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Community Software

 
Memeni logo
 
Memeni is a cloud-based community engagement solution for networking groups, nonprofits, retail, colleges and sports institutions. Key features and modules include content marketing, promotion campaigns, gamification and dashboard... Read More
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Memeni is a cloud-based community engagement solution for networking groups, nonprofits, retail, colleges and sports institutions. Key features and modules include content marketing, promotion campaigns, gamification and dashboard... Read More
 
Hivebrite logo
 
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 for... Read More
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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 for... Read More
 
Vanilla logo
 
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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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
 
Lithium Communities logo
 
Lithium Communities is an online community management solution designed for businesses of all sizes. It features a forum, blog management, a knowledge base, review management, gamification and reporting functionalities within a suite. Lithium... Read More
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Lithium Communities is an online community management solution designed for businesses of all sizes. It features a forum, blog management, a knowledge base, review management, gamification and reporting functionalities within a suite. Lithium... Read More
 
ONEsite logo
 
ONEsite is a community management solution that offers document management, drag-and-drop layout creation, community groups, gamification and reporting. The solution is able to manage health care, consumer goods, education and betting... Read More
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ONEsite is a community management solution that offers document management, drag-and-drop layout creation, community groups, gamification and reporting. The solution is able to manage health care, consumer goods, education and betting... Read More

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Quip logo
 
Quip is a project management and community collaboration tool that help users work together and communicate without emails. Users can create and edit spreadsheets, documents and checklists in the system, and team members can chat and... Read More
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Quip is a project management and community collaboration tool that help users work together and communicate without emails. Users can create and edit spreadsheets, documents and checklists in the system, and team members can chat and... Read More
 
Yotpo logo
 
Yotpo is a cloud-based content marketing platform that provides e-commerce sites with functionality for reviews, ratings, questions and answers, as well as other forms of user-generated content. Yotpo helps users manage the customer... Read More
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Yotpo is a cloud-based content marketing platform that provides e-commerce sites with functionality for reviews, ratings, questions and answers, as well as other forms of user-generated content. Yotpo helps users manage the customer... Read More
 
Forumbee logo
 
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 private... Read More
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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 private... Read More
 
Jostle logo
 
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 ideas... Read More
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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 ideas... Read More
 
Insightrix Communities logo
 
Insightrix Communities is a cloud-based online research community platform designed for government agencies, corporate researchers and research units. It helps organizations in both qualitative and quantitative research by collecting... Read More
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Insightrix Communities is a cloud-based online research community platform designed for government agencies, corporate researchers and research units. It helps organizations in both qualitative and quantitative research by collecting... Read More

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QuestionPro Communities logo
 
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 suite.... Read More
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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 suite.... Read More
 
Mobilize logo
 
Mobilize is a cloud-based community management solution for organizations looking to contact, manage and engage members from a single platform. The solutions come with key features that include group messaging, contact management,... Read More
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Mobilize is a cloud-based community management solution for organizations looking to contact, manage and engage members from a single platform. The solutions come with key features that include group messaging, contact management,... Read More
 
Zoho Connect logo
 
Zoho Connect is a cloud-based project collaboration tool designed for companies of all sizes. It allows users to build an enterprise social network so that colleagues can collaborate and connect on projects. Zoho Connect features... Read More
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Zoho Connect is a cloud-based project collaboration tool designed for companies of all sizes. It allows users to build an enterprise social network so that colleagues can collaborate and connect on projects. Zoho Connect features... Read More
 
Answerbase logo
 
With an impressive client base and a full suite of CRM features, Answerbase is a robust solution for mid-size and enterprise-level companies looking for Marketing Automation and analytics, Customer Service and Support, Social CRM,... Read More
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With an impressive client base and a full suite of CRM features, Answerbase is a robust solution for mid-size and enterprise-level companies looking for Marketing Automation and analytics, Customer Service and Support, Social CRM,... Read More
 
AnswerHub logo
 
AnswerHub is a community and customer relationship management (CRM) software solution available for deployment either in the cloud or on-premise. It is suitable for midsize businesses to large enterprises across a variety of industries. AnswerHub... Read More
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AnswerHub is a community and customer relationship management (CRM) software solution available for deployment either in the cloud or on-premise. It is suitable for midsize businesses to large enterprises across a variety of industries. AnswerHub... Read More

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CMNTY Platform logo
 
CMNTY Platform is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution for small to midsize businesses in all industries. It offers various customizable features, a built-in gamification engine and survey tool and community... Read More
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CMNTY Platform is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution for small to midsize businesses in all industries. It offers various customizable features, a built-in gamification engine and survey tool and community... Read More

 

Buyer's Guide

by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: September 7, 2017


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.

 

 

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