The 10 best alternatives to Circle in 2023

the-top-10-best-alternatives-to-circle-in-2023

The 10 best alternatives to Circle (Circle.so) in 2023

2023 is set to be another exciting year for community-led businesses. With that in mind, one of the most important decisions that you will take as you build your online community will be which platform to host it on. 

Whether you are at the start of selecting the perfect platform to create a space for your community or you are an existing Circle community looking for something more, we’re here to help. We’ll start with a deep dive into Circle’s software, before exploring the alternatives, so that you can make an informed decision that’s best for your unique community.

What is Circle.so?

circle-alternatives

Circle is a community platform that launched in 2020. It defines itself as an ‘all-in-one community platform for creators and brands.’

As you might expect from a platform developed by Teachable employees, the software is geared towards e-learning online communities and course creators. With Circle, you can create a place for your students to gather and interact with one another. It integrates smoothly with Teachable so, if you are already enjoying success on that platform, Circle can act as an extension in which you can house your online community.

As a Circle community member, the platform looks quite like Slack in the way it is organised through topics. It is clean and simple for your members to use.

What are Circle’s key features?

Teachable integration

As we’ve said, where Circle shines is with its integration with Teachable. It’s easy to set up and works smoothly. If this integration is your top priority, then Circle could be the platform for you.

Single sign on

Single sign on reduces friction in the signup process for your community members. It means that a member can log on with the credentials that they use elsewhere, on Facebook for example, without sharing their password information. 

Premium membership exclusivity

With Circle, you can stop your non-paying members from interacting with your paying members which can help to create an air of exclusivity.

The pros

    • Circle has a clear and minimalistic user interface so your members will find it easy to navigate.

    • Circle has excellent integration capabilities and will work well with your existing Teachable online courses, if you have them. 
    • Circle has their own community which is a great source of guidance and support on how to use their platform.

Circle.so

The cons

    • Circle doesn’t offer a white-labelled app, which means your brand will not get the exposure of being in the app store.

    • Circle isn’t available on Android, so a large portion of your members are excluded.

    • Circle is not a complete solution – you will likely still need to pay for further tools and integrate them. For example, while it is possible to create a basic course on Circle through posts, most users choose to host their courses on Teachable and integrate for better functionality. 

    • You are not able to manage your community from the mobile app, instead the experience that you get as a community host is pretty much the same as your members. This makes it tricky if you are looking to do some of your admin on the go.

What features do other community platforms have?

Now you know more about the Circle platform, you’ll be able to see that it’s a great choice for some school communities, particularly those who are primarily looking for a community extension to their Teachable courses. However, it has some major drawbacks for other online community types who need a bit more from their software choice.

If one of your goals is to build your brand, Circle won’t cut it. That’s because they don’t offer a white label app option that puts your brand front and centre. Instead, iOS users will have to go to the app store and download the Circle app and then access your community through them. Really, you want them to be downloading and accessing your app, with your own beautiful branding. What’s more, your Android community members will be left out entirely because Circle only works on iOS.

There are a few alternatives to Circle.so that we’d recommend that can provide you with white label social network software and enable all of your community members to join the fun. We’ll run through these options now, as well as exploring some other alternatives so that you can decide which software is the best fit for your own community.

Here’s our roundup of 10 Circle alternatives

Disciple

Disciple is an alternative to Circle.so that has been around for a bit longer, and that really shows in terms of product functionality. With Disciple you get a really customisable white label platform that is adaptable to your needs and will really show off your brand in the best light. 

When you’re shopping for online community platforms you need to think about the experience your members will have – with Disciple that’s second to none. The platform is easy-to-navigate and is designed to drive community engagement.

Disciple’s pricing structure means that you will only pay for what you need, and the capabilities of the platform can grow together with your community and ambitions.

Pros

    • The most flexible and customisable community platform there is – with Disciple you’ll be able to build a home for your community on web, iOS and Android that is truly unique.

    • Disciple has in-built monetisation tools, including multi-tier subscriptions, in-app purchases and sponsorships. At Disciple, we believe you should keep all of your income from your community, so there are no hidden fees for in-app purchases.

    • Disciple is a great platform for streamlining your business, bringing your tools and people together in one place. Our platform seamlessly integrates with your favourite tools and our open API means that the possibilities of what you can do really are endless.

    • Disciple has all the features you need to grow and engage your community, including powerful push notifications, unlimited livestreams, polls, chats and so much more.

    • Disciple’s console allows you to effortlessly manage and learn about your community.

Cons

    • It’s difficult to think of cons for such a flexible platform, but if you are specifically looking for a community extension for your Teachable courses then that is the only reason we can think of to choose Circle over Disciple!

Facebook groups

circle-vs-facebook-groups

Many great online communities start out as Facebook groups. As Facebook groups are free to set up, they can be a good way of testing out whether there’s an appetite for your community with relatively low investment.

That said, more and more we are seeing communities turn away from Facebook for some pretty powerful reasons. After recent scandals, like Cambridge Analytica, members are increasingly turning their backs on big tech social media companies and looking for a more private social network. The spam, ads and algorithms that pervade Facebook also mean that it’s an untenable option for many online communities, particularly those who need a safe and private spaces for their members to interact.

Pros

    • The biggest advantage of Facebook groups is that they won’t cost you anything to set up. However, you need to think about whether that’s worth this list of cons:

Cons

    • Facebook/Meta is a toxic brand – many community members want to move away from the platform and if your community is hosted there you run a real risk of losing them. There is no white-labelled option for Facebook groups, so your community will be intrinsically linked to Meta’s brand.

    • You can’t generate income from a Facebook group because it doesn’t include monetization options.

    • Facebook is full of spam and distractions which harms community engagement. You’ll likely have to spend a lot on Facebook ads in order to get your content seen by your own community members. 

    • Privacy and security are an issue on a public platform like Facebook, which will negatively impact your member’s experience of your community and may also create a lot of additional moderation work for you as the host.

    • If you host your community in a Facebook group, Meta will own your members’ data, not you. That means you have limited control. 

Mighty Networks

circle-vs-mighty-networks

Mighty Networks is community-building platform that makes a good alternative to Circle. With Mighty Networks you can create private, white-labelled community apps on web, Android and iOS.

Pros

    • Unlike Circle, Mighty Networks has apps for every device type – iOS, Android and web.

    • If you are a course creator, you will be able to build your courses on Mighty Networks, without needing to integrate another platform like Teachable.

    • Mighty Networks provide great support to customers who can afford their Mighty Pro option.

Cons

    • Mighty Networks is very expensive. They have a white label option called Mighty Pro, but that will set you back a whopping $30,000 a year! And if you want your members to benefit from a friction-free sign-in experience with Single Sign On, you’ll have to pay an additional $7,500 fee. In comparison, Disciple’s Pro tier costs less than half that, with very similar or better features.

    • Mighty Networks takes a cut of in-app purchases so you won’t get to keep every penny you make. 

    • The livestreaming capability of Mighty Networks is limited. You can’t have multiple people on camera and they have restrictions on livestream length and numbers of members who can tune in.

    • The user interface is quite confusing for new members because the platform tries to cram so much in.

Bettermode (formerly Tribe) 

circle-vs-tribe

Bettermode is an online platform designed for businesses that want to build a community around a product. Bettermode has a fairly limited feature set, but to compensate for this it does have a number of good integrations. 

Pros

    • Bettermode has built-in gamification, enabling you to reward your most active members with badges, leaderboard places and virtual currency.

    • The Bettermode platform is available in different languages and integrates with Google Translate, which may be a real asset if your community is multilingual.

    • Bettermode has powerful moderation tools and enables you to blacklist certain keywords.

Cons

    • The major drawback to Bettermode is that they do not have a native mobile app, so the experience that your members will have from their phones will be highly limited. Because of this, you can’t use Push Notifications with Bettermode, which will harm your community engagement.

    • The Bettermode platform is also missing important features to help you structure and build your community. For example, you can’t create groups or organise content into folders. Bettermode also doesn’t have an events feature. What’s more, your members are limited in how they can engage with one another as there is no private messaging feature.

    • Instead of using inbuilt features, you will need to rely heavily on third-party integrations and widgets which can feel clunky. It also means you are likely going to have to pay for a number of additional subscriptions.

    • Bettermode’s support is pretty limited – their own community is more of an FAQs page than a place you can go to get support from their team and other customers.

Slack

circle-vs-slack

Slack is a communications tool designed to bring remote offices together. It’s a vital part of how many businesses operate (us included) and that may have you thinking ‘Can I use Slack to host my community too?’ Slack is superb at what it does, however it was never designed to be a community-building tool. If you do choose it as the home for your community, you’ll reach a point pretty quickly where you’ll be community software shopping again.

Pros

    • Slack has a wealth of brilliant integrations so you can make it work with your existing tools.

Cons

    • It is not possible to monetize on Slack, so if that is one of your community goals you are better off looking elsewhere.

    • Slack’s paid plans charge per user so if you have a large or rapidly growing community it could get very expensive very fast.

Hivebrite

Hivebrite is a community platform aimed at academic institutions. 

Pro

    • Hivebrite uses a building block approach so that you can fairly easily select how you want your members to sign up, what their profiles will look like and what access rights they will have, the features you want to use and your own custom branding.

    • Hivebrite has good membership and event monetisation capabilities. 

    • Hivebrite has a jobs board which is a useful addition for their target audience.

Cons

    • Hivebrite is one of the most expensive options out there. 

    • Push notifications don’t work on the Hivebrite platform and so you may struggle with community engagement.

    • Hivebrite doesn’t have livestreaming so you won’t be able to engage your members through live events and broadcasts.

    • As a community host, your behind the scenes experience is quite clunky and not user-friendly, compared with Disciple’s.

Discord

circle-vs-discord

Discord is another team communication platform, that first started as a place for gamers to group chat. 

Pros

    • It enables people to chat using voice and video call. 

    • It’s pretty straightforward and easy to use.

Cons

    • There is no white label app option.

    • It only includes integrations used for gaming, so if your community is based on anything else, you are better off looking elsewhere.

    • The analytics are extremely limited so you’ll struggle to learn about your community’s behaviour and motivations.

Kajabi Community

circle-vs-kajabi-community

Kajabi is a course product that has a separate community option called Kajabi Community. The community function works like a forum, allowing members to create discussion posts around topics. Functionality is pretty limited, but if you are looking to create discussion posts around your existing Kajabi courses then it could be worth considering.

Pros

    • A good option if you just want to enable conversation around your existing Kajabi courses.

Cons

    • No white label app. 

    • Very expensive for such limited functionality.

reddit

circle-vs-reddit

Reddit is a social network dedicated to discussions. You can use reddit to create ‘communities’ or ‘subreddits’.

Pros

    • It’s free to set up a community on reddit.

Cons

    • reddit owns and controls everything. You’re bound by their rules and don’t have a lot of freedom over what you create.

    • reddit is really just a discussion forum, you won’t get all the other great tools for building a thriving community. There are no monetization tools so you can’t generate an income.

    • reddit is selective over who can build a community on their platform – you’ll need to have been an active member for a while and even then there’s no guarantee.

WildApricot

circle-vs-wild-apricot

WildApricot is a community management platform that caters for non-profit organisations. 

Pros

    • WildApricot enables you to create your own website for your non-profit, including regional subgroups which can be independently managed.

    • You can host live events, manage membership subscriptions

Cons

    • WildApricot uses Affinipay as its payment processor. If you prefer to use another option, such as Stripe or PayPal, WildApricot will keep 20% of each transaction made on your platform. WildApricot’s monthly fees are already quite high so this is important to bear in mind.

    • The WildApricot platform looks quite dated and doesn’t have a flexible design. You will also find that it lacks integrations with your other tools. It is best suited to new non-profits who do not have an existing tech stack.

Making your choice

circle-vs-disciple

You should now have a better idea of what alternatives to Circle are out there. If it still feels like a bit of a minefield, here are 10 questions that you should have in mind when choosing a platform.

  1. Do they offer a white label web and mobile app (on both iOS and Android)?
  2. Can I engage my members with push notifications?

  3. Can I livestream to my members?
  4. Is the platform flexible enough to allow me to build a public or private space that suits my unique community?
  5. Is the platform intuitive to use?
  6. How much work will it be for me to get set up on the platform?
  7. Can the platform continue to support my community as it grows into the future?
  8. Can I afford the product? Are there any hidden costs?
  9. Do they offer good support to you as a host and your members? 
  10. Do they have their own customer community?

With this in mind, we feel confident recommending Disciple as the best Circle app alternative. With Disciple you get a web and mobile app that displays your beautiful brand across all devices. The app is flexible, easy-to-use and includes all the tools and integrations you need to effectively manage your community. Disciple also has a great ecosystem of support, through their experienced community experts and strategists, support team and their own community, The Collective. This support will help you get the most out of the platform so that you can achieve your growth, engagement and monetization goals.

We understand that as a community host this is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. If you’d like a personal tour of the Disciple platform, our community specialists are here to help! Book your free demo here and we’ll show you what’s possible for your community:

Conclusion

Now that you’ve reached the end of this article you should have the knowledge you need to select the best community platform to help you grow, engage and monetize your community. Having taken a good look at the best alternatives to Circle.so, we believe Disciple comes out on top for value, flexibility and functionality. 

Whatever decision you reach for your own, unique community, we hope that this guide has been helpful and wish you the best of luck with this exciting next step. The right platform will take your community to the next level and there’s nothing we love seeing more than thriving online communities!

Josh in
12 min read
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