A community platform is a place where people can interact, share ideas and collaborate. A community platform will typically serve as a space for members to post content, share, and discuss topics that are relevant to the group.

The core aim of any community platform is to create a strong sense of belonging amongst its members, bringing together a group of people with similar interests or those who might be aiming to achieve a shared goal.

The best community platforms offer more than just a space for discussion – many also provide admin tools to help you manage your members and define rules and guidelines to maintain order and keep things running smoothly.

In this guide, we look at some of the best community platforms available and share our top tips for managing your own thriving online community.

Building an online community is one of the most effective ways to engage with your customers and build brand loyalty, but it’s not easy. The best community platforms take a lot of time and effort to get right.

To help give you a better idea of what’s out there, we’ve put together this list of the best community platforms for your business.

Best Community Platforms – Introduction

Welcome to the first post in our Best Community Platforms series. In this series, we will be going over different community platforms and talking about their features and benefits.

In the first post in this series, I want to go over our top 10 rated community platforms. These are the ones that we have ranked as the best overall solutions for building an online community.

We’ll be talking about what they do, how they work, and why we think that they should be on your shortlist of community platforms.

1) Jive-x – Jive’s platform is one of the most popular social business solutions out there. It has a lot of great features like gamification, activity streams, forums and more.

2) Lithium – Lithium is one of the big players in enterprise social networking and supports a wide range of different types of communities. It has a lot of advanced features like gamification, polls, user management, etc.

3) Vanilla Forums – Vanilla’s platform is focused on creating a good forum experience for your users with features like single sign-on (SSO), forums, blogs and more. Telligent Community – Telligent’s platform is one of the biggest enterprise social networks.

What are the Best Community Platforms?

What are the best community platforms? When you’re thinking about starting a community, there’s a dizzying array of options on the market. Do you want to go with an all-in-one solution? Or should you roll your own, using a variety of different tools and services? Here’s a look at four of the most popular options, to help you get started.

What are the Best Community Platforms?

  1. Nodebb Nodebb is open source software, which means that it’s free to use, but you have to host it yourself. If your site has some dedicated fans and you want to give them something extra for their support, Nodebb could be a good choice.
  2. It does require some technical knowledge to set up and maintain – if you don’t know much about databases and web servers, it can be tricky to get started. But as long as you have someone who can take care of that stuff for you, Nodebb is a great option.

1. Thinkific

Whether you’re sharing your knowledge for free or looking to build a business, we’re here to help you succeed. We’re the world’s first all-in-one platform that empowers you and organizations to easily create and sell beautiful online courses.

With Thinkific, you can share your knowledge with the world and get paid for it! Powerful & Easy To Use Create, market, and sell your online course with Thinkific’s robust yet simple to use platform.

You’re in control every step of the way! The Ultimate Online Course Platform You have complete freedom to design your course however you want. The possibilities are endless! So much more than an online course platform With our powerful suite of business tools, you’ll be equipped to create amazing courses that get results.

Thinkific is a software platform that allows entrepreneurs to create, market, sell and deliver their own online courses. The software is easy to use, customizable and comes with all the pieces you need to create and launch your online course.

Features

Video Hosting High-quality, responsive video hosting on a platform that’s optimized for learning. Multiple Video Formats Easily add videos from your computer, YouTube and Vimeo to any lesson.

Video Chaptering Add chapter markers to your videos for easy navigation. Streamlined Design Our intuitive drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to design amazing courses without any technical expertise.

Course Templates Accelerate your course creation process with our professionally designed templates (no coding required). Customizable Theme Editor Customize the look of your course site with our built-in theme editor (no coding required).

Coupons**(new)**Set custom coupon codes so you can offer discounts to launch new courses, offer special pricing to select groups, and more!

Pros

I love Thinkific for a number of reasons: Easy to use, easy to set up (no technical skills required).Ability to create your own branded theme, no need to pay for an expensive course theme (though you can if you want!).

Ability to drip content and schedule release dates. So you just upload your modules and schedule them to go live on the days you want them too!Option of a free plan or low cost paid plans (unlike some platforms which charge whether you sell anything or not!).

Affordable – I only have the basic plan and it’s only $49/mo. You can also get a 14-day free trial!

2. Mighty Networks

The other day I was talking to a friend about her local community. She’s a member of both their Facebook group and their Mighty Network.

And she loves it. But the thing that really struck me is when she said, “I don’t like using Facebook for groups anymore.

It makes me feel like I’m interrupting everyone’s day.” This comment stuck with me because it’s so true! Facebook is a great place to stay in touch with friends, but it’s not the best place to be part of a group or community.

Facebook is meant for your closest family and friends — people you want to see every day. But when you’re part of dozens of communities, you feel more like an interruption than anything else.

You might have also heard that Facebook has changed how many of your posts are seen by members of your groups. That means that if you want people to see your posts in the groups you’re in, you have to pay for it (something we plan on doing for our own Mighty Networks in the future).

Features

Mighty Networks is a new way to build and engage a community. It’s a place where your people can connect, share ideas and grow together.

Build in days, not months. Mighty Networks has all the features you need to create and grow your network in days, not months.

Branded app and web experience Your own branded app, plus a fully responsive website that works on any device and screen size. Private Social Network Connect your members with each other and with you through Groups and Direct Messages.

 

Membership Site Create an exclusive space for members only, with content that’s always available to access on any device. Online Courses and Online Workshops Build online courses or online workshops for live or self-paced learning, on web or mobile.

Paid Memberships or Subscriptions

Pros

Mighty Networks is a new kind of platform for building communities, online courses, and membership programs. It’s a powerful way to bring everything you care about into one place on the web.

With a Mighty Network, you can: Bring everything together Combine all your content in one place: your website, blog, and discussions. And with apps for iOS and Android, everybody stays connected no matter where they are.

Build a community of your own Create a private space where members can hang out, share stories and files, and get to know each other. Offer exclusive content Keep your members coming back with member-only chats, forums, blogs, courses, and more.

Make money selling memberships Charge monthly or yearly fees for exclusive access to your network. Cost: PRO plan is $99 per month or $990 per year.

3. Tribe Platform

Tribe is a platform that connects brands with talented content creators. We’ve been featured in Featured in: We’ve been featured in: Tribe helps brands get on-demand, high quality content for their social media & digital marketing needs.

Easy to use. No tech required.

Simply fill out your brief, choose your creator and let them do the work. Get inspired, refreshed content quickly and on-demand when you need it.

Quick, easy and responsive customer service all the way! High quality curated creators. Our team have vetted hundreds of creators to ensure you’re getting quality, engaging content.

And we’re always welcoming new and exciting creatives to our community! Tribe is the best way to get your brand’s products into the hands of passionate influencers.

Working with us is not just about getting more content for your brand, it’s about getting your products in front of a highly engaged audience, who are proven to be influential and drive sales.

We build relationships with influencers that helps us to understand their audiences. We then match them with brands who want to work together on creating high quality content that reaches real people, who are going to engage with the content and make purchases.

Features

With the Tribe platform, you can easily create and manage your influencer marketing campaigns. Our features include: Campaign Briefs: Write your campaign brief, including the audience you wish to reach, the budget you have available and the type of content you’d like.

Influencer Selection: Review applications and select the influencers who are right for your campaign. Content Approval: Approve or request changes to submitted content before publishing.

Real-Time Tracking & Reporting: Monitor engagement, clicks and conversions across all your campaigns in real time. Payment Processing: Fund your campaign account, pay influencers directly and track payments through our platform.

Pros

Whether you’re a brand or an influencer, we want to make sure that you understand the pros of using Tribe. For brands, our benefits are clear: Instant access to over 10,000 Australian influencers for your next campaign.

Ability to filter and search by category/niche/location/influencer metrics/price range (and more). No agency fees.

Save time and money. Build a list of favourite influencers.

Create campaign briefs with ease. Track campaign performance and engagement in real-time via our analytics dashboard.

For influencers, our benefits are clear: Brand trust – no longer will you have to worry about getting paid on time as all payments are made through Stripe and sent directly to your bank account which ensures that payments are processed and delivered seamlessly. Receive briefs from brands in your niche and where you want them – give us the categories you’d like to receive and we’ll send you relevant briefs only, giving you more control over what opportunities come your way.

Campaign tracking – track your engagement, reach, impressions and other stats in real-time, so that you can monitor the effectiveness of your posts.

4. Discourse

Discourse is the 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet. Use it as a mailing list, discussion forum, long-form chat room, and more! Discourse is modern forum software for your community.

Use it as a mailing list, discussion forum, long-form chat room, and more! Everything you need to grow your community. Mailing List.

Discourse is a mailing list that doesn’t suck! Discourse makes following discussions easy with notifications, post filtering and digest emails. Our format makes it easy to follow long conversations without losing track of what’s going on. Discussion Forum.

Discourse uses an intelligent layout that automatically adapts to any size screen: desktop, mobile or tablet. Your users will love it.

Long-Form Chat Room. Discourse has robust support for real-time discussion right in your browser, using WebSockets to push new posts in real time.

This means your users can get instant gratification while they’re chatting with you on your site. And More! Discourse is designed to make everyone feel welcome and safe to participate in the discussion.

Whether you’re dealing with technical questions from customers or passionate fans of your latest release, we’ve got you covered with features like private

Features

Discourse Features Discourse has a huge number of features, and its development is ongoing, so be sure to visit Discourse Meta regularly to stay up-to-date on new features. Here are some of the most important features: Drag and drop image uploading! Not just that, but inline image uploading! Just drag and drop the image into your post – it will upload while you type.

Real time editing. Type a reply and Discourse will save it automatically in your browser.

No clicking Save Draft every 15 seconds! Your post is saved as you type.

Fully responsive layout – looks great on mobile devices too! Desktop notifications for watching topics and replies. Tagging support for topics.

Use tags to create topic categories for your forum or site. Tagging also allows you to subscribe to topics based on their tags.

User reputation system with thanks/likes (similar to StackOverflow) Private Messaging between other users of the forum. Lightweight moderation tools for community moderation (also similar to StackOverflow).

Moderators can silently flag posts for attention, and trust levels can be assigned per user group or per user basis.

Pros

Discourse is a great forum software. Here’s why:* It’s built to scale well – with millions of users, you won’t have any trouble.

* It’s open source, so you can fork it, modify it, and make it your own. * It has an active community that can help you with support issues and customizations.

* It’s optimized for mobile use, which is important since there are more mobile devices than personal computers in the world.If you’re looking for a forum software solution, check out Discourse.

5. Vanilla Forums

Vanilla Forums is an open source discussion forum for the web. It is built on a model–view–controller web application framework that can be used independently of the CMS that allows you to stay in control of your data.

It provides great customization and flexibility, making it suitable for all types of businesses: from small and medium enterprises to large corporations.Vanilla Forums is an open community-driven project that was built to help small businesses and major brands connect with their customers in a more meaningful way.

Vanilla Forums provides a full suite of features that increases user engagement and customer loyalty. You can create a community where people can interact and share their ideas, ask questions and get answers or simply discuss different topics by creating discussion forums that are divided into categories and subcategories.

For example:

The first paragraph should be a summary of the page.

The second paragraph will be the most important part of the page.The third and final paragraph should wrap up the topic, or even introduce a new one!As you can see, our page is already looking better than it did before.

Features

Vanilla Forums offers a variety of features including:Easy to use, flexible, and free!Private communities that can be accessed by invitation only.Single sign-on (SSO) and two factor authentication (2FA).

Social login, so users can log in with their social media accounts.Mobile apps for iOS and Android devices allow users to access your community on the go.

Gamification features, such as badges and points, to reward community members.An API that allows you to integrate your community with third party software, such as CRMs and analytics programs.

A powerful set of moderation tools that allow you to manage your community easily.

Pros

Vanilla Forums Pros There are many benefits to using Vanilla Forums, including the following: Vanilla is an open-source platform. It’s built on PHP and MySQL and has been downloaded more than one million times.

Vanilla has a wide range of features. Its core features include forum creation, sharing, commenting and liking capabilities.

Vanilla has a large community. It’s used by more than 300,000 websites in 170 countries.

Many moderators contribute by creating plugins for the platform. Vanilla has responsive design capabilities.

Its themes are responsive and mobile-friendly, allowing users to access it from any device with an internet connection. It is easy to customize Vanilla Forums.

Users can choose from a variety of pre-built themes or create their own unique designs with CSS.

6. Spectrum.chat

We’ve been working on a new chat community for the past few months, and we’re excited to launch it today! Spectrum.chat is a community platform where you can share ideas, find answers, join groups and have discussions that matter.

It’s a modern take on forums that’s tailored to developers. We built Spectrum because we wanted to create a home for developers who are passionate about the web, but don’t always have the opportunity to meet in person.

In addition to our own team members, we’ve invited dozens of companies and web platform experts to share their knowledge and participate in conversations with you. We think it’s important that your data belongs to you, which is why Spectrum is open source under an MIT license.

It’s also designed for extensibility with custom plugins and themes, so if you want to add your company or project’s logo, color scheme or functionality, we’d love for you to contribute! Howdy! I’m Kevin and I get a kick out of making things with code. I’m an experienced full-stack engineer that has worked on over 30 web apps.

My passion for building software began in my early teenage years, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Features

Spectrum.chat is a new community platform where you can join and build communities around topics that interest you.

The Spectrum Community is the first place to use Spectrum.chat and it’s open to everyone, but we’re also excited for what comes next.

As a way of saying thanks for helping us test out the site and provide feedback, we’re giving early adopters $5 in credit to spend on their own community domain. Here are some of our favorite features: Communities can have their own custom domain name (e.g., webflow.community) Anyone can create a community A community leader can change the theme, color scheme, logo, and favicon of their community. Members can be invited from Slack or by email address Communities have channels for discussions on different topics.

Pros

Spectrum.chat Pros You get to help people! Spectrum is a place for people to ask questions, find answers, and become better developers.

When you answer questions, you’re helping other developers. You can show off your expertise.

Every time you participate on Spectrum — especially when you answer questions — you gain reputation points. Reputation points are displayed next to your name and help you build credibility in the community.

You can learn from others. Spectrum provides a space for experts and learners alike to interact with one another.

Answers to other people’s questions can be a great learning opportunity for you. It’s fun! Finally, Spectrum is just fun! Everyone who participates on Spectrum is excited about web development and eager to share that enthusiasm with others.

7. Slack

Slack is a collaboration hub for work, no matter what work you do. It’s a place where conversations happen, decisions are made, and information is always at your fingertips.

With Slack, your team is better connected. Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.

With Slack, your team is better connected. Slack brings all your communication together in one place.

It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams. Your tools and services can easily connect with Slack through our APIs, which give you the flexibility to create the experience that works best for your team or organization.

Connect email notifications to channels so that everyone has visibility and context into what’s happening as soon as it happens, or link to files from Box or Dropbox so that others can easily provide feedback on a project before it’s finalized. Slack is a collaboration hub for work, no matter what work you do.

It’s a place where conversations happen, decisions are made, and information is always at your fingertips. With Slack, your team is better connected.

Features

Channels: Group conversations in Slack are organized by topic, project, team or whatever makes sense for you. If you’re looking for a new home for your project, you can create a new channel in any workspace where you have permission to do so.

Search:Search is a powerful tool that helps you find what you need when you need it. You can search across public channels and private messages, or filter your results based on file types, people involved and more.

Direct Messages:

You can use Direct Messages to have private conversations with your teammates without leaving the app. They’re great for times when you only want to chat with one or two people.

You can also create Multi-Person Direct Messages if you want to include more than two people in the conversation. Notifications: You can choose which notifications you receive and how they’re delivered.

Each notification includes an option where “Do not disturb” mode is enabled by default — this means that Slack won’t send any notifications until you disable Do Not Disturb mode at the start of your next work day (or whatever time works best for you).

Pros

What is Slack? Slack is a team communication tool that has everything you need in one place, instantly searchable and available wherever you go. What can you do with Slack? Whether it’s a new feature or a bug fix, stay aligned with your team and move work forward by sharing updates, asking questions, and quickly finding the information you need.

Share files, images, PDFs, documents, and spreadsheets to bring context to your conversations — right into your channels. Keep everyone at the same page.

Organize all your work in one place to get more done. Channels help you organize and focus on what matters most.

Keep track of your work in messages and channel feeds. Search through all your conversations, files, and people from a single search box.

8. Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups help you connect with people in real life, whether you’re part of a classroom, a club, or just a group of friends who want to play games together. To get started with groups for your organization: Go to facebook.com/groups/create and select your group type.

Fill out the required information about your group. If you’re an admin of a group, you can post as the Page by clicking next to Post .

 

To change the way you post in your group, click at the top-right corner of Facebook and select Settings from the dropdown menu. From there, click Your Facebook Information in the left column and click View under Download Your Information.

Select Deselect All and then go to Posts and Stories from Your Groups and select the box next to Group Posts and Stories. Then click Create File. You’ll be notified when your file is ready to download, which may take several minutes or hours depending on how active your Facebook account has been.

Features

Facebook Groups are an amazing way to connect with others who share your passions. They can be used for a number of reasons, including sharing information about a product or service, providing support for a cause, organizing events and more.

Facebook Groups have powerful tools built in to help you and other members connect with each other and achieve your goals. Here’s a look at just some of the features you’ll find in Facebook Groups:Group Conversations — Members can start conversations in the group or comment on posts made by others.

Announcements — Group admins can write announcements that show up at the top of the group and in members’ News Feeds. Group Events — Members can create events within the group that all members will see in their News Feeds and on the group page.

Upload Photos and Videos — Members can share photos and videos with each other right in the group or via their own personal profiles. Group Polls — Admins can ask questions to gather feedback from their members, such as “What day works best for everyone to attend our next meeting?”

Pros

Facebook Groups are a great place for businesses to engage with customers and promote products. Consumers who join Groups are generally interested in the topic, so they’re more likely to be receptive to your posts.

Group members can also engage in conversations with each other, which helps build a sense of community around your brand. You can also use a Group to build up hype around a product launch or event, then use it as a way to keep people updated about what’s going on.

What is a Community Platform?

What is a community platform? It’s not just a website, an app, or a blog. A community platform is all of these things and more.

A community platform is a place where you can bring people together to exchange ideas, share knowledge, and make connections. A community platform can be as simple as a single page on your website that allows people to ask questions or as large as an online forum with thousands of members.

A community platform can be used for many different purposes: Crowdsourcing ideas for new products or services Providing support for customers who need help using your product. Generating leads by helping people solve problems related to your product or industry Building relationships with your customers by providing them with insights and advice Whatever the purpose of your community platform might be, there are two important elements you need to consider: the tools you use to manage it and the strategy you use to run it.

A community platform is more than a website. It’s a place where people come together to share their thoughts, interests, and experiences. It is the focal point of your online community.

Community Platform – Frequently Asked Questions

Why did you build a community platform? We are committed to helping students learn by providing them with the best possible education experience. We continually look for ways to improve that experience and our community is a vital part of this.

Building an online community will allow us to better engage with our students, provide enhanced support for course material, and expand our presence in the world. How does this work? We use Discourse as the back-end platform for the community. There is no need to set up an account on Discourse itself; it’s all done through Udacity.

You can log in using your Udacity account credentials, and you can also use your Udacity account to login directly at community.udacity.com if you prefer. Will I be able to access all public content without logging in? Yes, anyone can view public posts and topics on the forums without logging in or having an account.

To participate in discussions, ask or answer questions you will need to be logged in. What happens if I change my mind and don’t want my email address shared with other members of the community? You can withdraw your consent at any time by contacting us via our Help Center at support.udacity.com/hc

Best Community Platforms – Wrap Up

It would be easy to say that there’s no single “best” community platform, but I don’t think that’s quite right. I think the best community platform is one that is strong in the areas you need it to be, and fits your budget! That said, some community platforms have more strengths than others.

Here are a few ideas of where each platform might be best suited: Jive: large enterprise organizations with an existing investment in Jive, software companies focused on developer communities Higher Logic: large membership-based organizations looking for a lower cost option Lithium: large brands with lots of products or services and very active social channels Salesforce Community Cloud: enterprise organizations with an existing investment in Salesforce and a need for integration with CRM data. Vanilla Forums: companies looking for a lower cost solution with good mobile app options Telligent Community: organizations that need very advanced permissioning or security features “Community” is a broad category that encompasses a lot of different types of tools.

The platforms listed here cover many of the main categories, so hopefully you’ve found something to solve your problem.If you did, let us know! We’d love to hear how it’s going.