Best Software for Building An Online Community

There is something to be said with owning your own online assets. Breaking free from the requirements of service agreements that platforms mandate in order to keep your account, and community, in good standing. Censorship has become a major topic of discussion for those who are looking for a place online to exercise their freedom of speech and engage more deeply with their audience without penalty.

Online community building has traditionally been done on social media. Facebook groups leading the charge but not limited to them. However, there may come a time when you want to have more control over your community, the data, and overall functionality. This month’s Marketing Automation Report discusses some of the top options you have available to make your exodus from Facebook Groups and build a community of your own.

NOTE: This report will be of an initial assessment based off what features and functionality is detailed on their website, not from personal experience (with the exception of Mighty Networks). The purpose of this report is to provide insight so that you are aware of your options when the need presents itself.

Mighty Networks is all about community. I had the pleasure of meeting quite a few of their team members, as well as the CEO Gina Biachini, and the thing that stood out the most was their intentionality around community building and creating software that made it easy.

This means everything they do is founded in equipping you with the ability to grow a community and they specifically call out migrating away from Facebook. It has a nice clean, modern design that can easily match your brand look and feel.

Here’s what I like:

  • Training and resources around community building
  • Customizability. Can change almost any color as well as the display name of features
  • Events directly integrate with Zoom and show “Live” indicator when taking place
  • Private groups have almost just as many features as the main community
  • Courses are a nice addition 
  • Options to organize your community. Can turn features you’re not using off so it doesn’t show too much to new members
  • Mobile app on both Android and Apple
  • Decent integrations via Zapier

Here’s some areas I think they can improve:

  • Members profile. They give you no way of adding custom fields 
  • Gamification is minimal to none. You’re going to have to create and add badges, points, and achievements manually
  • Absence of live video
  • Inconsistent formatting of posts across desktop and mobile devices
  • Product roadmap for 2021. It’s probably the least exciting thing I’ve ever seen come from their company
  • Segmented messaging to members based on activity
  • Pinned/Announcement posts (only available for Enterprise accounts)

All in all, Mighty Networks is a pretty good platform and solid alternative to Facebook community building (only if you don’t NEED live video). I don’t understand why member profiles are not a priority in a community based platform such as theirs, but I digress.

This is the platform I’m currently using and am always looking for an alternative to “steal” me away as some of the items I mentioned on their “could improve” list above are becoming more deal breakers.

The following alternatives are what I found most prominently.

I can’t remember where I heard about Tribe (perhaps it was a Google search) but it came up quite a few times in conversations with entrepreneurs I’ve had. Their approach is a bit different than Mighty Networks as they offer a whitelabel solution at a much lower price point.

After browsing through some of the websites listed on their showcase it looked like a decent platform. However, nothing really wow’d me or compelled me to feel like I was missing out on anything or would gain anything major from using it for my own community.

The look and feel of Tribe reminds me more of forum software than community which may play a part in why it doesn’t necessarily entice me to want to use it.

Here are a few things I observed that I liked:

  • Member profiles and how they are displayed
  • Behavioral targeted for contextual communication
  • White-label to truly integrate with your website and match your design
  • Announcement Banner for notifications, call to actions, and announcements (of course)
  • Gamification. The feature that most intrigued me on their website
  • Integrations by way of Zapier
  • Private groups

Here are a few things I observed that I didn’t like:

  • Overall design, look, and feel.
  • Content seemed more cluttered than easy to read and/or sort through
  • No mention of live video capabilities

From a feature standpoint there was a lot that I liked and not so much that I didn’t. However, since I haven’t used the platform I’m limited in knowledge on how it actually functions. Nonetheless, even with a larger list of features that I like it still seemed to be missing that factor to make me want to give it a test drive.

I’ll classify it as a low probability of me considering it for my own use.

Circle is a fairly new community platform that is making a lot of noise in the internet marketing space partly because of Pat Flynn’s recommendation of it. They provide creators with the capability to build community that allows them to unite the creator’s audience online.

The look and feel is similar to Tribe but they have a much more effective use of white space which prevents it from looking cluttered or overwhelming. As of August 2020 it is listed as the #1 Product of the Day on Product Hunt and seems to be building momentum.

Here are a few things I observed that I liked:

  • Live video. This alone may be enough for some of you to make your decision to use this platform.
  • Integrations
  • White labeling
  • Membership unlocking capabilities
  • Free trial

Here are a few things I observed that I didn’t like:

  • No showcase of any communities to get an idea of how things truly look and function
  • No listing of features. Assuming they do more than what shows on their website (member profiles, gamification, contextual messaging, etc)
  • Overall…limited information available for how others are using their platform to build communities

Though Circle looks like an updated alternative to Tribe, their “keep it in the closet” approach to displaying their features and showcasing other websites makes it hard to tell how good the software is. Seems as if they are really riding the momentum of Pat Flynn as most reviews I found online seem to be from people who are in his community or followers of his.

You can set up a free trial but without content it’s pretty hard to tell how it could look and work for you. This is off of my list of considerations for now.

10XPRO is an all-in-one approach to membership sites and community building. It’s made by marketers for marketers. It was brought to my attention by a student of one of my programs and since then I’ve seen it mentioned a few other places so I figured I’d check them out.

After scrolling thorough their website I get the feel that this software is like Kajabi and Thrive Themes had a baby whose first words were “membership”. It has all the marketing features any marketer would love. However, it’s not clear exactly who it’s for and what it’s good for.

For example, they have landing pages and marketing funnels but make no mention on abilities to send emails (or mention of a CRM to manage the leads that come in). Given they are targeting marketers I can fill in the blanks but the average person is not going to know what exactly they should be expecting from this platform. 

Here are a few things I observed that I liked:

  • CRM integration with the ability to tag contacts
  • Mobile App
  • Live video
  • Gamification
  • Marketing capabilities

Here’s the main thing I observed that I didn’t like:

  • Too much. I’m always hesitant when a single platform promises to do it all (which they do). I get the feel this works for who it’s going to be a perfect fit for and that’s it.

I respect what James Schramko has built and understand with such a massive following this solution was probably birthed out of him meeting his own needs. I just don’t see this being anything more than that. I hope he does really well with this platform but I won’t be considering it.

Other mentions

  • Discord. Mainly for gaming but have seen some industries, like Stock Trading, use it to build communities
  • Xenforo. If you’re looking for the traditional forum feel for your community
  • Invision Community. Another strong forum offering
  • Memberoni. Our friend Barry Moore of TheActiveMarketer uses this
  • Social Learner by BuddyBoss. Well packaged WordPress offering that requires quite a few plugins to pull off the learning and community experience it was created for.

What are you using for your community outside of Facebook? If you have experience with any of the software mentioned let us know in the comments. If we missed a platform that you feel should be on this list, let us know that in the comments as well!

Chris Davis

About the Author

Chris is the founder of Automation Bridge and Host of the All Systems Go! podcast. He has helped marketing tech startups raise a collective amount of funding over $237 million is passionate about helping you do the same.

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