Best Community Platforms include:
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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.
Frequently Asked Questions
As the Community Platform category of software represents how software rises to meet the needs of online customer management, it reveals the composition of organizations and individuals that are responding to the demands around those key use cases.
Typically these tools are used by:
- Community managers
- Customer support