You wouldn’t join a band without an instrument. Much like you wouldn’t start a community without the right tools to encourage successful participation.
Similar to how certain instruments might work well in a jazz band but might not serve the needs of a heavy metal band, the right tools for community management can vary greatly depending on the type of community you want to build.
After all, choosing the wrong tool for the job can be costly, not to mention a major time waster.
To get the most out of a community platform, you need to understand your options so you can choose the best community platform to suit your community’s needs.
Today, to help you make a more informed decision, we’ll be taking a look at the top five modern platforms for online communities.
What to look for in a modern community platform
We all know that an online community can be a powerful tool for bringing people together and even propelling your business forward.
Still, the nuances of selecting the right community platform can be challenging at the beginning.
In past articles, we’ve explored how to choose the best community platform for your business, but here’s an update on the latest platforms to consider in today’s market.
The best community platforms offer a range of features that help with community management and promote member engagement.
While each community has different needs, there are a few central things worth considering:
- User experience. The platform must be easy to use for both members and community managers as well as access across different platforms. If not, you’ll struggle to increase user engagement and grow your community.
- Matchmaking. What types of services would you like to provide to your community? Would you like to facilitate new connections by matching people by interest, hobbies, or professional goals?
- Analytical tools. It’s important to track the activity in your community to serve both you and your members better. For example, you can identify the most active members and offer them responsibilities within the community to take pressure off of your shoulders. Alternatively, recognizing the top interests amongst your members enables you to offer more relevant events and content.
- Monetization. If you’re hoping to plug products and services in your community, charge a subscription fee and monetize your content, you will need to choose a platform that enables this.
- Flexibility. Will the platform you’ve chosen be able to keep up with modern developments in technology? You don’t want your business to miss out on new opportunities because of software that you can’t control.
- User safety. To maintain your community members’ trust, it’s crucial to choose a safe community platform that puts users’ privacy and safety above all else.
- Your budget. There’s no point investing in a community if you can’t afford the upkeep. Take a look at your budget, and find a platform that aligns with your financial goals.
Here’s, what we think, are the five best community platforms of 2021 (in no apparent order):
Best community platform for mentorship, matchmaking, and promoting meaningful connection
Panion is an all-in-one online community platform that focuses on building meaningful member connections based on substance.
Concentrating on rich member profiles, interest-driven connections, and member matchmaking, Panion helps large global networks generate a localized and intimate feel within their communities.
Just one of the ways Panion does this is by allowing users to create multiple communities under one umbrella network, which is great for global communities that need localized groups.
A unique feature to Panion is its algorithms that match members of your community who have similar interests, hobbies, or passions and encourage them to get acquainted.
As a European-based company, Panion is also one of the only platforms that enables VAT-registered billing for organizations.
Panion offers these unique features while providing useful analytics and tracking, event management tools, and a sleek user-friendly interface.
At the moment, Panion is continually developing and adding enhanced features to its platform, making it one of the best platforms to create an online community in 2021, especially if you want to build meaningful, lasting, and real connections between members.
A) Panion’s Key Features
- An interest-based matchmaking algorithm
- Custom community branding
- Multiple communities within one app or website
- Segmented groups within each community
- Communal and peer-to-peer messaging
- Member-driven gatherings
- Event management, ticketing and monetization
- Automated engagement tools and custom notifications
- Moderation tools
- Comprehensive analytics and tracking
B) Panion’s Pricing
Panion offers users three community plans that correspond to the stage at which your community is at; starting, growing or scaling.
Starting $39/month. If your community is just getting off the ground, Panion’s Starting Plan will give you the tools it needs to thrive, including event management, basic analytics, and membership fee collection.
Growing $109/month. Along with all of the features in the Starting Plan, opting for the Growing Plan will give you access to advanced analytics, downloadable community activity, segmented messages, and batch member import.
Scaling $179/month. If your main priority is to start scaling your community, Panion’s Scaling Plan offers advanced analytics, member matchmaking, API integration, and community building consultation with the team.
Customized. Panion also offers personalized plans for larger communities or communities looking for a customized mobile app solution. To find out more, you can contact Panion’s sales team.
Best community platform for large product communities
With no cap on the number of members, you can add to your community on its paid plans, the Tribe community platform is great for networks with large member bases hoping to share knowledge on a wider scale, or product-based communities needing to connect with a large pool of consumers.
A centralized discussion channel allows all members to contribute to the discussion, while the ability to add polls and questionnaires helps improve engagement and data collection within the community.
The tribe is primarily designed for product-based or large brand communities, focusing less on the social aspect of communities and more towards support, questions, and B2C connections.
We wouldn’t recommend Tribe for event-heavy communities as there is limited functionality for live video integration or webinars. For this, you’ll need to onboard the help of another community tool.
A) Tribe’s Key Features
- Virtual currency member incentives and gamification
- Comprehensive analytics and reporting features
- Activity feed with multiple content types
- Efficient moderation tools
- Behavioral targeting
- White-label and customization options
- Public and private access
- Notification tools and announcement banners
- Advanced SEO settings
- Integration features with leading business tools
B) Tribe's Pricing
While Tribe is undoubtedly designed for communities with a large number of members, its pricing plans cater to everybody. It’s also one of the only free online community platforms on the market.
- Free. Smaller communities can use Tribe’s free plan to enjoy a custom domain, groups and subgroups, widgets, app integration, and community support for up to 500 members.
- Plus $85/month. Along with all of the free features, a Plus subscription gives you unlimited members, white-label options, API access, and even more app integrations.
- Premium $249/month. In the Premium Plan, additional features include Single Sign-on, environment staging, and a dedicated account manager.
- Enterprise - price on request. If your community demands more security, better data migration, and round-the-clock support, the Enterprise plan could be right for you.
Best community platform for content-heavy networks
Originally built to help organizations manage alumni networks, volunteer portals, and other professional networks, HiveBrite caters to a certain type of community, i.e., large networks with lots of content.
For that reason, you’ll find a few unique features that you won’t find on other platforms, including separate event feeds for each community, portfolio sharing, a job board, and even a designated space for investors to connect with start-ups.
You can read about why we’d recommend a venture capital firm build a community around its network here.
That said, we find that sometimes less is more, and the abundance of features on HiveBrite’s platform can feel overwhelming and a bit clunky, especially for communities who do not need so many bells and whistles.
However, HiveBrite’s impressive selection of features allows you to monetize your community in several different ways, from membership fees to ticketed online events, without having to rely on any third-party integrations.
It is, however, one of the most expensive community platforms on our list, with pricing starting from $500/month.
A) HiveBrite’s Key Features
- Job board
- Complex monetization functions
- Import and export community data
- Search and targeted filtering
- Mass updates and notifications
- Full moderation tools
- Manage, ticket, and monetize events
- Email campaigns and automated newsletters
- Mobile push notifications
- Networking and event management
B) HiveBrite’s Pricing
Unlike the HiveBrite alternatives, we don’t feel this community-building platform offers the most transparent pricing plans.
Nor does HiveBrite give customers a chance to try out their platform for free. For more information about pricing, you will need to contact HiveBrite directly.
4. Mighty Networks
Best community platform for hosting courses
Mighty Networks, for a while, was one of the only community management platforms on the market.
Like Circle, Mighty Networks allows you to own your community, create your own moderation regulations and customize the space to your brand’s aesthetics.
When you choose Mighty Networks, members can access your community on their desktop or mobile device, giving members the flexibility to access the platform whenever and wherever they desire.
Where Mighty Networks struggles are its user interface. Navigating the spaces within a community and the customizations as a community manager can sometimes feel clunky and overwhelming.
We also aren’t a fan of the side window, which feels outdated and makes you feel a bit lost when trying to navigate within the community itself.
Due to Mighty Networks’s age, it has become one of the most feature-rich options for community building which can be a blessing or a curse depending on what you need for your community.
A) Mighty Network’s Key Features
- Communication and activity feed
- Rich member profiles
- Analytics and member data insights
- APIs via Zapier, along with Google Analytics and Facebook Ad monitoring
- Free IOS and Android apps
- Membership and event monetization
- Course and website integration
- Peer-to-peer and group chat
B) Mighty Network’s Pricing
All of Mighty Network’s pricing plans include unlimited members, access to a mobile app, direct messaging, and SEO features.
There is a relatively limited free plan, which is great for trying out the platform, but you will most likely need to upgrade if you plan to grow your community to its full potential.
- Free Plan. With Mighty Network’s free plan, you can get a glimpse of what the platform has to offer and see if it’s for you before purchasing a paid plan.
- Community Plan $28/month. Suppose you choose to sign up for the Community Plan. In that case, you gain access to events and Zoom integration features, unlock polls, and their question-asking feature in addition to all of their Freemium community customizations.
- Business Plan $98/month. Along with the benefits of the Community Plan, Mighty Network’s Business Plan includes online courses, live cohort course creation, access to analytics and member data, as well as Zapier integrations and workflows.
- Pro plan. Mighty Networks also offers a Pro Plan on a case-by-case basis. The advantages here include white-labeled capabilities and your very own community app.
Best community platform for creators with a following
Circle is one of the newest platforms to join in the community world, and its sleek design and user-friendly interface have led to its recent popularity.
“Designed by creators, for creators,” Circle allows members to engage in conversations through a variety of media, including discussion posts, live webinars, and by embedding your own webpages.
One of its key design features its level of customization, which includes white-labeling the community to your own brand.
The Circle community platform is still young, which has led to some teething problems reported by users.
These include recurring bugs within the software, a slightly limited app interface, and much fewer features than some of its alternatives.
If you’re looking for monetization options, Circle.so doesn’t facilitate direct payments between you and your members yet, so you’ll need to use an integration tool like Zapier.
A) Circle's Key Features
- Website integration
- Online course integration
- White-labelling and customization
- Integration with payment gateways
- Rich user profiles
- Public and private spaces
- In-app notifications and weekly digest emails
- Basic moderation tools
- Supports SSO integrations
B) Circle's Pricing
If you want to try Circle without committing to a monthly subscription, Circle offers a 14-day free trial. After this brief trial, you’ll need to choose one of these three paid options:
- Basic Plan $39/month. As the lowest-priced plan on Circle, you can have up to 1,000 members, ten different spaces, and a custom domain.
- Enterprise Plan $199/month. Circle’s Enterprise Plan accommodates up to 100,000 active members and 1,000 spaces with an option to host three communities and have access to a dedicated account manager.
Our Final Thoughts on the Best Community Platforms in 2021
As a community-building platform focused on growing and nurturing impactful communities, we understand the importance of choosing the best community platform for your community’s needs.
Now that we’ve explored, what we consider to be, five of the best community platforms available on the market, we encourage you to try out the community platforms that offer free trials.
Doing so will allow you to evaluate their interfaces, community growth potential, and the key features they offer to see if it’s a good match for your community management needs.
Each community-building platform provides a different value depending on the type of community and its goals and purpose, therefore choosing the right platform can greatly impact both the experience of your members and the management of the community itself. So think long-term and take some time to really explore your options before you commit.
Source: Community Platforms
For more: building an online community platform