Are you deciding which community software will be the best fit for your brand?

It’s no secret that in today’s competitive market, loyalty isn’t a given. Consumers are spoiled for choice, and only the best will do. These days, people are checking out product reviews and seeking out recommendations before making a decision, which is why we want to be completely transparent with the options available to you.

It’s our goal to arm you with all of the information you need, so you feel absolutely confident that you’ve chosen the right community software for your community building efforts.

Building a successful community requires proper planning and specialised tools. The first part of that process is choosing the right community software. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, and here at Disciple, we’ve never claimed to be all things to all people either.

What is community software?

Community software allows you to build a community and create a sense of belonging with those who share common interests/and or passions. Consider your community as a meeting place that your brand can leverage to fully engage your customers, followers and employees.

Community software comes in lots of different forms. The simplest are online forums, which are usually powered by open-source software. Then, we have branded social networks and mobile apps, which tend to be white-label platforms tailored to the unique needs of individual brands. That’s what sets community software apart from social media. Instead of major advertising machines like Facebook or Instagram having control over your data and your community, you get to be the one in the driver’s seat.

Why you should invest in community software

Investing in online community software allows you to create a thriving and fully-branded digital space that you own, and one which your community can call home. A decent community software will provide you with the flexibility to create segmented groups, provide a variety of media sharing options such as photo, video and livestreaming as well as the incentive of direct messaging.

The best thing about investing in community software is that you own, manage and control all of its features and functionality. You never have to worry about your content not getting the reach it needs to drive engagement or your community being bombarded and spammed with irrelevant ads or cat memes – like they would on social media. You should also have the added bonus of monetising your community with online courses, memberships and subscriptions.

There’s no denying the number of benefits community software can provide you with. The biggest being that you’re able to drive your business forward in ways that social media restricts you from doing.

As mentioned earlier, we’re all about transparency, so in this post we’ll provide you with a run-down of the different online community software options that are available to help you build, grow, and support your people. 

#1. Disciple

Although we think we’re amazing, and our customers will agree with us, we’ve positioned ourselves at the top of the list purely for alphabetical reasons!  🎉

We developed Disciple because we’re passionate about freeing brands from the shackles of mainstream social media. We want to help people like you to regain control over your data and the ways you engage with your audiences with a fully customisable white-label community platform available on web, iOS, and Android. 

 Top features 

  • Customise with brand colours & logos
  • Segment audiences by interest, location & demographic with unlimited groups & content feeds
  • Promote physical and online events
  • Structure content with an easy-to-use content library 
  • Monetise with online courses, memberships and subscriptions 
  • Invite members to create their own profiles and find, friend and message each other

Who should use it?

Disciple is best for small businesses and solopreneurs looking to create a thriving, branded community. We work particularly well with niches like health and wellness, life and business coaches, hobby and publishing communities. Read some of our success stories here.

#2. Higher Logic

Higher Logic is online community management software. The web-based platform offers customer engagement, peer-to-peer support, and online events via forums.

 Top features 

  • Customisable online forum software
  • Peer-to-peer discussion 
  • Third-party integrations
  • Gamification

Who should use it?

Suited to mid-market and enterprise organisations, Higher Logic is for communities with over 1,000 members.

#3. Hivebrite

Hivebrite is a community management platform that blends the features and functions of social media with online forums. 

Top features 

  • Mobile apps for iOS and Android devices
  • Content management, analytics, and reporting
  • Integrated online payments
  • Event planning and management
  • CRM integration with included API

Who should use it?

 Hivebrite mainly works with professional and educational communities, like universities or corporate alumni.


#4. Influitive

Influitive is an online community software for customers and employees that focus on gamification, rewards and social media. They help brands deliver content across mobile and web.  

Top features

  • Gamification features, including badges and points
  • Targeting based on specific criteria
  • Integrated rewards and fulfilment
  • Pre-built campaign templates and tactics
  • Integration with Salesforce CRM

Who should use it?

Influitive’s focuses on community-based marketing, making it helpful for large teams who want to reach customers across the globe, it’s also good for avid Salesforce users.

#5. Loomio

Loomio is a  collaboration platform. It’s all about discussing ideas more efficiently, making remote work simpler and  waving goodbye to endless email chains and unnecessary  meetings. The software is open-source.

Top Features

  • Web-based discussion boards
  • Ideation and crowdsourcing capabilities
  • Group management and member directories
  • Access controls and integration with OneLogin.
  • Integration with Slack and Microsoft Teams

Who should use it?

Loomio is a bit different to the other platforms we’ve covered here. It focuses more on internal communications for non-profit organisations, B-corps, and co-operatives. It works for those wanting to drive better communication with colleagues and stakeholders.  

#6. Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce is best known for its customer relationship management (CRM) software, but it also offers the Community Cloud platform for creating online social spaces.

 Top features

  • Native integration with CRM platforms
  • Customisable prebuilt community templates 
  • Branded experiences and content management
  • Integrate customer data 
  • Content curation

Who should use it?

Salesforce Community Cloud works well for larger blue-chip organisations who want to build communities for their customers or partners. It’s a great choice for companies which are already up to speed with Salesforce. 

#7. Vanilla Forums

Vanilla Forums is a cloud-based customer community software for building loyalty. Ultimately It’s a discussion forum software with a twist.

 Top features

  • Prebuilt themes and layouts 
  • Gamification with custom badges and user privileges tied to reputation
  • Peer-to-peer moderation with upvoting and downvoting
  • Integration with Salesforce, Zendesk, WordPress, GitHub
  • Community analytics and visualised insights

Who should use it?

Vanilla Forums works mainly with technology, consumer products, financial services and gaming. If you’re looking for forum-based community software, this is one of the platforms in the space.
 
#8. vBulletin

 vBulletin is open-source forum software. It includes four main options: a discussion forum, group management, polling, and a blogging platform. 

 Top features

  • Familiar social media and forum functionality
  • Responsive themes for an optimised mobile experience
  • Customisable iOS and Android apps
  • Machine learning-powered user engagement and analytics
  • Possibility to install locally and run on an intranet

Who should use it?

 vBulletin powers community websites and brands looking for a versatile platform.

#9. Viber

 Viber is about conversations. It’s a messaging app with similar features and functionality to WhatsApp (which it’s often compared to). It goes beyond calling and instant messaging and offers a social experience with admin controls and a group chat platform. 

Top features 

  • HD-quality audio and video calls and recording
  • Chat extensions including stickers, videos, audio, and GIFs
  • Unlimited group chat and communities
  • Multi-platform support with Viber for Desktop
  • Enhanced security features including encryption and trusted contacts

Who should use it?

Viber offers limited opportunities for branding and customisation, but it’s an option if you’re looking for a community and messaging platform that isn’t WhatsApp.

Final words

We hope our guide to choosing an online community software provider will help you to make an informed decision. If you’re feeling confused, we’ve created a handy guide of things to consider before selecting a provider.

We realise selecting a provider isn’t always an easy choice, so we’re happy to hop on a call and help you to figure out what works best for your needs. Click here to schedule a call.