Have you been searching for the best online community platform to elevate your business?
Building a successful online community has become a necessity in 2023 – it fosters engagement, cultivates loyal customers, and, ultimately, helps grow your brand.
A strong virtual presence can significantly impact the success of your business, but you’ll need to pick the right platform to give your online community a sturdy foundation.
In this guide, we’ll look at seven leading online community platforms and compare their unique features and pricing, so you can confidently choose which platform best aligns with your brand goals.
We’ll also explore why creating a vibrant online community is so worthwhile – so let’s dive right in!
Introduction to online community platforms
Online community platforms have emerged as indispensable tools in today’s digital landscape.
They play a pivotal role in connecting people with similar interests, engaging customers, and helping businesses and content creators expand their brands.
And, as more and more people turn to the internet to connect and collaborate, community platforms facilitate these ventures, whether big or small!
But what is an online community platform?
Basically, they’re digital spaces where like-minded people can gather to share their ideas, experiences, and passions.
They’re also a great way to encourage interaction among members, enabling businesses to forge deeper connections with their audience.
GitHub is an excellent example of an online community platform with a diverse and dynamic ecosystem.
It provides a space for developers to store and collaborate on projects – and there’s a strong element of learning and mentorship within the GitHub community!
Developers of all skill levels can interact through forums, repositories, and user-generated tutorials and resources – all of which facilitate knowledge sharing and continuous learning.
Thanks to its collaborative features, the GitHub community has become an incredibly valuable resource in the world of software development.
The potential that online communities hold for boosting performance is immense.
However, you’ll need to select a suitable community platform to achieve your goals.
The right pick can create a tailored environment that encourages members to get involved – and help boost your revenue and customer retention.
Why community building is essential in 2023
Below, we’ve picked out six reasons why community building is essential for entrepreneurs and content creators in 2023:
1. Remote work
The prevalence of remote work and online interactions has made it increasingly crucial for businesses to establish a strong digital presence.
Online communities help people make meaningful connections in the digital world, creating a sense of belonging for your members.
2. Customer loyalty and revenue growth
Community building fosters customer loyalty, increases brand awareness, and drives revenue growth.
By engaging with your audience through a dedicated community, you can build lasting relationships and create brand advocates.
3. Differentiation in a saturated market
Many businesses and content creators are vying for attention online – so you’ll need to differentiate yourself by providing unique and valuable experiences.
A strong customer community can help you stand out in a crowded market and create a competitive edge.
4. User-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing
A vibrant community can generate valuable content, ideas, and feedback, contributing to product development.
Additionally, satisfied community members are more likely to spread the word about your brand, boosting your marketing efforts through word-of-mouth.
5. Addressing searcher concerns
An effective community-building platform can alleviate common concerns, like finding a platform with innovative features, managing and moderating the community, and ensuring security and privacy.
6. Growth in popularity
64% of online community visitors frequent membership sites more often now than a few years ago.
By capitalizing on this surge in popularity, you can tap into a vast pool of potential customers.
Building your own community from the ground up can be a challenging process – but a worthwhile one.
An online community platform like AccessAlly (and its add-on, CommunityAlly) is an excellent alternative to social media communities and can help you tackle obstacles, empower your brand, and maximize the benefits listed above.
What features should you prioritize in an online community platform?
There are lots of community platforms to choose from – and your choice will impact your community-building efforts for better or worse.
So, to help you make an informed decision, we’ve rounded up the top factors to consider when evaluating different platforms:
- Features: It’s critical to pick a platform with features tailored to the specific needs of your members, like a community forum, polls, surveys, events, and groups.
AccessAlly provides a comprehensive suite of features that cater to diverse requirements – making it a fantastic choice.
- User experience and ease of use: A user-friendly platform with an intuitive interface can make community management more accessible and enjoyable.
AccessAlly’s streamlined design ensures admins and members can easily navigate the platform, enhancing the overall community experience.
- Pricing and affordability: Ensure you understand the pricing plans and any hidden costs associated with a community platform – and don’t go over budget!
Thanks to its transparent and affordable plans, there are no hidden fees to worry about with AccessAlly.
- Security and privacy: Choose a platform that prioritizes security and privacy and complies with data protection regulations (like GDPR).
AccessAlly takes data security seriously, employing robust measures to protect user information and maintain compliance with the latest data protection standards.
- Success stories and case studies: Take a look at customer testimonials and industry uses cases for insights into the platform’s effectiveness.
For example, there are numerous success stories that showcase AccessAlly’s ability to foster thriving communities (like MaYoga®, a supportive online community centered around prenatal yoga and wellness that was built from scratch)!
You might change your mind about what features you want, so you need a platform that's flexible.
Get your own free demo sandbox account so you can experience the flexibility AccessAlly has to offer.
Top 7 community platforms of 2023
Now, let’s take a closer look at our top seven community platform picks!
We’ll delve into each platform and highlight its unique features, pricing, and community-building effectiveness so that you can find the perfect match for your business.
AccessAlly stands out as a comprehensive, all-in-one solution for online communities.
The platform combines the functionality of a Learning Management System (LMS), Content Management System (CMS), membership site, and community platform.
And, because AccessAlly is a WordPress plugin, it can provide a seamless and fully integrated experience that eliminates the need for duct-taped WordPress setups and restrictive SaaS platforms.
Key features of AccessAlly include:
- Flexibility and scalability: AccessAlly is designed to grow with your business and can meet your needs at every stage.
- Elegant order forms and sales features: Create eye-catching order forms that encourage conversions and streamline sales.
- Incredible learning experiences: Craft immersive learning environments for your members.
- Personalized automation: Automate tasks and tailor content to individual users to enhance the member experience.
- Gamification features: Keep members engaged with rewards and achievements.
- Cross-selling: Maximize revenue by offering multiple products and bulk enrollment options.
- Seamless migration and consolidation: Easily migrate your existing content and consolidate multiple platforms into one unified solution.
With AccessAlly’s community tier, CommunityAlly, users can create accessible global communities and inclusive spaces for members worldwide.
It’s also possible to develop smaller courses or cohort-specific groups that allow members to forge strong connections as they complete their lessons or training.
It’s easy to keep discussion groups organized by migrating your existing content and consolidating multiple platforms into one unified solution.
So, if you’re looking for an online community platform that’s the total package, AccessAlly is a fantastic choice for businesses, content creators, and individuals.
To maximize your community building, you’ll want to check out AccessAlly’s Community Tier, with pricing starting at $149 a month.
The AccessAlly plugin is also particularly suitable for existing membership sites, coaches, course creators, and businesses that sell knowledge.
Disciple is a private community platform that can help you build an engaging online space for your members. With a focus on course creation, charging subscriptions, live streaming, and more, Disciple offers a range of benefits that cater to various customer needs.
Key features of Disciple include:
- Mobile-first approach: Disciple prioritizes mobile usability, ensuring your community is easily accessible from smartphones and tablets.
- Customizable branding: Personalize the look and feel of your community to align with your brand identity.
- Open API: Sync your community with popular apps and tools through Disciple’s open API.
- Monetization options: Leverage subscription-based models and other monetization strategies to generate revenue from your community.
While Disciple strongly focuses on mobile engagement and customizable branding, AccessAlly is the more flexible solution by combining the features of an LMS, CMS, membership site, and community platform in one seamless package.
Disciple is still an excellent choice for building a mobile app.
This is the platform’s most popular offering, priced at $308 a month. However, Disciple also offers white-labeling for an additional fee of $130 per month – which is handy if you’d like a bespoke community app.
However, remember that Disciple is not a complete all-in-one tool like AccessAlly. You’ll need to rely on integrations to achieve certain functionalities, such as email automation.
Zapnito is an enterprise-grade community platform designed for expert networks and knowledge-sharing communities. The platform has all the tools you’ll need to help customers learn, share, and connect.
Key features of Zapnito include:
- Custom branding: Personalize the appearance of your community to match your brand identity.
- Custom structure and access: Manage groups, Single Sign-On (SSO), social logins, and member authentication to ensure a secure community experience.
- Online courses: Create engaging courses and host hybrid events to promote learning and networking.
- Automated newsletters: Keep your members informed with regular, automated newsletter updates.
- Platform integrations: Connect Zapnito with popular tools and platforms to enhance the functionality of your community.
Zapnito impresses with a customizable design and a wide range of integrations well-suited to community building.
And, like AccessAlly, it’s an all-in-one solution, although AccessAlly is the better beginner-friendly option. What’s more, AccessAlly can scale alongside your business as it grows.
For more pricing information, you’ll need to reach out to Zapnito directly.
Bettermode (previously known as Tribe) is another versatile community platform with a range of add-on functionalities and embeddable products designed to nurture online communities full of engaged members.
Key features of Bettermode include:
- Customizable community structure: Tailor the structure of your community to suit your unique requirements.
- Engagement tools: Encourage interaction with features like comments, leaderboards, and private messaging.
- Integration options: Connect Bettermode with popular tools and platforms to create a seamless experience.
- User behavior analytics: Gain valuable insights into your community’s engagement and preferences through data-driven analytics.
- Custom design: Personalize your community with custom navigation, colors, and typography.
- Apps for additional functionality: Extend the capabilities of your community platform with a range of apps.
- Member profiles: Enable users to create their own profiles, fostering personal connections and networking opportunities.
Both Bettermode and AccessAlly offer a variety of community features, and Bettermode is an excellent choice for those who want a dedicated community tool with the option to integrate additional functionality. Getting started with Bettermode doesn’t come cheap, however, with prices starting from $559 a month.
Unfortunately, Bettermode isn’t an all-in-one tool like AccessAlly. What’s more, AccessAlly is a more robust and flexible solution for businesses and content creators alike.
Insided is a branded community platform that enables SaaS and subscription-based businesses to boost customer engagement and support communities, all while enhancing customer interactions.
Key features of Insided include:
- Community platform: Build a thriving online community centered around your own brand – and choose a custom domain.
- Knowledge base: Encourage users to contribute to a shared knowledge base and foster collaboration.
- Add-on apps: Embed apps and widgets to extend the functionality of your community.
- Integration options: Connect Insided with popular tools, such as Google Analytics, Zapier, Zendesk, and more, to streamline your community management workflow.
Insided offers a solid community platform with integration options – but it’s not an all-in-one tool like AccessAlly. AccessAlly also provides more customization options, a smoother user experience, and enhanced overall functionality.
As a result, Insided may be well-suited for those who already have existing CRM and marketing tools and are looking for a dedicated community platform to integrate with.
There are three Insided pricing plans to choose from (Professional, Business, and Enterprise), but you’ll need to contact Insided directly for more information.
Hivebrite, a community platform focused on alumni networking, is a particularly good pick for organizations looking to capture new leads and accelerate recruitment through existing relationships.
Key features of Hivebrite include:
- Integrated CMS: Manage your content easily with a built-in content management system.
- RSS feed: Stay updated with relevant news through integrated RSS feeds.
- Social media integration: Connect your community with popular social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
- Email marketing: Create and manage email campaigns, including automated newsletters.
- Job board: Post and discover job opportunities within the community.
- Focus on alumni and professional networks: Connect with former colleagues, classmates, and business partners.
- Customizable interface: Tailor your platform’s appearance to match your brand.
- Advanced analytics: Gain insights into your community’s performance and engagement metrics.
Hivebrite is geared towards re-engaging with existing business relationships and alumni networks for B2B purposes, whereas AccessAlly can help users expand a community through new members.
So, if you want to reconnect with solid business relationships, Hivebrite might be your ideal match.
7. Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups is a massively popular community platform that offers several features you can use to engage members.
Key features of Facebook Groups include:
- Ease of use: Facebook Groups are simple to set up and manage, making them accessible for users of all skill levels.
- Wide user base: With billions of active users on Facebook, your community has the potential to reach a vast audience.
- Integration with other Facebook features: Utilize Facebook’s tools and resources, such as Messenger and Events, to enhance your group experience.
- Discussion board, polls, and live events: Engage your community with interactive tools for conversation and collaboration.
- Basic group insights: Access analytics data to understand community trends.
If you’re considering Facebook Groups, bear in mind the limitations of the platform. For example, issues surrounding privacy, data ownership, and lack of customization may hinder the growth and effectiveness of your community.
In contrast, a dedicated community platform like AccessAlly offers a more comprehensive, automated, and customizable solution, making it a better choice for businesses that want a community as a core part of their business model.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook Groups is free, and, therefore, a viable option for those with no budget to set up an online community.
Choosing the right community platform for your needs
Your online community will have unique needs and goals, so it’s essential to choose a platform to help you meet them.
Be sure to consider factors like unique features, user experience, pricing, security, and success stories, and you’ll be able to pinpoint the platform that best aligns with your brand to drive lasting success.
Benefits of choosing AccessAlly
AccessAlly makes building an online platform a breeze – its ease of use really sets it apart from the competition.
In addition, you’ll be able to set up and manage your community as it grows and handle the various associated challenges from a centralized location.
And that’s not all! You’ll also reap the following benefits:
- Affordable pricing: Take advantage of highly competitive pricing compared to other paid options, and ensure you get great value for your investment.
- Comprehensive built-in tools: AccessAlly comes packed with tools to maximize your ROI, including affiliate programs, eCommerce tools, and marketing features such as email automation, one-click upsells, and order bumps.
- User-friendly experience: Enjoy an intuitive interface, extensive documentation, and stellar customer support.
- Monetization opportunities: AccessAlly enables subscription and membership-based business models, allowing you to monetize your community effortlessly.
- Scalable solution: Designed to grow alongside your business, AccessAlly eliminates the need to switch platforms or add endless plugins as your needs evolve.
Build your online community with AccessAlly today
Picking the right online community platform is critical to ensuring brand success in 2023 – and you’ll need to keep a few important criteria in mind as you whittle down your options.
The ideal platform has an array of handy features, a smooth user experience, flexible pricing, strong security measures, and a selection of success stories and use cases.
AccessAlly ticks all of these boxes! The WordPress plugin comes with a score of features and extensive flexibility and scalability.
You’ll also be able to take your pick of AccessAlly plans and browse a veritable library of inspiring customer testimonials.
Essentially, AccessAlly is a master key that unlocks endless opportunities – providing the tools you need to drive engagement, foster customer loyalty, and grow your revenue.
So, whether you’re part of an enterprise, a content creator, or a motivated individual, AccessAlly can help you realize the potential of a well-built online community.
So why wait? Take the first step towards building a thriving digital community that fuels your success.