Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped many SMBs choose the right community software so they can create a platform for collaboration and engage with their users.

Showing 1-20 of 119 products

Disciple

Disciple empowers creators, founders and changemakers to build independent communities on a platform that they own, manage and control. Our proprietary technology allows you to bring your people, memberships, and content together ... Read more

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Higher Logic FrontRunners 2021

Higher Logic is an online community management software. It creates a place where customers interact with each other. It helps in building brand loyalty and creates a peer-to-peer support environment. Higher Logic's platform ... Read more

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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

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Hivebrite FrontRunners 2021

Hivebrite is a cloud-based online community management platform for incubators, businesses, schools, and nonprofits including institutions with limited resources. It helps organizations build brand engagements and opportunities fo... Read more

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Zapnito

Zapnito is the SaaS online community platform for intelligence-driven organizations. We power branded, expert communities that allow members to learn, share knowledge and collaborate. An all-in-one community and learning platform,... Read more

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Localist

With Localist's unique combination of event management and marketing automation you will increase attendance for all event types (online and offline, paid and free), keep Meetups and Facebook Lives under your brand and make measur... Read more

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Glue Up FrontRunners 2021

Glue Up (Formerly EventBank) is a cloud-based engagement management platform for nonprofit organizations. Glue Up integrates event management, membership management, customer relationship management (CRM), email marketing, payment... Read more

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Tribe FrontRunners 2021

Tribe is a cloud-based community platform designed for enterprise-grade customer communities. Key elements include complete customization, embeddable widgets, modern design, comprehensive API, gamification, analytics, powerful mod... Read more

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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

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Mighty Networks FrontRunners 2021

Mighty Networks is a cloud-based social networking platform designed to help marketing teams create targeted landing pages, track leads and connect with clients on a centralized dashboard. It enables members to gain information ab... Read more

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Ambassify

Ambassify grows along with your organization and its ambitions. Set a low-threshold starting point to facilitate adoption and ease into the full power along the way. Our features: Verified social sharing, polling, voting, announc... Read more

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Honeycommb FrontRunners 2021

Honeycommb is a social networking solution that helps businesses engage with customers and manage brand visibility across multiple websites. Features include advertising management, a media library, communication management, autom... Read more

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Almabase FrontRunners 2021

Almabase is an alumni management solution that helps education institutions streamline alumni engagement, community management and fundraising operations. It allows organizations to conduct virtual and in-person events, communicat... Read more

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NanoNotion

NanoNotion is an Azure SaaS application for which a Microsoft office 365 or Azure account is needed. The software allows employees to share ideas and knowledge with others. Additionally, the platform helps managers identify the in... Read more

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inSided

InSided is the leading customer community platform for Customer Success teams at B2B SaaS and subscription-based companies. We are the only community platform built specifically for B2B SaaS. Our customer community platform help... Read more

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Jostle

Jostle is a cloud-based collaboration and social networking solution that helps businesses share news, align teams, invite participants, and recognize contributions. The platform allows employees to discuss topics and share their ... Read more

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Brilliant Directories

Brilliant Directories is an all-in-one directory platform designed to help businesses design and launch online communities. Administrators can utilize available themes to build membership websites or directories and personalize th... Read more

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Website Toolbox FrontRunners 2021

Website Toolbox is a community management platform that helps businesses create discussion forums to resolve prospects' queries, receive feedback and facilitate collaboration among customers. Professionals can create customizable ... Read more

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Mallcomm

Mallcomm helps businesses create loyalty by connecting people to places whilst streamlining operations, budget savings and valuable insights. Their clientele include Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Savills, Brookfield Retail Properties... Read more

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Centercode

Centercode is a cloud-based customer validation solution that helps businesses manage processes for capturing client feedback using alpha, beta and delta tests. Key features include product reviews, content management, discussions... Read more

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Buyers guide


Last Updated: July 29, 2021

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 online community software

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.

 

FrontRunners

Your Guide to Top Community Software, February 2021

Software Advice uses reviews from real software users to highlight the top-rated Community Software products in North America.

Learn how products are chosen

Explore FrontRunners

“Usability” includes user ratings for Functionality and Ease of Use.“Customer Satisfaction” includes user ratings for Customer Support, Likelihood to Recommend and Value for Money.Reviews analysis period: The reviews analysis period spans two years and ends on the 15th of the month prior to publication.