How to choose the best community platform for your online community
Picking the right community platform can be a daunting experience. I get asked the question all the time ‘which is the right community platform for me?’.
It’s important to know that there’s no one-size-fits all. Every community is different, so it stands to reason that some platforms are better for certain types of community, and less appropriate for others.
Here are 4 key considerations for deciding your community platform:
1. What space are you in? Where do your ideal members already spend their time?
I believe in meeting people where they’re at. That is to say, don’t create unnecessary friction trying to lure people away from their favourite platforms.
If you’re in the gaming industry, or NFT space, you should almost certainly be using Discord. That’s literally where all of your ideal members will already be spending their time.
2. What is your budget?
There are free community platforms and paid community platforms.
Whilst the paid platforms invariably offer a better service and more features, there’s plenty of successful communities running on free platforms too.
If you’re not profitable yet, and have a tight budget, then investing in a premium community platform may not be wise. Consider building an MVC (minimum viable community) and getting some traction/revenue happening, before you invest in a premium solution.
If you’re looking for free solutions, consider Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups or Slack groups.
3. What type of community platform do you want to run?
There have never been more community platforms available than right now, which means that you’ll likely find a good solution, no matter what your community type. Here are some common types of community platforms:
- Events based
- Forum based
- Chat based
- Membership based
Let’s say you’re committed to starting a community where members can chat to each other in real-time – well you’d be much better using Discord or Slack, over something like Circle.so. However, if you want more of a traditional ‘forum’ approach, then Circle.so would be superior.
4. What size is your community?
I believe it was David Spinks who made the astute point in his book, The Business of Belonging, that size matters when choosing your community platform. That is to say, an a-synchronous forum platform may not be appropriate if you have only 5 members, as they’ll be bouncing around in there, and it’ll feel pretty empty!
Forums are typically best suited for 100+ members, although I’ve also seen them work with 10-20+ active members.
A summary of how to pick the best community platform
So, before you jump blindly into picking a recommended community platform, consider these four factors:
- Are you meeting members where they already are?
- Have you considered your budget?
- Have you defined what kind of community you want to run?
- How many members do you aspire to serve?
If you’re wondering what my community platform of choice is, both of my current communities run on Circle.so. I’ve written an in depth Circle.so review if you want to learn more. But again, realise the Circle platform may or may not fit your needs, based on the above considerations.
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