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Mighty Networks

Mighty Networks is a community management platform. With a Mighty Network, you can bring your courses, memberships, and offers together in a powerful community under your own brand on iOS, Android, and the web. We believe that ...Read more about Mighty Networks

Circle

Circle is the all-in-one platform for building and scaling world-class communities. Creators, coaches, entrepreneurs, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and many other community builders bring their people and content t...Read more about Circle

Answerbase

Answerbase is a solution for mid-size and enterprise-level companies looking for marketing automation and analytics, customer service and support and social CRM. Customer service and support module allow companies to solve their c...Read more about Answerbase

CMNTY Platform

CMNTY Platform is a highly intuitive online platform used by marketers and insights professionals for project-based market research and continuous insights communities. CMNTY's platform and services include panel recruitment, qual...Read more about CMNTY Platform

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AnswerHub

AnswerHub is an online developer community solution available for deployment either in the cloud or on-premise. It is suitable for midsize businesses to large enterprises across various industries. AnswerHub enables team coll...Read more about AnswerHub

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Quip

Quip is a cloud-based project management and task collaboration solution that help users work together and communicate without emails. Users can create and edit spreadsheets, documents and checklists in the system, and team member...Read more about Quip

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Yotpo

Yotpo is a cloud-based content marketing platform for e-commerce businesses that enables users to collect user-generated content and use the content to build a brand and manage the customer experience. The integrated solution lets...Read more about Yotpo

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Jostle

Jostle’s employee success platform is where everyone connects, communicates, and celebrates at work. It’s the heartbeat of our own company and has helped employees in over 1,000 organizations easily belong and contribute, anywhere...Read more about Jostle

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Forj

Mobilize is a cloud-based event and community management platform designed to help non-profits, companies, associations, and resellers connect with supporters or members. Mobilize is the perfect solution for groups of all sizes. ...Read more about Forj

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Higher Logic Vanilla

Vanilla is a cloud-based community management solution for consumer goods, financial services, gaming, media and publishing and technology. The solution helps organizations engage members, create discussion forums and gather ideas...Read more about Higher Logic Vanilla

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QuestionPro Communities

QuestionPro Communities is a cloud-based community management solution that offers customer-panel management, discussion forums, surveys, polls, live chat, feedback management and customer intelligence functionalities within a sui...Read more about QuestionPro Communities

3.7 (3 reviews)

Hivebrite

Hivebrite is a cloud-based online community management platform for small and large enterprises, associations, universities, and nonprofits. It helps organizations build brand engagements and opportunities for members to network...Read more about Hivebrite

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Forumbee

Forumbee is a cloud-based community and discussion forum-creation platform that supports social sharing, mobile moderation and a knowledge base. It features branding and design, discussion forums, Q&A forums, feedback forums and p...Read more about Forumbee

Raklet

Raklet is a cloud-based club and event management solution that provides an integrated workflow for maintaining a contact database, collecting payments, organizing events and automating email and SMS communication. Raklet enh...Read more about Raklet

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MangoApps

MangoApps is a unified employee experience platform that combines intranet, training, teamwork, and content management into a single dashboard and workspace. Our user-friendly, infinitely customizable approach fits into the way yo...Read more about MangoApps

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AnswerCart

AnswerCart is a cloud-based community and forum management solution that caters to small and midsize businesses across industries such as education, finance, tech and more. Key features include discussion forums, a built-in media ...Read more about AnswerCart

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VeryConnect

VeryConnect is a cloud-based membership management solution that provides services such as member data collection, subscription and payment management, email campaigns and event creation. It is suitable for membership organization...Read more about VeryConnect

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Bettermode

Bettermode is an all-in-one customer community platform to engage customers and build meaningful experiences. A community built on Bettermode is a customer hub with many use cases. Product teams collect ideas and feedback. Custom...Read more about Bettermode

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Almabase

Crafted for Alumni-Relations and fundraising teams to boost engagement with streamlined programs. Know your community better with data, elevate their experience from connection to donation, and foster a sense of community with an...Read more about Almabase

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Higher Logic Thrive

Purpose-built for associations, Higher Logic Thrive is a powerful yet simple member experience solution. Built on nearly 20 years of serving associations, Higher Logic Thrive makes finding, engaging, renewing, and communicating wi...Read more about Higher Logic Thrive

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Buyers Guide

Last Updated: March 16, 2023

Online communities provide a platform for individuals to connect around a shared interest, goal or activity. Users form a network, develop relationships and collaborate by sharing information and engaging with content.

Community software helps businesses build and develop these forums, cultivate followers and maintain memberships. These tools automate administrative processes and provide businesses with actionable data on metrics and trends such as site activity and user engagement.

There are a variety of solutions on the market designed to serve every type of business need, including brand building, customer support and many more.

We’ve created this guide to help you better understand the community software market so you can select the right tool for your organization. Whether you’re looking to invest in community software for the first time or looking to replace your current system, this guide can help you make a more informed purchase decision.

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is Community Software?

Key Features of Community Software

Types of Community Software

Key Considerations for Community Software Buyers

What Is Community Software?

Businesses and associations build online communities to achieve several goals:

  • Increase brand awareness

  • Grow their customer base

  • Support customers throughout the entire customer life cycle (i.e., considering, purchasing, using, maintaining and/or replacing a product or service)

  • Provide a forum for discussion/feedback regarding products and/or services

Of course, first and foremost, communities should provide value to the end user.

Community software solutions help businesses build, launch, manage and measure the effectiveness of their online communities so as to strive for continuous improvement, i.e., provide the most value to the customer.

Example-forum-report-using-Socious-online-community-software

Example forum report using Socious

Key Features of Community Software

Look for the following community software capabilities as you compare solutions:

Member management

Enable users to create profiles, join groups and/or chapters. Often includes search functionality or a directory. Can include membership dues management (works with merchant account platforms) to manage paid memberships.

Content management

Create web content and track how users interact with different types of content. Can include process documentation, wikis, articles and more. Set up online and emailed content alerts for when content is added or updated.

Forums and discussion boards

Facilitate communication and collaboration among users, allowing them to follow threads, share ideas, post questions and respond to inquires. Includes features such as @ mentions, the ability to like and/or share posts, insert emojis, add tags and other classifications to posts and archive discussions. Often includes the ability to send private messages as well.

Blog creation and management

Set up blogs for your business, employees or individual members. Allow users to create and share content, organize content using tags and other classifications and subscribe to blogs. Includes security settings, user permissions and the ability to turn commenting on or off.

Gamification/crowdsourcing

Increase user engagement in your community with tools such as gamification, contests, surveys and/or polls. Invite users to post scores on their profile or share to their social networks.

Media libraries

Upload and store files in a centralized, searchable location. Features often include customizable user permissions, share settings and the ability to turn on/off commenting. Enlist users in library maintenance by allowing them to tag out of date files, broken links etc.

Event management

Showcase events and conferences and work with your partners to cultivate sponsorships and your customers to build out your attendees. Features include online registration, agenda/calendar building and payment management.

Reporting and analytics

Includes dashboards and reports for several metrics, including member activity, site interactions, content shares and many more. Schedule one-off or recurring reports, view data in various graphical displays and export data to Excel. Create custom reports to track trends unique to your business or industry.

Types of Community Software:

Community software can create and manage several types of communities. These can generally be grouped as follows:

Internal business tools. This includes communities designed to facilitate collaboration among employees and crowdsource ideas to solve internal business issues. They can also act as an internal knowledge center where employees can access reference material, join relevant groups and search for important business documentation and processes. Can also include professional development and training.

Capabilities might include:

  • Employee directory

  • Wikis

  • Talent referral

  • Opinion surveys and polls

Business-to-consumer (B2C). This includes a variety of communities designed to help businesses engage with current and prospective clients, most often centered around business development/sales, customer relationship management, support and training. Can also host reviews of products and services. Non-profit and professional development associations can also use this software to engage with members or users rather than customers.

Capabilities likely include:

  • Branded blog, news, and/or social network

  • Forums and discussion boards

  • Content and media library

  • Group/chapter management

  • Event management

Business-to-business (B2B).

B2B communities enable businesses to interact with other organizations in their industry, most often through partner programs and industry and awareness brand marketing. This resource can be helpful when highlighting new programs, product releases and updates as well as when creating and/or responding to RFPs.

Capabilities often include:

  • Business profiles

  • Product/service videos

  • Document sharing

  • Event management/sponsorship tools

Consumer-to-consumer. This category includes communities built by consumers to serve and engage with other consumers, such as interest-based communities (e.g., sports, video games, city/geographical involvement etc.), professional development associations and product/service reviews forums.

Capabilities might include:

  • Member profiles

  • Group/chapter management

  • Forums and discussion boards

  • Private messaging

  • Content management

Additionally, it’s possible (and likely) for a hybrid community to exist within any of these categories. An example of this is when customers interact with each other and the business joins in on the discussion.

Each community will require member management and offer some degree of reporting/analytics for administrative members. As the primary goal for these systems is to provide value to end users, it’s important to chose a solution with reporting functionality that supports your business and industry requirements.

Key Considerations for Community Software Buyers

Keep the following purchase considerations in mind as you compare solutions:

Open-source community software. There are several open-source solutions on the market that can help you get an online community set up with lower upfront costs than you’d have with a paid solution.

However, you will require an IT staff to host and maintain the system, which means, as one vendor states on their website “you break it, you fix it.” You also have limited support, training and customer service options with open source tools, so consider the needs of both your administrative and end users before choosing this option.

Integration with existing business software. Integration allows for seamless data transfer between applications, which is a chief concern when using disparate systems. Look for tools that integrate with your existing business applications (e.g., your CRM, marketing, help desk and social media accounts) to save time and reduce duplicate data entry.

Actionable insights/reporting. The key with reporting is to gain actionable insights. Your community software should help you strive for continuous improvement so as to provide the most value to your end user, so you should supplement your reporting strategy with feedback loops. Additionally, look for trends that allow you to enhance and tailor the user experience to each member group, which can lead to increased and prolonged membership.