We make over 35,000 decisions every day. Most of these are minor. But others have long-term ramifications. You want to get them right the first time.
Choosing a branded community platform falls into the latter group, yet many people don’t know how to choose a platform that best suits their needs. To help, we’ve created this online community software comparison that takes you through the pros and cons of different community platforms out there today.
Start with your community goals
Choosing the right community software always hinges on your goals. What do you want to achieve through your online community? Different solutions, as you’ll soon see, cater to a range of communities and are built with certain use cases or industries in mind.
Do you want to scale your customer support? Do you want to turn a free audience into paying subscribers? Do you want to engage your event audience all year round? Make sure you have a clear understanding of your community mission and objective before you start your search.
Community software comparison
1. Higher Logic
Higher Logic is a community platform that’s been around since 2007. The U.S. company describes itself as “obsessed with engagement” and this is really where it focuses many of its features. It is particularly well set up for associations.
The platform is able to support community building, including integrating with email and social media solutions, community management, and customer analytics. It can also include gamification to grow and improve community engagement. However, some features and services come with additional costs that may not have originally been factored in.
- A long standing reputation for building B2B communities
- Well suited to associations who want to engage their members
- Three tier-pricing and features to fit different needs and budgets.
- Scores well on the customer support provided by the vendor.
- Training (in-person) and resources to help you get up to speed with the solution.
- Reviewers comment on the lack of intuitive interface making it difficult to navigate, find and use what they need.
- Pricing is based on the number of users (ranging from $9,000 – $150,000 per year) and costs can quickly rack up as a community scales and new features are added.
- Many services such as implementation and training incur extra costs.
- The number of education resources can be overwhelming (according to reviewers) and it’s difficult to find answers immediately.
- A complicated reporting interface makes it tricky to understand and work with data generated by the community.
Zapnito is the community software platform for intelligent organizations. It’s an enterprise-level community platform that enables branded online communities for learning, knowledge sharing and collaboration.
This is the platform chosen by B2B organizations like Informa, Wiley and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to engage and grow their customers by capturing the shared intelligence of their communities.
Expert communities bring together tools like expert profiles, content authoring, e-learning courses, video panels, conversations and group discussions, sponsorship and advertising and community analytics.
- Enables intelligence-driven organizations (like publishing, and B2B SaaS) to engage, retain, and grow their customer base by making them better at what they do
- Groups and rooms that act as mini sub communities for niche knowledge-sharing and discussions
- Easy to create community-generated content – an Intuitive interface where both members and the organization can share knowledge and multimedia content — including video and articles
- Integrations with CRM, payment systems, analytics, and other custom integrations supported.
- Deep community analytics that includes growth, engagement, popular content or experts, and more.
- Personalized customer support — which reviewers say is fast and efficient.
- Designed for mid-enterprise and enterprise organisations with experts at the core, so less suitable for casual communities or B2C
- Heavy content focus, so less suitable for organizations without intellectual overhead to share
Khoros enables online brand communities where customers can get answers, connect with peers, and share new ideas. Their focus is on provide first-class customer experience and support through a peer-to-peer community.
This is the platform chosen by brands like FitBit, Autodesk, and Visa to provide customer support at scale, crowdsource common questions and allow customers to get the most out of their products
- A result of a merger between Spredfast and Lithium, Khoros has a combined experience of 20+ years building enterprise communities
- Demonstrated success with big B2C brands that have significant customer support overheads
- Customer reviews attest to the reduced call center costs after implementing the platform
- Gamification tools keep customers engaged on the community for longer
- The high price point may be an obstacle for smaller businesses
- Reviewers comment that the level of support provided by the Khoros team needs improvement
Hivebrite calls itself the “all-in-one community portal”. It is a French company that mostly focuses on alumni communities, along with volunteer groups and educational institutions. Many of its features focus on increasing fundraising opportunities, donations, and membership renewals. Community members can be split into targeted groups based on their past classes, current industry, and location. The community can also include a job board to help alumni find new career opportunities and an area for start-up founders to find potential investors and employees.
- Strong focus on education and alumni organizations means its features are primarily geared towards this.
- Includes features for event management and content management.
- Offers CRM-like functionality for community management (for example, tracking email performance and creating dedicated pages to encourage donations).
- User-friendly platform.
- Training is provided online and in person.
- The focus on notifications and communication features creates a risk of pushing too much content and ‘marketing’ communications to community members and devaluing the community.
- Prices are tiered, starting from $5,000 annually but can quickly increase as a community grows.
- Reviewers have commented on a limited number of customizations and the time taken between requesting new ones and having these implemented.
- The inability to sort content on the live feed page has been mentioned as frustrating and the feed resets every time a member navigates away from it instead of intuitively remaining on the content they last engaged with.
5. Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks is a U.S platform that’s built for the ‘creator’ community. It is particularly geared towards organizations that wish to move their existing social media community (for example, Facebook Groups) onto something brand-owned and it says that it works the same for 30 versus 300,000 members. It allows for unlimited members, so costs can be better predicted and managed as a community scales.
- Highly visual interface that’s designed for ‘creators’ — showing off new content or creating design challenges, for instance.
- Offers a free trial.
- Pricing tiers for community (more consumer-led) and business plans. Current prices are $33 monthly for community and $99 for business.
- SEO features to boost discoverability.
- Dedicated course features to help creators easily design online courses.
- Livestreaming and video features.
- The focus on the ‘creator’ community means this platform is more consumer-friendly than enterprise-ready.
- Training to use the tool is minimal.
- No engagement support to help you build and market your community to prospective members. Some reviewers are struggling to ‘train’ their members to switch from social media groups to the platform.
- Hosts have the ability to add content but this is limited for community members. This hinders user-generated content and peer knowledge sharing.
- Limited customization of the platform means many communities look similar to eachother
Comparing other community software
This piece has looked at the most well-known community software in the market today but there are many others being launched all the time. You may wish to consider those options too. When comparing community software, it’s worth making a list of the top features you desire, along with your budget, user numbers (including admins/moderators), and anything else important like CRM integrations.
Deciding on the right community platform
By now, you should have a good idea of the different community software options available today and how varied they can be. Compare community platforms carefully, as the one you eventually decide on can make-or-break your community’s long-term success. Ultimately, you’ll want to partner with a community platform that offers all of the features that your organization needs, plus a forward-thinking product roadmap that will ensure your community remains updated with the times.
When making your decision, ask your peers for recommendations of what software they’ve worked with before, and don’t be afraid to reach out to vendors’ current customers for their honest reviews. Research your chosen community software thoroughly and, at least, get a detailed demo that will tell you exactly if the platform has all of the features you require. Also, consider your future plans and whether the community platform will continue to deliver for you in years to come. You don’t want to get stuck with software that cannot scale with your community or where costs quickly grow as you add more features.
Your chosen community will be as unique as your organization and community members. Tailoring it to your brand and each individual is critical as this will reflect well on your organization and increase engagement.
Learning more about community platforms
There’s a lot that goes into a successful community and it all begins by comparing the different community platforms out there. Hopefully, we have given you a headstart with this online community comparison. If you’d like to learn more about Zapnito and any of the features we’ve mentioned, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a discovery call today.