Online communities have become an integral part of how we communicate with each other in this day and age. If you’re a brand with an online presence, there might be an untapped community just waiting to emerge, but you need the right platform to host it with.
What are the best online community platforms? The highest-rated online community platforms are Discourse, Vanilla, Tribe, Mighty Networks, and Peerboard.
However, there are hundreds of options out there to choose from depending on what you need for people to connect with your brand.,
With a space for your customers, audience, and followers to connect, you’ll drive greater awareness towards your brand and get an insight into what people are thinking.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to host an online community, dive right in and check out our list of favorites.
What Does A Good Community Platform Have?
A community platform offers a place for followers or users of your brand to connect, whether it’s through discussion, support, or action.
What that means for each business might be something entirely different, so finding the right platform that suits is essential. Consider these questions when choosing yours:
- How much do I want to spend on building and moderating a community forum?
- Can it be integrated with other aspects of my business, like the website or apps people use?
- How much customization is allowed to get the forum exactly how I want it?
- Is there a limit on how many people can join?
With the answers to those questions in mind before you start searching, you’ll quickly know which of the platforms can deliver. To help you out, we’ve listed some of the more comprehensive options that can tick all of your boxes.
The Best Community Platforms For Your Brand
If you’re eager to set up an online forum for your audience to connect through, you want to make sure you do it right the first time.
We’ve rated some of the leading platforms that can help you create an online community with your brand attached, so check out their pros, cons, and noteworthy features.
Tribe is a customizable community platform that works on web and mobile browsers and is designed to look like popular social media platforms for ease of use.
Your members will get to enjoy a host of ways to communicate with each other including media, comments, and posts, and you’ll be able to moderate easily or use automated functions.
- Notification tools and activity feeds for your members;
- Replies, upvotes, comments, and more;
- Loads of gamification features;
- Supports all types of posts and media;
- Ability to expert all member and content data;
- SEO tools inbuilt;
- Automated and manual moderation systems in place
Who Should Use It?
Some of the world’s biggest organizations rely on Tribe, including ASUS and IBM, and it’s a favorite among IT, software, and technology-related names.
However, just about any online business looking for a premium community platform to use will find some value in Tribe.
- Great features in their premium plans like having a custom URL or an unlimited number of community members.
- One of the most customizable platforms out there so you can tailor it to your brand.
- Some issues with spam getting through and not being able to monitor bots as effectively as others.
- Ongoing support from Tribe can be lacking at times.
#2 Mighty Networks
As one of the biggest names in community platforms, Mighty Networks makes it easy to create an online forum for your brand.
Using this platform, you can do it all including online courses and sales pages created for your business plus groups, live chat, comments, and activity feeds for your members.
- Creates more than just forums with options to make online courses, sales pages, and others.
- Use of questions, polls, comments, images, video, and sound on this online forum.
- Community members get access to different member categories, sub-groups, and a live activity feed.
- App friendly for iOS and Android as well as web-based access.
Who Should Use It?
The entire Mighty Networks philosophy is about helping out the small guy, which includes entrepreneurs and everyday creators and providing a one-stop-shop to do it all.
There are features here that most business types could employ, but if you’re looking for a community that’s focused on rich media and communication it’s a great choice.
- Incredibly user friendly for both the person creating the community and the members within it.
- A great option for businesses who want a lot of media sharing on their community pages.
- Some features are missing in the payment section that could be updated, like adding an affiliate program.
- With lots of options to choose from, some people might feel overwhelmed looking through all of their choices.
PeerBoard is a simple piece of software used to create a feature-rich community for follows on your website, and you can do it all without knowing how to code.
The platform allows you to create a similar type of community forum to Reddit where people can connect and view a categorized news feed, and it’s all accessible through your website.
- A WordPress plugin that lets you create the basis of your community forum in around 20 minutes.
- Users can get email integrations where they’re sent updates of recent posts or interest points if they wish to.
- Real time conversations are possible using the threads and many levels of conversation possible thanks to replies.
- In-site integrations that allow your users to engage in the community without leaving to a third-party platform or host.
Who Should Use It?
PeerBoard is a great choice for businesses who want to have an online community right on their website without using a third-party platform.
It’s great for small to mid-sized businesses and those who would find a Reddit-style environment the best fit for how their users communicate with each other.
- The forum will be integrated into your website so it looks and feels organic to visitors.
- There’s no need to know coding or technical stuff just to create a community online.
- Some of the modern features are missing still, like the ability to @ mention other members to contact them.
- As there are lots of updates being made, you can expect more bugs with this platform than others while things get ironed out.
BuddyBoss is a unique alternative for a community platform and rather than being a standalone platform it’s a WordPress-based community one.
Using Buddy Boss, you’ll be able to offer the basics like a discussion board, social groups, and private messaging but with cool extras including gamification and integration with other WordPress plugins.
- Ability to create branded mobile apps that link to your forum.
- WordPress plugins let you do whatever you want and enjoy thousands of integrations.
- The connection to membership plugins means you can sell access to your community through other avenues if you want it to be limited.
Who Should Use It?
If you want your online community to be engaged with features like badges, awards, and points, the gamification possible with BuddyBoss will appeal to you.
This is also a great fit for people who want to sell access to their online forum as part of their learning resources or sales pages, as it makes it easy to do.
- The WordPress community software has a plug-in for just about anything your site could ask for so it’s more expandable than most.
- There are lots of advanced extras that other platform creators don’t offer, including creating your own app.
- Can be a costly piece of software to use, especially if you want to add mobile functionality which is another few hundred a month on its own.
- Those without tech skills or previous working knowledge of WordPress will suffer to get the most out of this.
Also known as Vanilla Forums, this online community platform has an open-source version and paid plan version.
Using this platform, you can create unique themes to match your brand, have a gamification system, create groups and sub-communities, moderate as needed, and loads of integrations.
- In-depth moderation features like merging, demerit points, and banning users.
- Create events for the community with the use of RSVP and scheduling possible.
- The free version is an open-source platform that’s constantly updated by others, or three paid plans are available.
- Integration with WordPress, Zendesk, Workforce, and more.
Who Should Use It?
Vanilla is a comprehensive community platform that suits all sizes and types of businesses. Their three plans start at 250,000 page views and up to over a million, so you can get exactly what your online community needs to thrive.
- Has an open-source version that costs nothing so you can get a feel for it and use its basic functions.
- Lots of opportunities for integration including the use of WordPress plugins.
- Some users reported having too many options for changing settings that could easily make them overwhelmed.
- Another site that is constantly being improved and updated but with the major downside of lots of ongoing bugs.
Discourse is one of the most recognized names in online community platforms and one of the longest-running.
The open-sourced software also has a cloud-hosted alternative and the platform is focused on creating forums for discussions and is both mobile responsive and web page friendly.
- A reporting dashboard so you get insight into how your online community is functioning.
- A detailed moderating system that lets you flag content, edit, delete, and ban users.
- Posting on discussion boards, email replies, and personal messaging allowed.
- Range of plugins that let you extend the possibilities of the online forum and make it as functional as possible.
Who Should Use It?
Any brand looking for a simple place to host an online community and not looking for anything too flashy will find Discourse to be the best.
Using this open-source platform requires some tech knowledge, but you’ll have to pay for hosting and maintenance if you want those extras.
- As an open-source software this is completely free, but there are other costs you might have to factor in.
- This trusted online platform has built-in protection against spammers and bots which means less for you to worry about.
- With ongoing updates, some areas get buggy, so be patient as you use it.
- Some people found it complicated to set up at first which means some tech knowledge is required.
Access to an online community could be just the thing your website is missing, but it’s not the only way you can enable customers to connect.
We’ve answered some FAQs about other methods of online communication that businesses can use so you can see what’s right for yours.
What is a CCM Tool?
A customer communication management (CCM) tool is a software platform that you can use to store, organize, and utilize your customer’s contact details with a range of communication methods.
Some of the most popular platforms for CCM include Adobe Experience Manager Forms, Tango+, Papyrus Platform, and Quadient Inspire.
What is a Form Builder?
An online form builder is a tool that helps you create forms for visitors to your website to utilize.
Most of them operate with a form building wizard that lets you drag and drop questions, edit designs and colors, and change the structure of the forms, then easily insert them into your website.
Does My Business Need Email Hosting?
Email hosting isn’t always necessary for a business but it can provide a secure and easily accessible place to host your emails.
If using web hosting in conjunction with email hosting and they both come from a sole provider, it can provide a one-stop solution for all of your online dealings.