Whether you are attempting to enhance awareness of your brand or spearheading a movement community management software is crucial. This type of software creates a platform that brings people interested in your views, skills or products together so they can share their experiences, compare product notes, gain access to exclusive content, provide feedback and help spread the word to future community members.
If you hope to thrive in the digital age, having an online community of brand advocates is non-negotiable. The question then becomes: “Which online community management software is right for me?” It’s a great question because there are dozens of them out there. In order to help you make an informed decision let’s take a look at the 8 best community software solutions currently on the market.
What is community management software?
Community management software is a digital home for your community. In technical terms, community management software is that bundle of proprietary code that creates the graphic interface and enables the features of your online community. Those features provide a way for your community members – be they environmentalists or fans of your bespoke wooden furniture – to communicate, debate, learn and basically enrich their lives while allowing you to obtain priceless feedback, preview products and either raise money for your cause or earn income through in-app sales, events, online classes or any other way you see fit.
At its heart, all such software has one primary purpose: to facilitate content creation and the ability of community members to interact with that content. Not all such software is created equal, however. Nor do all the best offer the same key features. Most will provide a forum for members to post topics and ask questions. But beyond that, there can be some significant differences.
What are the benefits of community management software?
The quality of the software used to manage your online community is everything. Opt for lesser software and you will be limited in what you can offer community members, limited in how effectively you can moderate content and limited in how much you can learn from member activity.
On the other hand, when you choose top-of-the-line community management software you will be able to:
Enhance customer engagement
The best software produces the best community management tools. These tools are essential if you are to engage effectively with your members and include features such as polls, scheduled posts, analytics, live streams, direct messaging, push notifications and more.
Communicate more effectively
The best community software facilitates communication not just between members but between members and community managers. You’ll have all the tools you need to monitor user activity so that you can respond more quickly and effectively to questions and stay one step ahead of trolls.
Bolster your marketing efforts
When it comes to marketing your product or service there is no substitute for a thriving online community. You’ll get instant feedback on your product, be able to preview new products before they hit the shelves, arrange virtual meet-and-greets to bolster brand loyalty and more.
Take control of monetization
When you build an online community using an existing social media platform, like Facebook, they retain complete control over monetization. When you build a community using the best online community management software, all monetization options come under your control.
Ultimately, if you choose anything less than robust community management software your ability to engage your community, market your product and monetize your efforts will all be compromised.
Important considerations when choosing community management software
It’s all well and good to say you should choose the best software to manage your community, but how do you go about doing that? Here are the things we recommend you consider when evaluating community software:
Ease of use: It’s hard enough managing an online community without having to struggle with the different features of the software. Opt for a software solution that is easy to learn and use.
The UI: The user interface should be clean, attractive and well-organized so both users and managers can find what they’re looking for when they need it or want it.
Whitelabel app: A whitelabel app (or the ability to upgrade in the future) is essential if you are serious about building your brand. It essentially means that you can create the feel of a custom-developed app, without the price tag. It puts your brand front and centre, and gives your members a great mobile experience.
3rd party integration: Great community management software should enable you to easily integrate other apps such as Google Suite, Mailchimp and YouTube.
Customization: Each community has its own identity that needs to be respected and cultivated. The right management software is one that will provide generous customization options.
Powerful moderation tools: The best software will provide powerful moderation tools that enable you to quickly and effectively moderate user-generated content. This is essential so that you can build a safe and welcoming online space that encapsulates your values.
Enable feedback: One of the most important functions of an online community is that it provides ways for members to offer feedback that can help you improve your product or service.
Monetization: Tired of social media giants gobbling up monetization opportunities? You should be. And the best community management software will enable you to generate an income from your community, in the way that works best for you.
How to choose community management software
Choosing the right community management software is a strategic decision that significantly impacts your brand’s online presence and customer engagement. This process involves understanding your specific needs, evaluating available features, comparing tools, and finally, testing the software through demos. Here’s a guide on how to navigate this selection process:
1. Assess your brand’s specific needs
- Identify objectives: Clearly define what you want to achieve with community management. This could include enhancing customer support, fostering brand loyalty, or amplifying your brand voice online.
- Needs vs. wants: Focus on essential features your brand needs for effective community management rather than desirable but non-essential ones.
2. Identify key features
- Customization and branding:
- Personalized community space: Ability to customize the look and feel of the community platform to align with your brand’s image.
- Branding options: Features to incorporate your brand’s logo, color scheme, and other visual elements for a cohesive brand experience.
- Robust content management:
- Content creation and scheduling: Tools for creating, scheduling, and publishing diverse content types, enhancing engagement and interaction.
- Media-rich posting: Support for various media types, including images, videos, and articles, to keep the community dynamic and engaging.
- Courses: The ability to create and sell courses to engage and inspire your community members.
- Engagement tools and analytics:
- Interactive features: Polls, surveys, and discussion forums to foster interaction and gather feedback.
- Real-time analytics: Insights into user engagement, content performance, and community growth to inform strategy.
- Mobile app:
- Dedicated mobile app: A seamless mobile experience that allows members to engage with the community on-the-go.
- Push notifications: Timely notifications to keep the community informed and engaged.
- Monetization options:
- In-app purchases and subscriptions: Tools to monetize the community through memberships, exclusive content, or merchandise sales.
- Ad-free experience: Providing an ad-free environment to enhance user experience and focus on community interaction.
- Moderation and safety tools:
- Content moderation: Features to manage and moderate user-generated content to maintain a safe and respectful community environment.
- User management: Easy management of community members, including roles, permissions, and member insights.
- Integration and scalability:
- Third-party integrations: Ability to integrate with other tools and platforms for a more comprehensive community management solution.
- Scalability: Capable of supporting community growth without compromising performance or user experience.
3. Comparative Analysis of Tools
- Fit for Purpose: Ensure the tool matches your specific community management needs.
- Ease of Use: The software should be intuitive and user-friendly.
- Collaboration Efficiency: Assess how well it supports team collaboration.
- Analytical Depth: Check the comprehensiveness of insights and reporting tools.
- Customer Support: Availability and quality of support for any issues encountered.
- Real-time Synchronization: Essential for timely responses and updates.
- User Experience: Overall ease and satisfaction in using the software.
4. Request a Demo
- Before finalizing your choice, request a demo to get a hands-on experience of how the software works. This step is crucial to ensure the software meets your expectations and is compatible with your team’s workflow.
Choosing the right community management software requires a balanced approach of understanding your brand’s specific needs, evaluating key features, comparing various tools, and experiencing the software through demos. A well-chosen tool like Statusbrew can streamline your community management, enhance team collaboration, and provide valuable insights, ultimately contributing to a stronger, more engaged online community. Remember, the best software is one that aligns seamlessly with your brand’s goals and enhances your online community’s experience.
Top 8 community management software solutions
The following are the 8 best community management software solutions currently on the market.
Disciple is often touted as the best choice for building a thriving online brand community, and it’s easy to understand why. Disciple provides all of the key features community builders and managers need to establish and grow their brand.
- Do you want community management software that’s easy to use? Check.
- How about a clean, attractive user interface with intuitive navigation? Check.
- Do you want a whitelabel mobile app. Check.
- Do you need to integrate 3rd party apps alongside your social media presence? Check.
- Do you want unparalleled customization options? Check.
- What about powerful moderation tools? Check.
- Do you want to receive regular feedback from community members? Check.
- And what about keeping all monetization options under your own roof? Check.
Whereas a lot of other community software options pick and choose from that list, Disciple embraces the whole thing. That way you are not left wanting when it comes to creating and maintaining an online community. With Disciple, you get a powerful tool for getting the word out and bringing new members in, and a way for you to expand your revenue base. What’s more they have an incredible ecosystem of community-building support to help you succeed, including a customer community where you can learn from others who are also building thriving communities on the platform.
It’s all here with Disciple including unlimited live streams, polls, surveys, chat, personal messaging, customization and more. In other words, Disciple fulfills the primary purpose of online community software that we laid out at the start: it provides the best platform for creating content and facilitating interaction with that content. Who could ask for anything more?
2: Bettermode (formerly Tribe)
Bettermode – formerly Tribe – has been around for some time and amassed a large customer base who are drawn to its powerful analytic tools, its robust content moderation capability, its built-in SEO features and its “free-forever” plan, which allows you to create a community of up to 100 members for free. Forever.
Other features offered by Bettermode include custom pages, custom colours and typography, custom spaces, easy integration of 3rd party apps, comprehensive member profiles, post reactions and comments, tags, private messages, badges, post editor, advanced search, wide-ranging analytics and more.
On the downside, once you get past the colours and graphics, your customization options dry up pretty quickly. Bettermode itself is not a native mobile app, so your mobile members are not going to have the best experience. What’s more, many of the features are powered by 3rd party integrations – and those memberships can get expensive. There are also serious disadvantages if you are looking to monetize, as Bettermode does not have built-in monteization tools.
Hivebrite is a potent community software solution known for enabling wide-ranging customization of everything from logins to user profiles to membership rights, colours and graphics, other branding cues and more. You can segment your community based on member interests and customize the experience for each group.
You can also integrate numerous 3rd party apps including Microsoft 365, Salesforce and all major social media platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. That enables you to create and maintain lively interaction between all the components that together comprise your branding strategy. You also have the ability to create a branded mobile app.
On the downside, Hivebrite’s customer service is not the best and it’s nearly impossible to actually speak to a human being. So if you have an issue you’re pretty much on your own. And the company keeps their pricing structure close to the vest, which is rarely a good sign for those trying to get the most from every penny of their marketing budget.
4: Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks is a community building software solution that is known for its customizable spaces that can be tailored to suit the exact needs of various segments of your community. When customizing those spaces you can pick from a wide variety of features including polls and surveys, live streaming, integrated events, courses, custom activity feeds and a full complement of monetization options.
Mighty Networks is compatible with all Android and iOS mobile devices, typically ranks in the top 20 community software solutions and provides a wide array of monetization options. You also get impressive content moderation capabilities, push notifications, and the ability to design welcome elements for the various spaces that include welcome checklists, introductions and icebreaker questions.
On the downside, Mighty Networks can be extremely expensive. Their whitelabel mobile app costs $30,000 per year. There are also transaction fees on the various pricing tiers, limitations on payment gateways and if you want first-class customer service you will need to shell out for a high-end plan.
Statusbrew may not be a household name but they can boast a pretty impressive portfolio of large corporations who have opted to build their brand communities using their software. That includes Dunkin’, Ford, Samsung and others. Among other features, Statusbrew offer personalized support, real-time messaging, the ability to integrate all aspects of your social media presence, inbox filters, automation of incoming social media chat, comprehensive moderation tools and more.
The people behind Statusbrew no doubt have their act together and have created a dependable community management software solution. Nonetheless, it must be said that the emphasis with Statusbrew is firmly on its use as a social media management tool as that relates to online marketing efforts. The type of daily interplay between ordinary community members that is often the lifeblood of an online community is not a priority.
If you are looking for a way to bolster the marketing efforts of your established brand you might well want to consider Statusbrew. The company offer a variety of plans that start at £69 and increase from there. However, if you are looking for the best community management software to get your fledgling brand, movement or coaching business off the ground you’d be well served to choose another more well-rounded option such as Disciple.
With Slack, we enter the realm of free community management software. Because it’s free some community builders are willing to overlook the fact that it is first and foremost a messaging app that was developed to facilitate workforce communication. In that sense, it is rather like a Western version of the Line app that was started in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami as a way to facilitate communication during emergencies and wound up being adopted by everyday people in places like Thailand as their go-to chat application.
Like Line, what Slack does, it does well. But also like Line its usefulness as a community-building tool is limited. It lacks most of the specialized functions community builders want to see including content moderation, profiles, advanced customization, gamification and more. Still, free is free and there may be instances where creative community builders can find a way to make Slack work for them.
For the record, Slack has recently introduced 2 paid plans that provide modest feature enhancements. But these plans can be difficult to understand and tend to get expensive pretty quickly.
Discourse is a different kind of community software that allows its users to create an interactive discussion board/forum with some basic but dependable community management tools. So what’s so different about it? Why does such a seemingly bare-bones community software system rate a spot on our list? Mostly because it offers the most useful community-building features of the free software options.
So if you’re attempting to get your online community off the ground on a real shoestring budget Discourse will provide you with a reliable place to start. You won’t have all the bells and whistles right out of the gate but you’ll have basic chat, push notifications, modest customization, social login and some basic moderation tools. Once things get humming and your community starts to grow you can always upgrade to one of the other community management solutions on our list.
Keep in mind, however, that while the Discourse community software is indeed free, you will need to pay for a hosting plan. Also, you’ll need to be somewhat tech-savvy to install it, or know someone who is willing to help you.
8: Facebook Groups
The last online community management software on our list is Facebook Groups. While Facebook has lost much of its lustre due to numerous scandals and data breaches it simply can’t be ignored by any responsible community builder weighing their options. For the better part of a decade Facebook Groups were the default choice for budget-conscious community builders because A) it was free service and B) there were more than 2 billion Facebook users worldwide, and who else could provide access to an online community of that size?
But as the years passed the scandals piled up and community managers got increasingly tired of ZuckCo imposing their corporate standards on community members while hogging all the monetization options. As a result, other community platforms began to look more attractive and many communities migrated from Facebook to those other platforms, a process that continues unabated.
Still, Facebook Groups remain an option for the budget conscious. In its favour, it can boast unmatched name recognition, proven community-building tools, the ability to keep your group private and unsearchable and a stable, (though not necessarily secure), platform.
The best community management software enables you to build an online community that is safe and secure, responsive and scalable, feature-rich and brimming with monetization options. It’s also affordable, customizable, easy to use and provides a way to integrate all your social media marketing efforts along with numerous other 3rd party apps. The software that checks all of those boxes while fulfilling the primary function of an online community to create and interact with content is Disciple.
What are the benefits of community management software?
Being able to facilitate relationships with and between community members is at the heart of the best community software. But the benefits don’t stop there. It also provides quick access to high-quality feedback, cost-effective marketing, the chance to increase brand loyalty, the ability to integrate your social media efforts and monetization options.
How does community management software help my brand?
Whether you are a celebrity, a furniture maker or a life coach your brand needs to create buzz if it is to thrive. A thriving online community – and by extension the community management software behind it – is one of the best ways ever devised to generate that buzz. By facilitating communication between your loyal fans, customers or other like-minded individuals you are able to exponentially increase the amount of buzz your brand generates and to disseminate that buzz across multiple social media platforms, thereby attracting more fans/customers who in turn become powerful brand advocates.
How much should community management software cost?
“Should” is a tricky word. That’s because to those who developed the software it “should” cost enough that they are able to recoup their initial investment. But to those attempting to build an online community the cost “should” fit into their budget. Fortunately, the fiscally responsible community manager has a variety of options when it comes to cost, including free options like Facebook Groups. The best thing to do is to go through the various plans offered by the different companies and pick one that will provide the key features you need at a price you can afford.