Online community platforms have become a fundamental component of our everyday life. According to Coherent Market Insights, the global enterprise social networks and online communities market size is estimated to be valued at $5,539 Million in 2021 and is expected to increase by 200% in 2028.
One of the key growth drivers of such a tremendous increase is the popularity of online platforms among enterprises, which either leverage the benefits of online communities today or plan to incorporate this business strategy in the upcoming years. But what makes online community platforms such a lucrative option for a business today?
In this post, we’ll review some popular online community platforms, the benefits of setting up a community from an eLearning business perspective, and how to pick up the best software for building your community online.
What are online community platforms, and how do they work?
A community platform is a virtual space aimed to unite participants of different interests, goals, or other commonalities to interact with each other via a single communication channel. This type of software allows creators to build a powerful community based on a particular point of interest and enhance audience engagement under a certain brand or business.
In terms of online learning courses, such community platforms can become an excellent option to effectively target existing customers and new audiences across different cities, states, and countries. At the same time, learners can feel a strong connection and deeper immersion into the subject of study, which benefits both the user experience and learning efficiency.
At present, online community platforms are a modern response to the post-social media era, helping people to unite by common interests first. Similarly, they are a decent alternative to social events, gatherings, and conferences, which is more time-efficient and convenient for learners from different locations. Finally, with the growing online communities, creators can gain a significant organic customer increase, thus, higher revenues.
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Why are community platforms so important?
Launching an online community is a great chance for any business to connect with its target audience and put its brand on a completely new level of development. Here are some of the benefits of creating an online community:
- provide your audience with the chance to create real connections;
- become more competitive in the target market segment;
- generate more leads and acquire new learners;
- reduce the costs of client support;
- receive feedback, gain more insights and ideas for further course development;
- drive more conversions and ensure steady revenue growth.
Being targeted at one of the most essential human needs — social connection — online community platforms allow creators to build an exclusive environment from scratch. What is more, it doesn’t require too much effort or expertise to set up with open-source or premium third-party platforms, and, fortunately, you can find hundreds of solutions introduced on the market today.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of online community platforms, it’s time to learn more about the features of online community software to be able to pick up the best option for your eLearning business.
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How to choose the best online community platform
We’ve created a list of must-have features for digital community platforms to help you choose the best solution for your upcoming project.
All the needs are covered within a single system
First, one of the essential criteria to check in an online community platform is its ability to cover all the business points and needs within a single system. Therefore, ideally, it should be a functional solution that enables running your online community, selling courses, launching and managing your website, and providing many other related options, all within a single online workspace.
From the customer’s point of view, users usually look for platforms with easy access to study materials and related services.
Smooth and engaging interactions
Any online community is all about engagement and interactions. That is why looking for platforms that provide an easy and smooth interaction between the creator and members is important. After all, nearly 66% of users join online communities to connect with people with similar interests. Creating a community of like-minded people around the brand can significantly benefit it.
Make sure the selected platform has cross-device support and a user-friendly interface — this will help you keep the audience engaged and better encourage them to start (or continue) interaction.
The digital community platform should be priced to fit your budget and provide the highest ROI possible. Unfortunately, there are many overpriced solutions and platforms with hidden costs and add-on fees, which can easily negate its efficiency and profitability for your business.
For this reason, many experts suggest studying all the current market options to choose the most affordable solution for your project.
Efficient moderation tools
When launching an online community, you should never overlook the users’ safety. Having some efficient moderation tools in your arsenal will help you tackle a bunch of issues, such as harmful users, spam messages, and content that violates the community’s policy.
In fact, you can learn some of the most notable examples of moderation practices from popular social networks like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Telegram, and so on.
Storable and searchable conversations
It’s also essential to look for a platform that provides efficient search tools. This allows for saving time and effort in answering the same questions, maximizing the value and informativeness of your online community.
Subscription option for advanced features
Finally, creators should find the most effective monetization options without hitting the community’s organic growth to make the most of their online community platforms.
Therefore, look for platforms that provide free and paid community membership plans, giving your audience alternatives for further interaction. Additionally, it’s important to choose a platform that can scale up as your business grows — this can save you lots of money and effort in the long term.
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Popular online community platforms for creators
There’s no one-size-fits-all online community platform. With each option having some advanced features and notable lacks, it’s extremely important to review all the options to build a perfect environment for your audience.
Below we’ll introduce some of the most popular platforms that can serve as a decent foundation for setting up a community for your online courses.
Circle is an all-in-one solution that allows creators to build a strong community of people with similar interests. It enables the integration of the preferable communication channel directly into the online learning environment, which helps ease the interaction between learners and course participants.
Here are a couple of benefits you’ll find on this platform:
- chatbot creation;
- smooth integration of popular social networks;
- efficient moderation tools;
- automated sync with CRM;
- multiple payment system support.
Circle is highly popular among free online community platforms and has many pricing plans to choose from, depending on the selected functionality creators need for their online communities.
One of the most trending business messaging platforms that features a smooth collaboration for professional communication. Slack will be an excellent fit for creators who need a private collaboration channel with many integration possibilities for third-party tools like social networks, Google services, and cloud solutions.
Some of the best features of this platform are:
- member directory;
- channel categorization;
- extensive communication features;
- unlimited community members;
- easy to use and familiar for most users.
As for the pricing plans, Slack offers a free plan with unlimited community members and two paid subscription options — Pro for $7.25/mo per user and Business+ for $12.5/mo per user.
Another great solution for online communities is Tribe — a functional and user-friendly platform providing an outstanding customer experience for creators and their audiences. Community members can join groups and contribute articles, participate in discussions, and run their own feeds to share the latest insights or updates with the like-minders.
This is what users like about this platform:
- no-code environment;
- effortless setup and easy navigation;
- numerous tools for user communication;
- advanced moderation tools;
- different member roles.
Similar to the alternative options, Tribe features flexible pricing for businesses of different scales, starting from $599/mo.
Mighty Networks allows creators to build an online course community across the web and native iOS and Android applications. The platform features an intuitive UI and excellent personalization for community administrators and members and enables the creation of charge-free and paid communities for online courses. Additionally, participants can run personalized activity feeds, which can benefit community engagement.
Some of the key features of this platform are:
- membership charge;
- advanced analytics dashboard;
- user-friendly CMS;
- cross-platform support;
- direct private messaging.
The platform offers a 14-day free trial, after which creators can choose between three pricing options starting from $33/mo.
PeerBoard has been listed among the best online community platforms mainly because of its ease of use and smooth integration. The service enables setting up communities for online courses, eCommerce, LMS, blogs, or membership communities, which makes it a truly versatile solution for creators. Moreover, thanks to its large user community, PeerBoard allows creators to actively participate in product discussions, request features, and explore guides to make the most of the platform’s functionality.
Here are a couple of things users like about PeerBoard:
- integration with multiple online learning platforms;
- member segmentation;
- commenting and insight tools;
- white label and customizable;
- feature-request option.
The platform offers a free plan with the option of upgrading from $23/mo (up to three private communities) to $239/mo, supporting up to 100 private spaces.
Discord was created for communication between groups of friends and gamers. However, today the platform is widely used for building online communities due to its user-friendly interface and extensive functionality.
Here are some great features of Discord:
- group audio and video call feature;
- ability to create channels for different topics;
- free basic features;
- third-party integrations for marketing;
- great channel management features.
The basic version of Discord is free for everyone, and each user can separately update the account if they wish to get access to some advanced features.
Choosing the best environment to host your online community takes up some time and effort. However, it can help creators significantly improve the value of their online courses, making them more attractive to customers and way more competitive in the target market.
An ideal online community platform should connect all your needs under a single, user-friendly interface, allowing a smooth and efficient interaction and advanced management options to fully meet the needs of the creator and members.
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