give you more features and tools than you think you’ll need. Why? Because as your business grows, your online community platform will be able to support you every step of the way.
Here are some features to look for:
- A variety of ways to connect (e.g. discussion posts, polls, surveys, and Q&As).
- Accessible on web, iOS, and Android apps.
- A robust website builder.
- Live streaming and recorded video capabilities.
- Multiple ways to monetize through events, paid memberships, subscriptions, and online courses.
- Detailed member profile and community analytics.
With that in mind, here are the best online community platforms that offer some combination of the above features.
8 Community platforms ranked
What are the best community platforms? Let’s look at 8 that might work for you.
1. Mighty Networks
Best All-in-one Community Platform (G2 Rankings)
Mighty Networks is a versatile, all-in-one community platform that has every feature listed above. It gives you the power to help your members build authentic connections with each other with a ton of great features including articles, polls, questions, and direct messaging.
Mighty Networks was also ranked the best online community software of 2022 by the tech-review site G2, with a customer satisfaction score of 90 – the highest of any community platform.
With a Mighty Network, creators can build a thriving community with their own branding, monetize subscriptions, memberships, online courses, and groups; and they can use a ton of innovative features, to help get their members that much closer to their goals.
A Mighty Network lets you figure out what structure works best for your community, and gives you the opportunity to expand. Best of all is how accessible community and content are with a Mighty Network available on web, iOS, and Android.
- Intuitive community platform with videos, text & articles, polls, live streaming, and more
- Dynamic course platform with built-in course communities, a versatile LMS, live events, course discussions and all-member chats
- Enhanced analytics, with a custom dashboard
- Unlimited members, admins, and moderators on every plan
- Pay in multiple currencies globally, integrated payment system, sell memberships, bundles, or one-time products
- Get access with a beautiful native app that works for every device
2. Mighty Pro
Best White-Label Community Platform
Mighty Pro is the totally custom, white-label version of Mighty Networks built for established businesses and brands. It comes with all of the features mentioned above, plus it includes your very own mobile app (under your branding, not ours), across every device! On top of that, add high-ticket programs, group coaching calls, and live events with your own branded notifications.
Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a custom app, Mighty Pro’s white-label approach will give you more for less. We work closely with you to design your community app and bring your vision to life! We support you throughout your community journey by delivering valuable growth insights.
Mighty Pro is what Adriene Mishler, YouTube’s best-known yoga instructor with over 10 million subscribers, used to launch her community (you might know her channel “Yoga with Adriene”). She went from using Facebook groups (“Find What Feels Good Kula”) to Mighty Pro to launch branded community apps for her most passionate students. Since launching her apps with Mighty Pro, here are the results so far:
- 211,000 passionate members
- 83% primarily access the community via branded apps
- 99% of all content is member-generated
Having their own community apps helps Adriene and her team reach their goal of making real connections with people.
Request a call and we'll show you what you could build with Mighty Pro!
3. Vanilla Forums
Best Corporate Forum-Only Platform
Vanilla Forums is one of the online community platforms that are directed toward large corporations, giving them a tool to build customer communities. It lets companies customize their own brand and a set of community management features. Members can publish content, create groups and subgroups, and add questions and polls.
While Vanilla Forums offers a number of ways for users to connect and customization, it is only a forum feature. It doesn’t come with other features of an all-in-one platform like selling memberships, subscriptions, or online courses. So, if you’re looking for a community that you can monetize, this isn’t the right choice for you.
- Corporate forum solution for large companies
- High-customization to fit a corporate brand
- Integration with business apps like Salesforce and Zendesk
- White-label apps
Best for Alumni Management
Hivebrite is a community platform that’s built specifically for alumni networks, although they’re branching out into other use cases. It includes dedicated subgroups where students and alumni can build connections, a branded mobile app, and a job board feature for posting employment opportunities. It comes with a content management system built-in, and it gives you data and analytics.
Hivebrite also comes with a built-in event management system for in-person events, including calendars, invitation emails, ticketing, online payments, and integration with social networks. Finally, it can also run donor campaigns.
The downside to Hivebrite is that it’s missing a virtual event feature, which means that if you want to get your alumni together for virtual meetings, coffee hours, or training sessions, you’d need to pair it with a different event or virtual event app.
- Alumni networking app
- Dedicated subgroups
- CMS + Custom feeds
- Live event management
- Job board
- Data and analytics
The Community Platform for Corporations
Tribe is another white-label community platform aimed at corporations that want to add a community space to their existing website (a customer community). Essentially, it’s a forum function that gives you a place to create discussions, post content, and give value to your customers on a mobile app.
On Tribe, customers can connect with each other by asking questions, participating in polls, and posting images and videos.
Note that Tribe is targeted at companies that already have existing websites and native apps. So if you have already created an app for your digital business, you’re fine. But if you haven’t, you’ll have to go without app access.
You won’t get access to standard community features like direct messaging, the ability to connect members by location or interest, and more. There’s no way to create and host online courses or live events, which minimizes both the potential impact you can have on your members and your ability to deliver transformation around your community’s shared goals.
- Forum-based community
- Organize conversations with “spaces”
- Custom domain & website builder
6. Wild Apricot
The Community Platform for Nonprofits
Wild Apricot is a community management platform created for nonprofit organizations. It has some good features for community engagement and discussions and it also allows you to keep track of, automate, and simplify membership in your organization or association. With Wild Apricot, you can create, organize and manage your member databases, use the platform’s website builder to create a professional-looking website, securely accept online payments, and manage virtual events. Plus, you can create subgroups for regional chapters, so that each can have its own website and community.
When it comes to having something more robust, like a dedicated community space where members can connect, or features like online courses, where members can master something interesting together, that’s where this platform falls short.
- Forum platform & website builder
- Member databases
- Regional chapters & subgroups
- Live event functionality for ticketing
Best Open-source Community Platform
Discourse is another option, but out of these community platforms it’s unique. That’s because Discourse does have a free, open-source community code that they post for free on Github. What this means is that Discourse gives you a discussion forum that’s simple, but effective. You can organize conversations and replies, and add moderators.
The downside to Discourse and its open-source approach is that you do need to pay for hosting somewhere. Discourse will do it for you, but it ends up starting from $100/mo, which is more expensive than several of the community platforms on this list. All this means that Discord is a pretty good community engine if you’re a developer, but otherwise, you’re better to go with an all-in-one that’s done for you (and potentially cheaper).
- Forum with comments and moderation
- Custom code that’s open-source
- Mobile app
Best WordPress Community Platform
If you’re a diehard WordPress fan and looking for a community platform that’s a WordPress plugin, you could look at Memberium. It works like a content gate, barring off sections of your site to make them members only, and includes a community component. You can also pair it with an LMS plugin like LearnDash if you want to add a course.
Word to the wise, Memberium is one of the top community platforms that’s a WordPress plugin, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. G2 only ranks Memberium with a score of 29, and you can use literally all of the options on this list as a subdomain with a WordPress site.
9. Facebook Groups
Last, let’s talk Facebook Groups. They’re a popular community platform because of Facebook’s huge user base and since Facebook makes it pretty easy to build a Groups page. The pros are pretty well-known, lots of people use Facebook, and it’s free, easy, and accessible.
It might be a good place to start.
For larger communities or paid membership communities, Facebook is probably not the right place to host though. Between the lack of payment integrations, the fact that it doesn’t really have the capacity for large groups, and because you’ll be fighting the algorithms, it’s probably better to look to the other options on this list. Plus, some people are hesitant to put their data on Facebook.
But if you’re just starting out, or want a really simple and free option, it can work.
- Free & easy to use
- Good apps
Conclusion – Ready to start building?
The days of cobbling together a Facebook group or Slack community and integrating it with your online course and payment system are over. That’s especially true when you choose an all-in-one community platform giving your members the best experience because everything is in one place and it’s more affordable because you’re not adding on costly integrations.
With Mighty Networks, you can sow the seeds for a thriving community, and invest in a community platform that will grow with you and your members as you forge the path to mastering a topic or achieving a set of goals together.
You can also use a Mighty Network to offer your members a complete package: community, memberships, and online courses all in one place, under your own brand, and instantly available on every device. And at the end of the day, that’s what makes a Mighty Network one of the best online community platforms on the market.
Let’s start building the community you’ve been dreaming of!
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