If you run a membership site or sell courses online, chances are your target audience is scattered all across the world. To get everyone “together” for an event, conference, or discussion, you need to host something online that people can participate in virtually.
You can organize your members, learners, customers, and clients into online communities based on common interests. To do this, you need an online community platform that keeps members engaged with your content and other members.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what online community platforms are and why you should create one. We’ll also round up some of the best online community platforms in 2023.
What is an online community platform?
In simple terms, an online community is a place where people that share common interests, goals, and ideologies come together to connect and build relationships with one another. Online communities can revolve around learning, brands, customers, memberships, networking, and support.
An online community platform is a tool that helps you add community features – like community management, discussion board, commenting features, and inboxes – to your website. Lots of community platforms take the shape of forums that let users create posts, leave comments, and upvote or downvote what other members are saying.
Reddit is a popular online community platform that lets users start new subreddit communities and join multiple communities.
The main benefit of creating online communities is that it enables social connection. This way, your members, learners, subscribers, and customers can interact with one another on a common platform and discuss topics of common interest.
10 best online community platforms in 2023
Instead of building an online community platform from scratch, you can simply get started with one of the many tools that are already available to build your online community.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best online community platforms to help you decide which one is right for you.
Thinkific is the perfect online community platform for anyone that sells courses online. It’s an all-in-one platform that lets users create, market, and sell online courses.
The platform comes with plenty of templates out of the box to help you get started quickly. You can customize your online courses using an intuitive drag-and-drop editor. Once that’s done, you can add community elements to it in a few clicks.
Thinkific lets you create engaging community spaces for learners complete with a notifications system. Students can create their member profiles and move between the online course and community forums seamlessly.
Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that helps users create, market, and sell digital content such as online courses, membership programs, coaching programs, podcasts, and online communities. It’s the perfect tool for anyone looking to build an online community with the purpose of monetizing it.
Kajabi lets you set up live calls, leaderboards, challenges, real-time chat, and accountability tools. This helps digital creators deliver an engaging community experience to members and learners.
The best part is that Kajabi Communities are connected to your digital products which makes the user experience smooth. The platform lets you charge members a recurring subscription in exchange for access to the community.
Check out The New Kajabi Review – My First Impressions for more information on Kajabi.
BuddyBoss is one of the most popular online course and community platforms for WordPress sites. If you already have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can use BuddyBoss to build a public or private online community with features of your choosing.
The BuddyBoss Platform is a fork and forge of the BuddyPress and bbPress plugins. It lets you create a community dashboard, user profiles, posts, friends and followers, comments and likes, direct messages, mentions, and much more.
In addition to this, you can choose to enable activity feeds so users can keep up with what other members are doing. You can also use the platform to set up a job board, events, groups, and online store.
Be sure to check out our BuddyBoss Review for more in-depth information.
#4: Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks is designed for course sellers and membership site owners that want to bring their offerings together in an online community. You can get started with a free online community and add a paid membership program to it or start selling online courses.
The online community platform lets you create dedicated communities for each online course you sell as well as engagement features like hosting events and live streaming. It gives users the option to create a community around chat or around a feed.
Might Networks allows direct messages between members and lets members create their own profile pages.
Podia is marketed as an alternative to Patreon and Facebook Groups. This online community platform lets you build your community on a platform you own. You can use it to build free or paid online communities for your target audience.
With Podia, you can set up forum-like topics for your members to keep discussions organized. It’s perfect for businesses that want control over which topics members can discuss. Members can then follow the topics that they’re interested in. Another unique feature you get with Podia is that you can configure it so only you can create new posts.
If you sell a membership program, subscription program, or online course, you can let members access your digital products from within the online community. This is a great way to let learners talk about lessons, courses, and assignments, and share their work with other learners.
If you’re a business owner looking for a white-label online community platform then Tribe might be your best bet. The platform lets you build the perfect online community for your target audience using spaces, collections, and tags.
Community members can create their user profiles, write posts, earn badges, and interact with other members in a variety of ways. The platform supports direct messaging, reactions, comments, leaderboards, and activity feeds to help you keep community members engaged.
#7: Vanilla Forums
Vanilla Forums is a community management platform by Higher Logic. It packs essential online community-building features that businesses need to launch and grow an online community that’s focused on delivering an excellent customer experience.
Vanilla Forums lets you set up a discussions and Q&As section where community members can connect with one another, share best practices, and ask questions. The platform also lets you leverage gamification features to reward community participation. This is a great way to keep members engaged with your online community platform in the long run.
Hivebrite is an all-in-one online community platform that’s best suited to alumni, corporate alumni, professional networks, and nonprofits. The platform includes dedicated subgroups where members can connect with one another, build connections, join groups, post on forums, and much more.
You can also choose to host events and create a job board to let community members post job opportunities and search for employment. In addition to this, Hivebrite comes with social networking features and a member directory that’s perfect for businesses looking to build an online community platform.
Circle is an all-in-one community platform that’s aimed at creators and brands. It lets users bring online courses, memberships, discussions, live streams, chat, and much more under one roof. The great thing about Circle is that you don’t have to worry about integrating multiple tools to make them work together. It lets you combine your content with your online community to deliver a good user experience to community members.
The circle is perfect for membership communities, customer communities, coaching communities, online course communities, clubs and organizations, and startups and brands. You can create private spaces, group chat rooms, member directories, events, and live streams. In addition to this, the platform lets you monetize your online community by selling paid memberships.
Discourse is an open-source online community platform that’s perfect for creators and companies. The platform is fully open-source which means you own all of the data on your forums with full access to the online community’s conversation history.
The platform features dynamic notifications, real-time chat, customization, and community moderation. You can award badges to members to encourage positive community behavior. The platform lets you set up social login, anonymous posting, hide spoilers feature, and embeddable polls.
Building an online community takes time. If you’ve already got an online course or membership site in place, you can use an online community platform to start building your online community today.
Most online community platforms let you choose which features you’d like to enable such as creating posts, private messaging, reactions, comments, and member directories. Some come with gamification features out of the box that helps you keep community members engaged in the long term.
We shared some of the best online community platforms in 2023 and, hopefully, you’re in a good position now to take the next steps.
Do you have any questions on how to build an online community? Let us know in the comments section below.