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Ultimate Guide to Community Platforms

Jan 23, 2024

 

Building strong connections is an essential aspect of human interaction. Whether it's connecting with like-minded individuals, professionals in your field, or niche communities, the online world offers a multitude of opportunities. In this article, we will explore the top online community platforms and provide insights into how they can help you foster meaningful connections.

 

Understanding Online Community Platforms

Online community platforms are virtual spaces where individuals can come together to interact, share information, and form relationships based on common interests. These platforms offer a variety of features designed to enhance communication and engagement, such as discussion boards, group chats, and event organization tools.

But what exactly makes online community platforms so important in today's digital age? Let's dive deeper into the role they play in building connections and the key features that make them effective.

The Role of Online Community Platforms in Building Connections

Online community platforms play a crucial role in facilitating connections by providing a space where individuals can connect with others who share similar passions or professional goals. They offer a sense of belonging, allowing users to engage in discussions, ask questions, and provide support to one another.

Imagine being a part of an online community of like-minded individuals who share your enthusiasm for a particular hobby, such as photography or gardening. These platforms enable you to connect with people from all over the world who have the same interests, creating a sense of camaraderie and fostering a supportive environment.

Moreover, these platforms enable users to expand their networks, fostering connections beyond geographical limitations. Whether you're seeking advice, sharing experiences, or simply looking for a sense of camaraderie, online communities can provide an invaluable platform for building meaningful relationships.

Through online community platforms, individuals can connect with professionals in their field, potential mentors, or even find job opportunities. The possibilities are endless when it comes to expanding your network and forging connections in the digital realm.

 

 

Key Features of Effective Online Community Platforms

When selecting an online community platform, it is important to consider its features and capabilities. Here are some key features to look out for:

  1. Easy Navigation: A user-friendly interface ensures that participants can navigate the platform effortlessly, enhancing their overall experience. Intuitive menus, clear labeling, and a logical layout contribute to a seamless user journey.
  2. Robust Discussion Options: Discussion boards serve as the hub for conversations and knowledge sharing, allowing users to participate in discussions and seek information. Conversations should be well-organized, searchable, and offer features such as thread tagging and notifications to keep users engaged.
  3. Group Chats: Real-time interaction fosters immediate engagement and provides a space for spontaneous discussions and collaboration. Group chats allow users to connect with multiple individuals simultaneously, facilitating dynamic conversations and brainstorming sessions.
  4. Event Organization Tools: Platforms that offer event organization tools make it easier to schedule and promote virtual meetups, webinars, or conferences. These tools may include features such as event registration, reminders, and integration with popular calendar applications.

These key features contribute to the overall user experience and ensure that participants can effectively communicate, collaborate, and build connections within the online community platform.

In conclusion, online community platforms have revolutionized the way individuals connect and interact with others who share similar interests or goals. By providing a virtual space for engagement and offering features that enhance communication, these platforms have become invaluable tools for building connections and fostering meaningful relationships in the digital age.

 

 

Exploring the Top Online Community Platforms

Now that we understand the significance of online community platforms, let's talk about the four we see most often, and why.

First, we divide community platforms into two categories:

Social: These are platforms that were initially used for social purposes (Facebook Groups, Slack, WhatsApp) and later expanded to include community. They are chat-forward platforms. Meaning, the conversations are ephemeral and move in real-time. 

Community: These are platforms specifically developed for community (Circle, Mighty Networks, Skool, Bettermode, etc). They are generally a better choice than social, but the drawback is that it's harder to gain traction, as they require members to form a new habit. However, they are post-forward platforms, which allow the most engaging conversations to resurface.

 

Facebook Groups: A Versatile Platform for Varied Interests

Facebook Groups have become a popular online community platform, catering to a wide range of interests. With the ability to create private or public groups and diverse features like polls, files sharing, and event planning, Facebook Groups offer a versatile platform to connect with like-minded individuals from around the world.

One of the key advantages of Facebook Groups is the ability to create a sense of belonging and community. By joining a group centered around a specific interest or hobby, users can find a space where they can freely discuss and share their experiences with others who have similar passions. Whether it's a group dedicated to photography, cooking, or even a specific TV show, Facebook Groups provide a platform for individuals to connect and engage in meaningful conversations.

Furthermore, Facebook Groups offer a range of features that enhance the overall user experience. For instance, the polls feature allows group members to gather opinions and make decisions collectively. This can be particularly useful when planning events or seeking feedback on certain topics. Additionally, the file sharing feature enables users to exchange resources, documents, and other relevant materials, fostering a collaborative environment within the group.

What we love: We gotta be honest, we don't love Facebook. But it does have one advantage: if your target member is already on Facebook, it will be a lot easier to get them to join and engage.

What we don't love: Very limited analytics and data along with a lack of ownership of your member and email list make this platform a challenge for long-term community.

 

Skool: Quick setup, wins on gamification

Skool, founded by Sam Ovens in 2019, is an all-in-one platform tailored for creators, offering a seamless blend of community-building tools and course hosting features. This intuitive platform allows creators to effortlessly manage online courses, engage with their audience, and handle subscriptions in one place.

What sets Skool apart is its gamified learning system, providing users with points and badges as rewards for completing tasks and reaching milestones. This keeps learners motivated and actively involved throughout their educational journey. Additionally, Skool equips creators with powerful monetization tools, including subscription management, payment processing, and detailed analytics for tracking progress.

Skool's standout features include its user-friendly interface, customizable options for creators, robust community building capabilities, and seamless integrations with other platforms like WordPress and Zapier. Whether you're a course creator, blogger, or content marketer, Skool offers a strong suite of tools for most community needs.

What we love: We were able to get a community up and running within 30 minutes. The simplicity and gamification are some of the best we've seen.

What we don't love: You don't own the data in Skool. You cannot, for example, simply download a list of your member's emails. They're also missing some commonly expected features such as emoji reactions.

 

Circle: A robust platform with more customization

Circle is a virtual community platform that seamlessly integrates your community, courses, and content in one comprehensive hub. This allows you to leave behind the complexity of juggling multiple tools—Circle provides an experience that combines community engagement with content consumption seamlessly.

With Circle, you will find a multitude of user-friendly features such as organized discussions, rich posts, immersive courses, private spaces, and automatic video transcriptions. Engage your community with group chat rooms, private messaging, live streams, weekly digests, automated check-ins, and gamified rewards. Monetize your platform through paid memberships, one-time payments, recurring subscriptions, and more. Scale your community with thousands of integrations, automated workflows, custom profile fields, AI activity scores, and streamlined roles & permissions.

What we love: Circle is a complete offering. What sets it apart from other choices is the robust analytics, ability to fully customize, and integrated tech tools.

What we don't love: There are not many drawbacks to a platform like Circle, outside of the fact that you're members will need to develop the habit of coming to your community vs. integrating into a space they may already use, such as Slack or Facebook. Their gamification options are not as strong as Skool.

 

Slack: Ubiquitous for some, but with some big drawbacks.

Slack excels in real-time communication, offering instant messaging, group chat rooms, and private channels. This fosters quick and efficient communication within your community.

The platform provides seamless integrations with a wide range of third-party apps, allowing for enhanced collaboration and customization. This flexibility enables users to bring various tools and functionalities into the Slack environment.

 

One major drawback is Slack's limitation on message history for free plans. Older messages are archived and can only be accessed with a paid subscription, which might hinder community members' ability to retrieve past discussions. And the jump from free to paid is steep. 

As the community grows, managing conversations in Slack can become challenging. The lack of advanced organization features may lead to information overload and difficulty in finding relevant content.

While Slack provides integrations, it may not be as robust in terms of customization compared to dedicated community platforms. Building a comprehensive community experience with features like forums, courses, or in-depth analytics might require additional tools.

What we love: We don't often recommend Slack, but if your primary member demographic is already using it, it's worth consideration. If you're going to stick to the free plan, check out our favorite tool: Wavves.

What we don't love: Because Slack was created for team communication, conversations become harder to track, which is difficult for members who cannot spend large amounts of time on the platform. The features and analytics on the free plan are just too limiting, while the jump to a paid plan is too steep.

 

Choosing the Right Platform for Your Community

Assessing Your Community's Needs

Before settling on a specific online community platform, it is essential to assess your community's needs. Consider the main objectives and interests of your community members, and choose a platform that aligns with those requirements. Additionally, analyze the size and expected growth of your community to ensure that the chosen platform can accommodate future expansion.

Comparing Platform Features and Capabilities

Take the time to compare the features and capabilities of different platforms. Evaluate if they offer the necessary tools to facilitate communication, engagement, and collaboration among community members. Additionally, assess the platform's moderation capabilities to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for your community.

Considering User Experience and Accessibility

User experience is critical when it comes to online community platforms. Consider the ease of use, mobile compatibility, and loading times. The platform should provide a seamless experience across multiple devices and fast loading speeds to keep users engaged.

 

Best Practices for Building Strong Connections on Online Platforms

Encouraging Active Participation and Engagement

The key to building strong connections lies in fostering active participation and engagement within your community. Encourage members to share their thoughts, ask questions, and respond to others. Organize events, contests, or challenges to promote interaction and ensure that members feel valued and included.

Maintaining a Safe and Respectful Environment

Creating a safe and inclusive environment should be a top priority. Establish clear community guidelines that promote respectful behavior and discourage harassment or hate speech. Regularly moderate discussions and promptly address any issues that may arise, ensuring that all community members feel comfortable and respected.

Leveraging Platform Tools for Community Building

Take advantage of the platform's built-in tools to enhance community building efforts. Utilize features like badges, achievements, or reputation systems to recognize and celebrate active and engaged members. Also, consider partnering with influential members to create exclusive content or organize collaborative initiatives that benefit the community as a whole.

Building strong connections online is an enriching experience that can lead to lifelong friendships, fruitful collaborations, and personal growth. By harnessing the power of online community platforms and implementing best practices, you can create a digital space where individuals thrive, ideas flourish, and connections are forged.

Here at Wondry, we specialize in working with subscription-based companies, radically reducing churn and increasing LTV by converting their customers into a thriving, engaged community.

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