In this digitally connected world where everything is a click, like, view – where everything is surface level, disconnected, or just plain soulless…
You can go past the surface level engagement with an online community platform for a real, interactive, close-knit community dedicated to your business.
Whether you sell courses, information, publish free content, or want to host a support group, community platforms are vital not just for your current customers or clients but for also marketing to new ones.
Higher customer engagement and member interaction leads to more conversions, more customer retention, and more brand loyalty.
A social community dedicated to your brand connects your audience with each other where members engage, share knowledge about the content, and user experience is heightened.
Whatever it is you do, we made a list of our favorite community platforms of 2021 for you to choose from.
Keep reading and take your pick.
What Are the Best Online Community Platforms?
- Circle – Best community platform for creators to unite their brand and content with an active online community
- Tribe – Best Cloud-based community platform for building a knowledge sharing community connected to your brand or product
- Mighty Networks – Best online community software platform for course creators combine their online courses with a social community
- BuddyBoss – Best WordPress open source community platform that offers the flexibility to be integrated with a learning management system
- Locals – Online community platform for independent creators to grow their brand with community engagement and subscriptions
- Discourse – Open source forum software platform for companies or brands to host a discussion forum
- Facebook Groups – Online community platform where social network users create a community over shared interests and experiences
Circle is our favorite online community platform, because of its modern, easy to use interface and custom design features.
Create your own domain, build a branded community, and own the asset.
Circle can be integrated with WordPress and embedded into your website with custom widgets.
The platform has a member directory with member profiles, private spaces, and direct messaging.
See how Circle can help you open the door to a dedicated community for your brand and business by checking out the highlights below.
- White-labeled design features that match your brand
- Create a custom domain and have full ownership of member data
- Directly integrate Circle with with your membership platforms
- Single-sign on (SSO) with Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Teachable, and more
- Build a student-centered online community for your online courses
- Offer premium content through podcasts and paid newsletters
- iOS mobile app so member can access the community platform anywhere
Circle has three different plans to grow your community from the ground up.
Basic is $39/month and the ideal choice if you want to have a smaller, more intimate community.
Enterprise is $199/month and has room for 100,000 members among 3 different communities.
Circle is the easiest way to create a community connected to your website, online course, or membership.
Click the button below to try Circle’s 14 day free trial.
The Tribe platform is built for your brand or product to have an online community that increases customer engagement, customer satisfaction, and as a result, better product reviews.
Your community members can share their user experience, ask questions, and share knowledge and content to each other.
Check out the Showcase section on Tribe’s website for examples on how other businesses have used Tribe to host online communities under their brand.
- White-label platform for reestablishing your brand and content
- Gamification and Virtual Currency features that reward and incentivize community engagement
- Features like Smart Suggestions, Multiple Types of Content activities, and Virtual Currencies boost community activity
- Use Tribe’s built-in analytics and or include third-party analytics to monitor your community with more detail
- Multiple Single Sign-On methods allow members to log in to your community easily
- Integrates with Slack, Zapier, Google Analytics, Social Media Login, and more
- Community management and content management tools give you the ability to increase conversions with behavioral targeting and moderate user generated content for quality
The Free plan is best for a small community of up to 500 members.
To get the most out of Tribe and to customize your community to your start-up, brand, or company, you’ll want to sign up for Plus ($85/month) or Premium ($249/month.)
Both include unlimited members and white labeling, but Premium gets you the SSO feature, advanced analytics, and more.
And then there is Enterprise (it’s more affordable than Higher Logic.)
Tribe’s community software platform focuses on giving you the flexibility to build a community to your exact business needs.
It is a cloud-based platform similar to Vanilla Forums, but with more community features, third-party integrations, and better customer service.
Get started with Tribe’s Premium for 14 days free.
#3 Mighty Networks.
Mighty Networks stands out on our list, because it is a hybrid community platform and learning management system.
Build your course and content directly into the software, and decide whether you want to do free or paid memberships, subscriptions, courses, etc.
Unlimited members join your community platform where they interact with each other through posts, direct messaging, and events.
Members access your online courses and community through the free mobile apps.
From there, members in your community create authentic relationships and engagement with your content skyrockets.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Check out the highlights below for just a FEW of the things the Mighty Networks community software does for you…
- Mighty Networks iOS and Android mobile apps
- Build brand with your own branded mobile app on Android, iOS, and iPad (Mighty Networks Pro)
- Membership management features like detailed member directory, ‘online now’, leaderboards, invite links, member analytics…
- Build engagement with “Icebreakers”, referral rewards, and event management for local or virtual events
- Create public, private, or secret communities within the community
- Link to other social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn
- Access to priority customer support
The Free Plan that is free forever may work for you if you’re not interested in selling online courses and only need basic community features.
The Community Plan ($23/month) goes above The Free Plan with more advanced community features and a lower member subscription fee.
The Business Plan ($81/month) is the hybrid learning management platform and community management platform for online course creators.
Mighty Networks is the best online community platform for creators wanting to have their content and community all in one place.
Get inspired by checking out the Stories page on Mighty Networks’ site.
See if MN is the best community solution for you with a 14 day free trial (click the button!)
BuddyBoss is a community software similar to Mighty Networks, but specifically designed for WordPress.
BuddyBoss becomes a hybrid community platform and learning management system when integrated with LearnDash (a WordPress LMS plugin).
Because BuddyBoss is designed for WordPress, you have even more options and flexibility by utilizing other WordPress plugins and extensions to make your platform completely unique.
Create online courses and sell memberships while building a community of members dedicated to your brand.
The software grows engagement with features like discussion forums, private messaging, member generated content, and social groups organized by members.
Members of the community are able to create their own individual profiles.
Read the highlights below for more info about this WordPress community software.
- Engage your members with fun ways to earn points, badges, and achievements; members earn ranks and rewards by their actions in the community platform
- White label customization so your brand is represented throughout the community and on mobile apps; Native iOS and Android app for your platform
- Integration with WooCommerce so you can sell your products directly to members
- Sell memberships and subscriptions with any WordPress membership plugin
- Create online courses by integrating with LearnDash
- Ticketing system in addition to the provided guides and screencast video tutorials for software customer support
Each BuddyBoss plan has the same features – what differs is the number of licenses for sites you can get.
Launch 1 site for only $228 – that comes out to $19/month.
For 5 or 10 sites, it will cost $288 or $328.
Breaking those numbers down into only $24/month or $27/month.
If you already have a WordPress site, or prefer being able to customize everything with WordPress integrations and plugins, then BuddyBoss is the best community platform for you.
BuddyBoss offers a full refund within 14 days of starting your plan. Try it out by clicking the button below.
Are you a creator ready to market and scale your content?
Locals is designed for creators to publish their content and interact with supporters in a community subscription based platform.
Create, interact, network, and grow.
Set your own recurring subscription price, integrated with Stripe.
And now you have a community platform that acts as a revenue stream.
Locals iOS and Android app is available on the Apple Store and Google Play store.
Keep reading – the highlights below tells us more about what community features are included in Locals platforms…
- Upload pre-recorded videos such as announcements, webinars, and more with its native video hosting platform.
- Be in control of your platform through management content and tools like moderation features and member data exportation and analytics
- Members can private message you by signing up for premium paid access
- Live stream and live chat with your community members
- Members can post, like, comment, and engage with one another
- Email and push notifications so your supporters stay connected with the community
- Locals HelpDesk for customer support
Okay, so there are no pricing options shown in the above image, because creating a Locals community is FREE.
To an extent.
Publishing content is free. But making money is when pricing comes into play.
There is a subscription fee for paid subscriptions to your community. It is 10% of your monthly revenue plus a 2.9% + 30 cents credit card processing fee per transaction.
If you’re looking to start an online community where you own all the IP, assets, and content; Locals is the place to be.
Click the link in the button below to start your own Locals based community.
Discourse communities are discussion forums meant for constructive, civilised engagement on topics related to your brand or product.
It has more advanced community and design features than Vanilla Forums and is more affordable (Vanilla Forum’s business plan is $689/month vs $300/month.)
Which makes it the better option for small businesses with large communities.
Also, Discourse was recently updated with Discourse for Teams.
Check out the highlights below.
- Clean, flat forum with infinite scrolling on conversations, plus a Summary feature
- Push and email notifications
- Discourse iOS and Android app
- SSO and social logins
- Integrate with Google Adsense and other plugins
- Engage members with badges, leader tools, private messaging, and anonymous posts
- Email, Twitter, and a help forum for Discourse customer questions and answers
Discourse has 3 unlimited member pricing options to choose from:
Standard at $100/month.
Business at $300/month.
If you’re seeking a community forum that holds forum creators and members up to the standards of moderators on its platform, then Discourse is for you.
Discourse’s software is the best for multiple communities and discussions under one platform.
Click the button below to try any of Discourse’s plans with a 14 day trial.
#7 Facebook Groups.
Facebook Groups is one of the most popular community platforms for people all over the world to connect online.
Facebook Groups may be a solid option for you if you don’t have the need for customization features, and just want to host a simple social platform for your brand or product.
The algorithm for the activity feed places only the most recent or most active posts at the top of the page. However, members can choose to sort the activity feed for New Posts or most recent activity when they visit the group.
- iOS and Android access with the Facebook social media app
- Admin and moderator roles for content management throughout the community forum
- Members can easily ask questions, post answers, and share content, contributing to customer self-service
- Secret vs. Closed groups – Option to make your community private, unable to be found in search engines or in Facebook search
No pricing options here, because creating a Facebook Group is completely free.
Facebook Groups do have their disadvantages. For example, there is a lack of organization features, so searching for specific posts and topics can be difficult.
Customization is almost zero to none, and membership management features meet the bare minimum.
Since millions of people already have a Facebook social media profile, it is extremely easy for members to request to join your group, and it’s free.
What are Community Platforms?
Community platforms are online communities where members connect and interact over a common interest, product, goal, or topic.
When used for business purposes, these platforms allow the creator or owner to connect with their audience, build loyalty, and adapt to customer needs.
Overall, having a customized social community platform can help further establish and grow a business.
How to Select the Best Online Community Platform.
Choosing the best online community platform requires establishing what your goals are, and what tools you need to accomplish those goals.
Do you want your community platform to be fully customizable, from the landing page to each discussion forum?
What content do you want shared or created on your platform?
Do you want your community platform to be organically found in search engines? Or completely private?
How do members connect and interact with each other? Does the online community software have a member directory?
Each community platform, or community software has its own set of tools for content management, event management, and social platform features.
And pricing varies, so know exactly what your budget and needs are, and plan for future growth.
What is community management software?
Community management software is technology that is used to create community platforms that allow users to engage with one another about a certain topic or common interest.
Brands, products, and services benefit from community platforms, because it elevates audience engagement and increases customer retention.
Out of all the different kinds of community software platforms out there, we handpicked the best ones for freelancers, small businesses, and the like.
Let’s do a quick wrap up for each one.
Circle and Tribe are the best community platforms for growing authentic relationships and deepening knowledge about your brand and product.
Mighty Networks and BuddyBoss are the best community platforms for combining engaged online communities and learning platforms under one roof.
Discourse is the best platform for white labeled, community moderated online discussions.
Facebook Groups is the free and easy social network option for communities, without all of the advanced capabilities and customizations that others have.