#3: Comparing Community Platforms for Creators
Why start a community, as a creator? What tools are available? How do you choose the right one?
Welcome to the third issue of App Chat, the newsletter that provides app news and knowledge for creators, makers, & wannabes.
I'm doing something a little different for this issue. I'm primarily going to focus on one topic: community platforms for creators.
In This Issue
Why start a community
What tools are available
How to choose the right one
Why Start a Community?
As a creator, there are several reasons you might decide to start a community. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Build a Community Around Your Brand
If you've got a strong and well-known brand, you may want to build a community that helps to strengthen that brand. It can serve as a home base for the various things you create. This isn't as realistic for newer creators, since they likely don't have an established brand that can support a community.
2. Connect Your Audience Members
In some cases, your customers/students/audience may benefit from engaging with each other. Creating a central place for them to do so can lead to higher "stickiness" for your product.
3. Community As the Product
There are instances where the community is not an afterthought; it IS the product. People join the community in order to achieve their goals, interact with the creator (you), and other members.
4. Community Add-On to Your Product
This type of community works great for online courses (cohort-based or otherwise). In addition to the course material, you can help to connect your students, provide supplemental materials, create community membership tiers as upsells, etc.
What Tools Are Available?
As with many app categories, there are lots of options when it comes to community platforms. I'll highlight some of the ones that are best for creators, as opposed to large brands or companies.
Some of these are lesser-known, and unlikely to have been included on other lists you've seen ;)
Rather than break down the pros/cons or features (they each have so many), I'm giving some reasons you might choose each platform.
Starts at $39/month.
🔗 Circle: The all-in-one community platform for creators and brands
Bring together engaging discussions, members, live streams, chat, events, and membership.
Why you might choose Circle:
Circle is well-known in the creator space, and one of the first to offer that blend between Slack (separate spaces for topics) and a traditional forum. You can charge members directly inside of Circle, without needing a third-party payment processor. They have a mobile app.
Starts at $0 (up to 100 members)
🔗 Tribe | A Customizable Community Platform
Tribe Community Platform offers robust customizability, an app store to add new functionalities, and the ability to embed into products.
Why you might choose Tribe:
Tribe is similar to Circle, but they have a very generous free plan. Great option if you want to keep your community under 100 members, or expect it to take a bit before you reach that number. You can tag posts for easy organization. It's highly customizable, offers a custom domain, great moderation tools, analytics, and more.
Starts at $0 (includes Community and a lot more).
🔗 Podia - Get a free website. Sell products. Build your community.
Get a free website, host a community for free, or sell courses and digital products. Podia is an all-in-one platform that lets you start and grow a business.
Why you might choose Podia:
Podia's free plan provides you with a community, in addition to a website, email marketing, live chat, a downloadable product, a coaching product, and the ability to draft courses. It offers much more than a community so if you're looking for an all-in one option (albeit with a less robust community offering) this may be the platform for you.
Starts at $0
🔗 Discord | Your Place to Talk and Hang Out
Discord is the easiest way to talk over voice, video, and text. Talk, chat, hang out, and stay close with your friends and communities.
Why you might choose Discord:
I feel like those who choose Discord do so because they and/or their community members prefer that type of experience. It's not my favourite UX, personally. Discord has a mobile app, and many people are part of multiple Discord servers, so they're more likely to return.
Starts at $0 (they take a percentage of creators' income)
🔗 Creativity powered by membership | Patreon
Patreon is the best place for creators to build memberships by providing exclusive access to their work and a deeper connection with their communities.
Why you might choose Patreon:
Patreon is great for creators who want to charge a membership in order to provide access to additional materials, maybe extra products, behind-the-scenes content, extra videos, etc. Strictly as a community platform, where members can interact with each other, it's not the best option.
🔗 Facebook Groups | Find groups and communities to connect with.
Groups are a place to communicate about shared interests with certain people.
Why you might choose Facebook Groups:
Much like Discord, if you enjoy Facebook and your audience spends a lot of time there, it makes sense to choose Facebook Groups. They've been improved tremendously in recent months, so it may be worth giving it another look if you haven't checked it out recently. But in the end, you're on Facebook. Not nearly as customizable.
Starts at $0, then $8.75/month per active user.
🔗 Slack is your digital HQ
Slack is a new way to communicate with your team. It’s faster, better organized, and more secure than email.
Why you might choose Slack:
Slack can be a great option if your target audience likely spends time in other Slack workspaces. The free plan is decent but there are limitations in terms of how far back message history goes (and other features). At around $9/active user you would need a healthy membership fee to make the paid plan worth it with Slack.
Starts at $0, then there's a $4.99/month plan
🔗 Telegram – a new era of messaging
Fast. Secure. Powerful.
Why you might choose Telegram:
Telegram hits that sweet spot between Discord and Slack, with a great mobile experience. If your community isn't super focused on separate spaces and providing resources, Telegram can work well. It's quick and easy to set up and easy for members to get the hang of quickly.
Starts at $39/month.
🔗 Mighty Networks | Build Communities, Courses & Memberships
The #1 ranked community platform on G2. Mighty Networks is the only place you can own your community and upgrade to your own branded apps.
Why you might choose Mighty Networks:
Mighty Networks provides a great member experience, and is a solid option if you're ready to pay to use a platform. At around the same starting price point as Circle and Podia, I'd recommend checking out Mighty Networks if you don't mind spending a bit. Their mobile app experience is very nice.
Starts at $0 (1 group with up to 100 members)
🔗 The best place for professional communities and networking
Easy to use, ad-free, high quality, purpose-built for professional use. Use Guild to bring professionals together to connect, communicate and collaborate.
Why you might choose Guild:
Guild provides a no-fuss web and mobile app experience that's similar to what a Facebook Group is, but it's cleaner and easier to learn. It blends features from many of the above-mentioned options but isn't super well-known. The free plan is decent but you get more for your $0 with something like Tribe.
Starts at $29/month.
🔗 Heartbeat | Bring your community together
Host conversations, events, content, and more on your own domain. Heartbeat gives you the building blocks to create a perfectly personalized online community.
Why you might choose Heartbeat:
I discovered Heartbeat via their AppSumo deal (no longer active). I tried it out and it's a pretty good platform for a community. The UI is attractive and they offer similar features to Circle. Newer kid on the block but they have potential.
Other Options to Explore
I covered some of the more popular options above, as well as some newer players on the scene. Here are some other platforms you can check out:
Backspace (beta): "The easiest way to build and monetize your community."
Uuki: "Community Platform for Creators, Brands & Products."
Beam.gg: "A gamified community platform built for easy engagement."
Peerboard: "The modern community platform for brands, startups, creators."
Honeycombb: "The world's premier community platform."
Disciple: "A new era for community builders. Join our movement."
How Do You Decide Which Platform To Use?
Each creator has different must-haves and nice-to-haves, depending on why they're creating a Community. Budget also comes into play. If you're looking for a 100% free solution, that will limit your options.
Some things to consider when choosing a Community platform:
Can you have a free and/or paid community?
Is a mobile app important to you?
Can you customize it/have a custom domain?
Are there moderation tools available?
Does cost skyrocket as you scale the number of members?
Is private/invite-only important?
Can you have membership tiers?
Do you want the ability to create courses?
Would your audience have a preference?
Can it be automated?
Does gamification matter to you?
These are just some questions that came to mind as I brainstormed for a few minutes. You may have other requirements or priorities, specific to your situation.
Well, That's a Wrap
This issue of App Chat was a little different than the first 2. Hopefully you've found this helpful!
I'll be sending these newsletter issues via email every Saturday (as well as publishing on https://appch.at).
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