Best Community Platforms
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Community Platforms Overview
What are Community Platforms?
Community Platforms manage the process of creating and maintaining a space for productive discussion among community members. Members can share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. This process is sometimes referred to as "community engagement."
Key Use Cases for Community Platforms
Support community for self-help and peer or expert advice
Private social networking
Gauge customer satisfaction
Identify customer advocates
Increase customer/employee engagement
Distribute community news and updates
Generate content with programs like community blogging
Mature communities deliver business value in a variety of ways. They increase engagement, address support issues and pain points, measure satisfaction, and build stronger relationships. Platforms may support external communities, internal communities, or both. These benefits apply to both customer and employee communities.
There are different types of community platforms, including open source options for community managers who want to develop their own platform. Some SMB-focused community platforms focus on one aspect of community, like Q&A, ideation, or link sharing. Enterprise-grade community platforms are more feature-rich. They might include complex, hierarchal capabilities like multi-tiered advocacy programs with moderator permissions.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Community Platform
It is important to consider whether membership will be explicit and exclusive so that the community is open to registered members only.
In order to determine how employees or customers are likely to engage with a community platform, some community managers set up a free community platform or private social network group to run a testing phase.
Community Platforms vs. Help Desk Software, CMS, and Collaboration Tools
Community management tools have some overlap with help desk software, which often includes community features like Q&A for self-help. Some community platforms integrate with help desk systems.
There is also overlap with content management systems (CMS), especially in heavily moderated external communities, where posts/articles by advocates and experts might be promoted and shared elsewhere.
Some community platforms, especially for internal communities, may overlap with collaboration tools as well. Collaboration tools tend to be more focused on one-on-one interactions between users, and on getting projects done (via file sharing, etc.). Community interactions are more often one-to-many and focused on help, general engagement, feedback, and ideation.
Gamification is a strategy in which points, rules, and competition are used to increase engagement. Some community platforms use game dynamics to incentivize and reward member participation.
Moderation is a system for controlling potential abuse of the community platform. Moderation is important because fear of defamation is one of the biggest obstacles to creating an external community. For some companies promoting the voice of the customer feels risky.
There are two approaches to moderation: curating users (like restricting membership or blocking/reporting certain members) or curating content.
Most community platforms allow administrators to act as moderators. Some have more advanced hierarchical systems for moderation. These allow administrators to grant certain members moderator permissions.
Content curation includes restricting content access, removing content, editing content, or responding to content. This is often a top-down reaction to member contributions. It can also involve broader community participation such as voting on, rating and reporting content.
There are many providers of collaboration software spanning a wide range of capabilities from very inexpensive products designed for small teams, to highly sophisticated enterprise products. Enterprise-level systems cost in the region of $100 per user per month, with price breaks for high numbers of users.
Vanilla Forums is customizable and themable forum software. It can be used for support communities, Q&A Communities and more. There are numerous integrations, including SSO, and connectors to popular software such as Mailchimp, WordPress, Zendesk and Salesforce.
Higher Logic is a private community platform that empowers members, customers, support and product teams to create and manage meaningful, engaging online communities.
GetSatisfaction is primarily a customer engagement community platform. As such, it competes directly with Lithium and Jive. The platform also has a support function since it allows users to ask each other questions and also connect to a customer support agent. The product was acquired by Sprinklr...
Axero's Communifire is an Enterprise Social and Collaboration platform. Used internally, it connects employees, key customers and partners to pursue shared goals. Used to build an online community, it puts the emphasis on working together, not just meeting socially. The platform, designed to...
Lithium Community is a fully-featured community platform and is focused on the needs of marketers. Lithium most often competes with Jive Team Collaboration and Get Satisfaction.
Igloo Software is a social business software company that builds online communities for businesses of any size. It is a suite of content management, collaboration and knowledge sharing tools within one secure social networking platform. Online communities drive groups, teams and organizations to...
Jive-x (formerly Jive Engage) is Jive's external facing community platform for prospects and customers. It is a leading product in the space and most often competes with Lithium Community and Telligent Community.
Small World Labs Community is a hosted collaboration and social networking platform with easy drag & drop modification capabilities. Small World Labs offers implementation and community engagement services, plus an open API for integration with other systems. Small World Labs has clients...
Ginger is a group discussion app for facilitating team communication and productivity. Some key features include: Threaded Discussions, File Sharing and Voting.
Intranet Connections is an instantly searchable, easy-to-use software platform that aims to boost productivity, collaboration and information sharing within the workplace. The company started in 1999 and how grown to connect over 100,000 users. The product offers a central location for employees...
Telligent Community is a community and collaboration software platform developed by Telligent Systems and was first released in 2004. Telligent's focus is on offering a platform that can be integrated and extended, but this requires technical expertise.
Centercode Connect is a hosted software platform that provides all of the tools needed to run a beta program: recruiting, NDA management, product distribution, surveys, bug reports, forums, reporting, and more.
inSided is an enterprise-level community platform that integrates with a variety of business functions. The inSided platform is cloud-based and gives users a complete set of applications to build, integrate, and manage branded customer communities across digital touch points and devices. inSided is...
Mzinga is a community platform that competes with Jive Team Collaboration, Lithium Community, Get Satisfaction and other community products. Mzinga offers services and analytics in addition to its technology platform.
Muut is an embedded community platform providing both embedded comments (e.g. blog comments, reviews on product pages etc.) and a full blown forum system that is embeddable onto a website on any platform.
Hoop.la is a customizable enterprise social community solution. Since it is SaaS-based, no coding is required.According to the vendor, some key benefits and features include:Easily collaborate and communicate with fans, volunteers, constituents, customers, employees, and influencers.Bring everyone...
Evoq Engage is community management, gamification, and loyalty management software by DNN.
Discourse is an open-source community management and moderation product.
Enterprise Hive is a community management software solution offered by Enterprise Hive, LLC.
Pluck is a community platform for brands designed to build customer loyalty. It features reviews, gamification, and community moderation.
Magentrix Customer Communities is a solution with case management, knowledge base, FAQ and social collaboration capabilities. According to the vendor, users can launch a portal site without depending on developers or complex coding. The product offers: Branded Portals: Custom themes allow...
Answerbase is a knowledge management platform for customer support and e-commerce, allowing users to ask questions, receive quality answers, and browse content and articles to meet their demand for information about your products and services. Each system comes with administration and moderation...
IntelliEnterprise is an Intranet Software Suite for managing content and processes. It lets organizations manage and efficiently distribute relevant content, offers integrated security, customizable applications and workflows for process automation, social tools to connect employees across...
Drupal Commons is a community collaboration and management site built on the open-source Drupal.