Are you looking to build an online community that thrives with engagement?

It’s easier said than done, but we’ve got you covered.

Creating a community is easy, but sustaining it tough.

Why?

You need to provide ongoing value to members, foster a sense of connectedness among the community members, and be that invisible string that holds the beads together.

This may not be possible unless you’re using a robust community platform that provides you the right tools to make it enjoyable.

That’s why we’ve comprehensively used, tested and reviewed top community platforms for you.

Let’s dive in.

Here are the top 5 picks:

ProductTypeStarting price
Circle.so – Editor’s best pickPremium$49/mo
Skool – Backed by big gunsPremium$99/mo
Kajabi community – Best for Course CreatorsPremium$149/mo
Mighty Networks – Powerful online community + coursesPremium$39/mo
Passion.io – Powerful community within the mobile appPremium$97/mo

Circle.so – Top community platform

circle so logo

Circle is an all-in-one community platform for course creators, content creators, founders, and solopreneurs.

It’s co-founder & CEO, Sid Yadav, has previously worked for Teachable (a leading course platform), which enabled him to fast-track Circle’s growth with his experience.

circle OG image

The best thing about Circle is that it constantly introduces the most important features to start, grow, and engage a community, bringing like-minded people together.

With their recent introduction of Courses and Community AI feature, it’s making it easy for its users to avoid juggling between multiple platforms to learn and engage.

Key features:

  • Chat space, DMs, group chat – Create public chat spaces and private conversations through DMs or group chats.
  • Courses – Circle’s new course feature allows the creation of immersive courses within the community, eliminating the need for separate LMS subscriptions.
  • Events and live streaming – With Circle’s own live streaming service, host meetings, events, and webinars without external integrations. Encourage engagement during live streams through direct messages and group chats.
  • Community AI – Available for Business Plan customers, Community AI enhances content creation, facilitates better connections among members, offers automated video transcriptions, and includes a Circle Bot to quickly find community resources.
  • Workflows – Automate repetitive tasks for community managers with Circle’s workflows, functioning similar to Zapier for community engagement.
  • Design and customization – Enjoy superior community design and customization options with Circle, including the addition of custom code snippets for tracking.
  • Detailed analytics – Analyze community performance with metrics like average daily active members, monthly active members, top members, active topics, active spaces, and popular days/times.

Pricing

circle pricing

When it comes to pricing, Circles’ basic plan, even at $49 per month, only supports up to 100 members. This information is not easily discoverable in their pricing plan. As a result, most people end up choosing the Professional plan to remove this limit and to unlock the course feature.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Circle offers in-community course creation with structured scheduling.
  • It includes live streaming and recording functionalities.
  • It has a paywall feature to restrict access to specific spaces.
  • Circle offers iOS and Android apps, though the Android app may lack some features.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • Circle lacks gamification features such as badges and rankings.

πŸ† Bottomline: Circle is one of the most feature-rich platform out there, founded by co-founders of Teachable and their speed of implementation of features is commendable. If you would like to explore more, please refer to my review on Circle.

Explore Circle

Skool – Backed by big guns

Skool logo

Skool is a platform founded by Sam Ovens after selling his consultancy. It was later backed by Alex Hormozi who is a go-to name when it comes to starting your own online business.

Skool homepage

Unlike other platforms, it has a significant mission of being a new school for the new world and aims to be a leading resource for online education in the future.

They’re working on implementing various concepts like the network effect and fly-wheel effect in their business model to ensure sustainable growth. It has grown even more rapidly than Circle in this regard.

However, the reason why I’ve included it as the second-best product is due to the lack of features at present. It allows you to set up communities and assign points to members based on their engagement. These points can be redeemed by unlocking different levels and courses. In this regard, I have observed that Skool communities have more engagement than those built in Circle.

While Circle may appear more professional, Skool has a more relaxed, funky vibe. They also have excellent mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Pricing

Skool pricing

When it comes to pricing, unlike other platforms, Skool comes with only one pricing at $99 per month. You get access to all the features.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Backed by really prominent figures in the industry, Sam Ovens and Alex Hormozi.
  • It comes with a discovery feature which is similar to Facebook’s group search engine to get to real good organic leads.
  • Skool comes with real good gamification features to enhance engagement from the members.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • Doesn’t come with self-hosting for videos; you still need to use Vimeo or Wistia.
  • It doesn’t come with the inbuilt live streaming features similar to Circle.
  • Doesn’t come with the quiz feature.

I believe strong marketing beats the quantity of features that a platform has any day.

If you are interested in learning more about my experience with Skool and also how it compares to Circle, make sure you refer the blog posts.

πŸ† Bottomline: I personally believe in the founders’ vision. In fact, I am using their platform for one of my online communities. Their implementation of features and the mental models they follow for growth, such as the flywheel effect and network effect, is impressive. Additionally, the way they have implemented gamification features to encourage people to develop and add value to the community is really good.

Explore Skool

Kajabi community β€” Best for Course Creators

Kajabilogo 28129

Kajabi is an all-in-one digital selling platform. Not only does it come with a feature-rich community platform, but it also provides the ability to sell courses, offer coaching, set up your own website, create funnels, and conduct email marketing.

KajabiLP

Kajabi recently acquired Vibely to enhance its community functionality.

Now they have reworked their community module to add various gamification features such as challenges, badges, and leaderboards.

Additionally, you now have the ability to create community meetups using Kajabi events and much more.

All these features make Kajabi stack up against specialist community tools very effectively.

Key features

  • Live video calls, chats, and feeds: These features enable real-time interaction and engagement within the community. It has in-built video streaming abilities
  • Progress tracking: This feature enables monitoring of member progress, helping to identify areas where members are struggling.
  • Gamification Features: Kajabi has introduced accountability mechanisms such as challenges, accomplishments, meetups, points, and badges.
  • Email templates: Kajabi provides customizable templates for sending notifications about admin posts, member comments, and community connect requests.
  • Mobile apps: Kajabi offers mobile apps (iOS and Android) with features like push notifications for community mentions, specific mentions, and product creator announcements.
  • Analytics: Kajabi displays a community dashboard with data on new posts and new members, and offers Google Analytics integration.

You can consider reading my dedicated blog post on Kajabi communities.

Pricing

Kajabi pricing

Kajabi’s (read full review) basic plan is $149/mo, and it restricts you to create up to 3 products and 3 funnels. That’s it. Even its highest plan at $399/mo allows you to create only 100 products and 100 funnels.

🚧 If you solely need a community platform, it won’t be worth the money.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • All-in-one platform
  • It comes with an automation engine to glue all its features together. For example, when people enroll in a course, you can automatically add them to a community.
  • Provides mobile apps for both iOS and Android with push notifications.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • Their Basic plan, even at $149/month, only supports the ability for them to sell 3 products and set up 3 funnels.

πŸ† Bottomline: Kajabi is an all-in-one digital selling platform that also comes with a feature-rich community feature. This integrates well with their course creation, coaching, email marketing, and webinar functionality. With recent updates, it’s even comparable to specialized community tools. You can refer to these blog posts where I have reviewed Kajabi individually and also Kajabi communities.

Explore Kajabi

Mighty Networks – Some unique features

mighty networks logo

Mighty Networks is an affordable online course creation & community platform. Similar to Circle, it also comes with the built-in course creation feature.

mightynetworks LP

It has some very unique features compared to other platforms like Circle.

For example, it has the ability to host group chats. interest matching, which can help people connect with each other based on their location. This makes it really good for offline meetups.

Additionally, it has an ambassador program where you can incentivize your members to invite new users, thus growing your community.

Key features

  • Community features: Offers member profiles, direct messaging, group chats, and member categories. Also it enables networking via a matchmaking feature.
  • Courses: Enables creation and sale of cohort-based or single courses. Has a built-in course creation feature.
  • Mobile apps: Provides white-labeled iOS and Android apps with customization options and in-app notifications.
  • Live streaming: Supports native live streaming and integration with Zoom. Unlimited hosts, moderators, and members supported.
  • Custom domains: Allows domain purchase directly from Mighty Networks.
  • Integrations & analytics: Offers native integrations with Google Analytics and Facebook Ads Pixel. Has its own Analytics tool called Mighty Insights.
  • Mighty Pro: Allows creation of custom-branded apps with full control over customization and app store listings.

Their basic plan, the community plan, costs $49 per month. However, it doesn’t come with the courses feature.

For that, you need to opt for their courses plan at $119 per month. Along with courses, it also comes with additional features like quizzes, assessments, and secure integration.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • It has a member matchmaking feature for networking.
  • It has a native course builder, so you don’t have to purchase external courses/membership platforms.
  • It is possible to create your own custom-branded mobile apps.
  • It has one of the most feature-rich mobile apps out there.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • The UI and UX of Mighty is not so refined like that of other apps like say Circle
  • The basic plan of Mighty Networks lacks significant features like Online courses, Analytics, and integrations with Zapier and other apps, it is still efficient for engaging community members.
  • It lacks gamification features like points/badges/rankings for community engagement.

πŸ† Bottomline: Mighty Networks is one of the most established community platforms out there. However, their UI and UX need more refinement. You can read my entire review here.

Explore Mighty Networks

Passion.io β€” Mobile-app centric

passion io logo

Unlike other apps I have reviewed in this blog post, Passion is more focused on coaches. It’s primarily aimed at fitness, yoga, and other niches where transformations need to be tracked.

passionLP

Their features include:

Passion features

πŸ‘‰ Unlike other tools in this blog post, Passion.io lacks a few important community features like channels, spaces, direct messaging, or private group features. But, hey, you get a rock-solid mobile app platform

Key features

  • Course and Coaching: Supports an unlimited number of courses or coaching, which can be sold freely.
  • Sequences or Lessons: Assign multiple exercises to users daily for consistent learning, beneficial for niches like health, fitness, spirituality, art, etc.
  • Engagement features: Offers features like push notifications, exercises, group-based challenges to inspire and motivate community members.
  • Built-in live streaming: Eliminates the need for external services.
  • Goal-tracking: Unique feature enabling users to track their performance and identify areas for improvement.
  • Custom branded mobile apps: Offers completely white-labeled iOS and Android apps.

Watch the demo video here:

Pricing

Passion pricing

Their lowest pricing starts at $119/mo, and it is limited to 100 subscribers, 100 videos, and 1000 push notifications/mo.

It charges a 3.9% fee with PassionPayments. Its ultimate plan costs $297/mo, and it provides the best value.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Creating apps is fun. It is very easy to get started.
  • Provides pre-made templates for app creation. The templates include an audio app, fitness app, etc. Or you can build an app from scratch.
  • You can design the welcome screens and sales pages using its builder.
  • Excellent device compatibility. The apps are compatible and accessible on iOS, Android, laptop, TV, desktop, etc.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • There are no channels, spaces, direct messaging, or private group features on Passion.io.
  • You can create only one app even in its higher plan at $297/mo.
  • They charge a 3.9% fee with PassionPayments.
  • It lacks gamification features like badges, scores, and achievements.

πŸ† Bottomline: Passion (explore more in my review) is the best choice if you want to take the mobile-centric route and desire features such as exercises and sequences, school tracking, push notifications, and more accountability from your students.

Explore Passion.io

Thinkific – Affordable

thinkificlogo

Thinkific (review) is an LMS platform to create and sell courses, build and host communities, and monetize through memberships.

thinkificLP

Key features:

  • Branded communities: Create and customize with your brand; sell as subscriptions or individual products.
  • Community features: Offer live events, member tags, and notifications.
  • Integrations: Extensive product integrations including Zapier, Google Analytics, Zoom, MailChimp, etc.
  • White-label customization: Full whitelabeling for courses and communities.

Pricing

Thinkific pricing

Thinkific has three pricing plans – Basic ($49/mo), Start ( $99/mo) and Grow ($199/mo).

You can create unlimited courses and can invite unlimited students in all the three plans. You can create 1 community with 5 spaces in their Basic plan. If you want to host for more than 5 spaces for your community, go with Start plan.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Thinkific comes with really feature-rich course features, like the ability to drip content, advanced assessments, surveys, and also student-level course retention reports.
  • You can market your community as an independent product or as part of your courses on Thinkific.
  • With over 1000+ apps to integrate with on Thinkific, the absence of a few features, like conducting live events, can be easily overcome.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • If you’re looking to host only a community, this might not be the one for you as it has lack of features.
  • Even on their lowest premium plan, you can only create 5 spaces per community.
  • Lacks gamification features and other engagement tools.

πŸ† Bottomline: Thinkific can be a more affordable alternative to Teachable. It comes with a specialized course creation feature and a basic community feature. However, the major downside is the lack of feature-rich mobile apps.

Explore Thinkific

BuddyBoss – Best for WordPress

buddybosslogo

BuddyBoss is a premium WordPress plugin that helps you build highly engaging online communities. Moreover, it allows you to sell courses, memberships, and digital downloads, all from a single platform.

Buddyboss homepage

Key features:

  • User profiles: Create detailed user profiles with custom fields, profile photos, cover images, and more.
  • Social Groups: Enable users to create and manage their own social groups.
  • Memberships: Sell memberships and restrict content based on membership levels.
  • Forums: Built-in forum feature for user discussions.
  • Private Messaging: Allows users to send private messages directly from their profile.
  • WordPress Integration: Seamlessly integrates with WordPress, allowing you to manage everything from your WordPress dashboard.

Pricing:

Buddyboss pricing

BuddyBoss App pricing starts at $219/year for a single site license. This includes 24/7 tech support. They also provide done for you service and developer support.

BuddyBoss Web pricing starts at $299/year for a single site license. This includes 1 year of updates and support.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • BuddyBoss is a one-time purchase, unlike other platforms that require a monthly or yearly subscription.
  • It offers a lot of customization options, allowing you to create a unique online community.
  • It integrates seamlessly with WordPress, making it easy to manage your online community from your WordPress dashboard.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • BuddyBoss can be a bit complicated for beginners who are not familiar with WordPress.
  • The cost might be a bit high compared to other online community platforms, especially for those who are just starting out.

πŸ† Bottomline: If you’re already using WordPress and are familiar with how it works, BuddyBoss is a great option. It offers a lot of customization options and integrates seamlessly with WordPress, making it easy to manage your online community from your WordPress dashboard. However, it might be a bit complicated for beginners, and the cost can be a bit high compared to other online community platforms.

Explore Buddyboss

Hivebrite – Best for Enterprise Companies

Hivebrite logo

Hivebrite is a comprehensive, fully customizable community management and engagement platform. It’s particularly well-suited for large businesses, associations, non-profits, and other enterprise-level organizations.

HivebriteLP

Key Features

  • Community management: Hivebrite provides robust tools for managing your community, including member directories and segmented communication channels.
  • Customization: The platform allows for complete customization, letting you tailor your community space to align with your brand.
  • Engagement tools: Hivebrite offers a wide array of engagement tools such as events, forums, and job boards to keep your community active and engaged.
  • Analytics: Track and measure your community’s growth and engagement with Hivebrite’s powerful analytics tools.

Pricing

Hivebrite pricing

Hivebrite’s pricing starts at $799 per month, making it a pricier option but one that comes with a host of powerful features.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Hivebrite provides a highly customizable platform, allowing you to create a unique community space.
  • It offers a range of engagement tools to keep your community active.
  • Hivebrite’s analytics capabilities are robust, providing valuable insights into your community’s growth and engagement.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • Given its extensive feature set and customization capabilities, Hivebrite may have a steeper learning curve compared to other platforms.
  • Its pricing is on the higher end, which may not be suitable for smaller organizations or those with tighter budgets.

πŸ† Bottomline: If you’re an enterprise-level organization looking for a robust, customizable community management platform, Hivebrite is worth considering. Its range of features and tools make it a powerful option for managing and engaging large communities.

Explore Hivebrite

Bettermode – Ideal for SaaS Companies

Bettermode Logo

Formerly known as Tribe.so, Bettermode is a powerful platform that’s perfect for SaaS companies looking to build a robust online community.

Bettermode homepage

This tool enables you to integrate the community into your product, enhancing user engagement and fostering a sense of belonging.

Key features:

  • Deep integration: Bettermode allows seamless integration with your product, creating a unified user experience.
  • Customization options: With this platform, you can fully customize your community to match your brand’s look and feel.
  • Discussion boards: Create engaging discussion boards to foster interaction among community members.
  • Analytics: Bettermode provides insightful analytics to help you understand your community better.

Pricing

Bettermode pricing

Bettermode offers a range of pricing options, starting from a lite plan to more advanced ones, catering to various business needs and budgets.

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Provides deep integration with your product for a better user experience.
  • Offers extensive customization options to match your brand.
  • Features discussion boards for enhanced interaction.

πŸ‘Ž Cons

  • It may be a bit complex for first-time users.

πŸ† Bottomline: If you’re a SaaS business looking to build a tightly-integrated online community, Bettermode is a fantastic choice. Its extensive features and customization options make it a standout platform.

Explore Bettermode

Discourse β€” Best for self-hosting

discourse logo

Discourse is an open-source platform that helps people to manage their communications. It can be used as a mailing list, discussion forum, chat room, and more.

discourse lp

Key features:

  • Community features – It has dynamic notifications, single sign-on, community moderation, one-click upgrades, etc.
  • Engagement –For engaging community members, it has badges, emojis, social logins, topic summarization (similar to a weekly digest in Circle.so), etc.
  • Security & Spam filters – You can enable two-factor authentication for your members and spam blocking (has Akismet spam protection).
  • Mobile apps – Discourse has iOS and Android apps to manage the discussions on the go.
  • Integrations – You can integrate Discourse with chat platforms like Slack, Telegram, and Rocket.chat to send notifications on the community activities to keep informed on what’s happening in the community.
  • Monetization – You can further monetize your community by advertising. You can integrate with ad platforms like Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliates, Google Ad Manager and earn a recurring side income.

Pricing

discourse pricing

Discourse has three premium plans, with the lowest costing $50/mo. It limits to

  • 50k monthly page views
  • 10GB storage
  • 50k monthly email

If you go with Discourse premium (pricing starts at $50/mo), you will get many integrations like chat integration, Github, subscriptions, canned replies, etc. You also get a mobile app with all premium plans.

πŸ† Bottomline: Although Discourse’s user interface is quite outdated and it lacks a channels or spaces feature, it has decent features like spam protection, community moderation, and other single sign-on features.

Explore Discourse

Slack – Best for Professionals

slacklogo

Slack is the most popular new-age platform for work-related communication among online professionals and startups. Its user experience and interface are so refined that even Microsoft copied their entire design model with Microsoft Teams.

You can create your own community on Slack and, with the help of their threads feature, it combines the best of both community and chat platforms. This enables you to not only organize your community content but also encourage proactive participation from members.

The greatest challenge for community managers is to help members break the ice when engaging in the community, which can be easily done with Slack as it’s quite familiar.

Explore Slack

Discord β€” Best for Techies and Individuals

discord logo

Discord is an online chat platform for gamers, techies, individuals, and teams to connect with their fellow members. Previously, it was a gaming platform. Later, it extended towards tech niches like Bitcoin, education, businesses, etc. Whatever your niche is, you can get started with Discord for building communities free of cost.

It has servers (similar to spaces) with channels to collaborate with other members. Using its voice, video, and text channels, you can connect and talk with other members sharing similar interests.

It also comes with direct message and group message features. Discord has its premium subscription server called Nitro. With this, you can customize your Discord tag, use custom emotes, upload large files, and get discounted Server Boosts.

Pricing:

The Discord Nitro Basic costs $2.99/mo, and it comes with features like profile badges, custom emojis, bigger uploads, and much more.

πŸ† Bottomline: If you want video and voice channels with community moderation features Discord is the best platform to get started for free. If you are in a gaming or tech niche, it suits you best. Nowadays, people prefer Discord communities to Facebook groups as it is distraction-free, and you can organize all the conversations on servers as separate channels.

Explore Discord

Telegram

telegramlogo

Telegram is one of the highly secured messaging apps that is making users switch to it from other messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

For communities, it has groups, channels, screen sharing, audio & video chats, group calling, secret chats, direct messaging, etc. The best part is you can add up to 200,000 members to its channels. You can make the groups/channels private/public. For community moderation, you can add multiple admins and restrict what access they have.

There are no spam filters in Telegram. Some keywords and external links can be blocked to prevent spam, but little can be done. So you need to put in more effort to monitor the community to avoid the spam content.

πŸ† Bottomline: Telegram is the ideal solution to manage your communities on the go. It has enough features to moderate your community. But it lacks spam filters. For engagement, it has a good number of features. Also, you can use Telegram Bots to automate tasks (like you can use Bots to export the data in Telegram to Google Sheets for easier analysis).

Facebook Groups

facebooklogo

Facebook Groups are one of the most widely used and easy-to-use community platforms. Nowadays, everyone has a Facebook account, so it is easier for people to find and join groups on Facebook.

Top brands like Kajabi and Thinkific have hosted their private communities on Facebook itself. The customers of these platforms will likely be interested in joining these communities, and they can ask their queries/problems and get solutions from company owners or other customers.

There are several disadvantages to using Facebook groups for building communities:

  • You have no control over the organization of posts and how your groups should appear.
  • Facebook wants its users to stay on its platform. Due to their algorithm, there will be more distractions with their ads, newsfeeds, and posts. As a result, users will lose focus, affecting community performance.
  • Suppose you’re using Kajabi to host your courses and memberships and Facebook groups for your community; users may find it hard to switch between platforms, adding friction.

πŸ† Bottomline: As Facebook has more distractions and very few community features, you can consider hosting your communities on other platforms. If you want a free solution, you can consider Discord or Telegram, as there will be fewer distractions. Use Facebook groups as a part of lead generation and later invite your users to your communities hosted on other platforms.

Conclusion: Which to choose? πŸ†

For most people, I would recommend Circle as it is a more comprehensive platform. It not only comes with community and courses features, but also includes an inbuilt live streaming feature and automation.

However, if you are a coach or course creator and want to start a course-centric platform, you may want to go with Skool. Skool was founded by Sam Ovens and backed by Alex Hormozo, both big players in the industry. Some features that I particularly like are their discovery feature and the intuitive UI and UX.

I’ve observed that Skool has really good engagement compared to other platforms out there.

However, go with Kajabi, if you’re a non-techie and want an all-in-one platform where you don’t need to worry about integrating multiple features together through Zapier, and you want all features like website building, funnels, courses, communities, and email marketing all in one tightly integrated platform.

Personally, I use Skool because I have strong conviction and I believe that since the founders are really good at marketing, good marketing beats features any day.