The internet has fundamentally transformed the way humans interact with each other. Ideas and interactions are no longer confined to your locale. Instead, there is a wealth of online communities across the globe where you can connect with like-minded people who share your interests.
If you are looking to grow your brand or membership site, you should know that community platforms are essential to solving many challenges in today’s digital age.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the features to look for in an online community program. We’ll also list some of the best online community platforms for membership site owners.
Features to look for in an online community platform
So, what should you look for in an online community? After all, there are a large number of online community platforms out there, and the best fit for you is going to be based on your requirements.
However, there are some important basic features that you need in an online community platform in order to get the most out of it:
- Creating engaging posts. The ability to create your own posts to interact with your community members.
- Community organization tools. Tools for searching, archiving, pinned posts, etc.. within your community.
- Member directory, rich member profiles. Member profiles and the ability to go through your members’ list.
- Personalized activity feed. A homepage feed of all activity happening within the community.
- Member notification. Receiving notifications on member activity and interaction and also sending notifications of your activity to community members.
- SEO compatibility. The platform should not be obscure and should have SEO features that make it discoverable via search engines.
- Community moderation. Tools for moderating the community and flagging or removing spam and other undesirable content on your community.
Some additional features to look for can be whether the platform offers a mobile app, live video streaming for live events, and maybe gamification tools like badges to boost engagement within the community.
10 best online community platforms
Now that we’ve covered the main features to look out for let’s go over some of the best community platforms for your needs.
Thinkific is one of the top online course platforms that have a solid set of community features. This makes it one of the best online community platforms if you’re building a community that is interested in online learning and courses.
- Custom branding options without coding.
- A one-stop shop for courses and communities.
- Ability to create and design custom courses for your community.
Thinkific basic starts at $36 a month,, but you can also try it out with a free plan. You can check out other pricing plans here.
Mighty Networks lives up to its name when it comes to networking features. It is extremely easy to invite members for discussion, and the platform also allows members to create posts and interact with each other. It is a very powerful community platform for growing your community with organic engagement.
- Ability to add community admins.
- Sell and promote courses and ebooks on the platform.
- Unlimited cloud storage for community files.
- Members can message and interact with each other.
Pricing starts at $33 per month, and you can upgrade to The Business Plan for more features at $99 per month. Mighty Networks also offers a free trial that you can use to get a feel for things before committing to a plan.
If you take out the course-building features of Mighty Networks and put its community features on steroids, you get Circle. It’s a community platform that has all the essential features you need, such as live streaming, private messaging, group chats, and content organization, on top of must-haves like creating discussions and content moderation.
- Some of the best community features.
- Integration with other membership platforms such as Thinkific and MemberSpace.
- Embeddable community widgets for your external website.
- Clean design and is easy to use.
- The mobile app is available.
Circle starts at $49 per month (or $39 per month if billed annually) and you can see more pricing plans here. All plans also have a 14-day free trial so you can get a feel for the platform and what it can potentially offer you.
When it comes to creating a white-label experience from scratch, Tribe stands out due to its powerful customization features. From the colors to widgets and your logo, you have full domain over what you want to create for your members.
While it does not offer tools for creating a course on the platform itself, or even monetization options, you can create content such as articles and post images as well as answer questions posted by members.
- Powerful brand customization.
- Built-in gamification tools for boosting engagement.
- Ability to assign member roles for granting different permissions.
- Optimized for social sharing and SEO friendly.
Tribe starts at $599 per month, and you can check out additional pricing plans here.
What it lacks in features, it makes up for in sheer size and reachability. Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms in the world, and that makes Facebook Groups an easy place to start when building an online community.
- Completely free to use.
- Native apps for mobile platforms.
- Live streaming functionality.
Facebook Groups is completely free to use. However, you do not have ownership of the community.
Discourse allows you to create your online community the way you want. It’s online forum software that has a core of powerful features that let you tweak the codebase to create the functionality that you require. You can create threads and categorize them, assign moderators, and much more.
- Open-source API.
- Automatic spam filtering tools.
- Variety of available plugins.
- User-friendly and simple to navigate.
Discourse is free to use if you go the self-route. You can also opt for a managed hosting solution where a limited-time offer will get you your first year at $25 per month (usually $50 per month) for the Basic plan. You can explore additional price plans here.
Disciple is an online community platform that lets you create your own custom-branded community within the platform. It has the functionality to manage and grow your community such as creating and scheduling posts with different content types, organizing sub-groups, tracking community metrics, and also moderation tools to keep everything in check.
- Note-worthy customer service.
- Option to sell subscriptions and courses from the platform.
- Live streaming functionality is built into the platform.
- Integration with third-party tools.
- Option to conduct polls and hold events.
Basic plans start at $46 a month but are capped at 100 members. You can explore more pricing plans based on your requirements and member count here.
Another open source entry on our list that also integrates with the WordPress CMS, Vanilla Forums, is a powerful solution to create an online community. As the name indicates, the tool can be used to create forums that you can use to build a knowledge base about your offering, brand, product, or membership program.
It is a fully customizable solution to fit your brand’s aesthetics in addition to having community features such as the ability to create groups, schedule events, and moderate your community.
- Open-source and fully customizable.
- Built-in gamification features that boost user engagement.
- A rich selection of community features.
- Analytics for community insights.
Vanilla Forums comes with three tiers of pricing plans. To get the actual quotes, you will have to get in touch with the Vanilla Forums sales team.
If you’re looking for an option that is built from the ground up with building specialized communities in mind, then Hivebrite definitely warrants a look. With simple but feature-rich customization options, content and event management, data management, and moderation tools, there is very little to complain about when it comes to Hivebrite.
- A multitude of monetization options – subscriptions, memberships tiers, etc….
- Email campaign and newsletter management.
- Ability to create custom groups.
- Mobile app support.
While Hivebrite does not publicly state its price on the website, you can book a demo using this link.
The last entry on our list is not as fleshed out as some of the other solutions mentioned above, but PeerBoard is catching up quickly. If you can look past the lack of native live-streaming functionality and the lack of availability of mobile apps, you will find a robust feature set that lets you manage and moderate your online community.
Not only do you get the ability to create and manage posts, but you can get useful and powerful integrations with third-party platforms.
- API functionality that allows integration with WordPress and Thinkific.
- White label customization.
- Ability to create private spaces.
- Embed a community widget to your website.
You can get started with PeerBoard for free, The Starter plan starts at $23 per month, and you can check out this page for additional pricing plans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the title of this FAQ?
A: 10 Best Online Community Platforms
Q: What does the term “mighty networks” refer to?
A: Mighty Networks is an all-in-one community platform that allows you to build a dedicated community around your brand, sell online courses, and manage your community engagement in one place.
Q: Are these the best online community platforms for 2023?
A: Yes, this list of the 15 best online community platforms includes the top-rated platforms for building and managing an online community in 2023.
Q: What is the best community platform?
A: The best community platform depends on the type of community you’re building and the features you need. However, some of the best features to consider when choosing a community platform include community management tools, community building features, a dedicated community space, and a platform that allows you to create a community app. Some of the top-rated platforms are Mighty Networks, Discourse, and Tribe.
Q: Can I create a community for free?
A: Yes, there are some community platforms that offer a free community plan, such as Mighty Networks, Discourse, and SocialEngine. However, keep in mind that some platforms may charge for additional features like community engagement tools or community management options.
Q: What type of online community can I create with these platforms?
A: These platforms allow you to create various types of online communities, including brand communities, customer communities, fan communities, and interest-based communities.
Q: Can I sell online courses on these platforms?
A: Yes, some of these platforms allow you to sell online courses, such as Mighty Networks and Kajabi. However, keep in mind that some platforms may charge additional fees for this feature.
Q: What is community building?
A: Community building refers to the process of creating, managing, and growing an online community. This involves engaging with members, building a sense of community, and fostering relationships within the group.
Q: What is the difference between community software and a community platform?
A: Community software typically refers to a specific tool or application used to manage and build an online community, while a community platform is an all-in-one solution that includes various features and tools for creating and managing a community.
Q: What types of online communities can be created with these platforms?
A: These platforms allow you to create various types of online communities, including forums, customer support communities, social networks, and interest-based communities.
Q: What is community management?
A: Community management refers to the process of overseeing and managing an online community. This includes moderating discussions, engaging with members, setting community guidelines, and ensuring a positive community experience.
It is easier than ever in the age of the internet to connect and network with like-minded people from around the world. Online community platforms that let you create engaging posts and provide community organization and moderation tools, as well as a member directory, personalized activity feed, member notifications, and SEO compatibility, are must-have features when picking out an online community platform for your business.
Which online community platforms have you tried out? Let us know in the comments below!