7 Best Online Community Platforms For Growing & Monetizing Audiences

7 Best Online Community Platforms For Growing & Monetizing Audiences

If you are looking to build an online community, then leveraging online community platforms is one of the best ways to create a space where your community can thrive.

Most online communities are born on social media.

There are now over 4.5 billion social media users globally, and this is set to grow to 6 billion users by 2027 - that's over 60% of the global population.

Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram make it seamless to start growing followers and pulling communities together - but growing, managing, and monetizing online communities requires an entirely different set of community-building features.

The best online community platforms like Mighty Networks and Thinkific help you create landing pages to convert community members, create spaces to host events, webinars, and live streams, and create environments for your community to network and connect.

Beyond this, you can start to further monetize your audiences on community platforms by selling digital products, and online courses. And, once a member signs up for your community, you don't need to compete with other social media profiles for their attention.

But where do you start?

Best Online Community Platforms

We've tested all of the best online community platforms so that you can make an informed decision on which online community platform is the best option for your venture.

Full disclosure: at Visualize Value, we use Might Networks to run our 20,000+ member community.

  1. Mighty Networks

  2. Thinkific

  3. Tribe

  4. Discourse

  5. Vanilla Forums

  6. Hivebright

  7. Facebook Groups

    Focused Look At The Best Online Community Platforms

    Mighty Networks

    Mighty Networks Online Community Platform

    Our top pick for the best online community platform is Mighty Networks.

    Mighty Networks supports over 1 million digital businesses, creators, and entrepreneurs, helping them to build communities online, and sell online courses to their members.

    We started using Mighty Networks back in 2020, and have been able to seamlessly grow our online community to over 20,000 members, selling over $2.5 million worth of online courses (including Build Once Sell Twice, How to Visualize Value, and Compound Content).

    If you are looking to sell online courses there is a Pro plan that can support you. But if you are just looking to grow your community, and sell community memberships, then the Mighty Networks Community Plan starts at just $33 per month.

    This gives you the ability to sell paid community memberships, launch personalized newsfeeds, host events, webinars, and live streaming chats, and provides your members with a place to network, comment, and direct message each other - all under one roof.

    Mighty Networks also have an iOS and Android app so your online community members can stay in touch on the go.

    If you want to see how Visualize Value utilizes Mighty Networks to succeed online, check out our Mighty Networks review.

    Features we like:

    • Landing page builder - we use Shopify to sell our online courses, but Mighty Networks offers an excellent landing page builder to market to your community and drive sign-ups. There is no coding experience required, everything is drag and drop ready

    • Community onboarding - Mighty Networks gives you the tools to set up welcome messages, introductions, and icebreaker questions. Start building relationships with your online community as soon as they sign up

    • Personalized newsfeeds - members see a reflection of their personalized activity on your community platforms. They can create their own profile, and network with other members via shared spaces, chats, and direct messages

    • iOS and Android apps - users can download native mobile apps to engage with the community on the go. And when you're ready, if you upgrade to Mighty Pro, you can launch your own branded mobile app

    • Live streaming & events - it's easy to set up live streaming events, host webinars, and launch masterclasses with Mighty Networks. During live sessions, you can also set up live chat so that your community can interact with you in real-time

    • Community insights - once you're up and running you can track membership activity over time. This includes insight on your total members, daily/weekly/monthly active member usage, and other stats like what content they're engaging with, where they're visiting from, and what devices they're using. This insight can help you improve your online community engagement over time

    • Sell online courses - another thing we love about Mighty Networks is the ability to build beautiful online courses. It's easy to set up mixed media lesson formats (video, text, audio) and you can set up your online courses to be sold with a one-time fee, or paid subscription. Mighty Networks also connects with Stripe's checkout for seamless payment

    • Integrations - there are 1000s of pre-built integrations available via Zapier into ecommerce platforms, email marketing services, and other important technologies. We sell our digital courses and online community memberships via Shopify and communicate with our audience using ConvertKit

      Mighty Networks pricing:

      Mighty Networks offers three different pricing tiers.

      For those looking for community features, the Community Plan is a great option and is priced affordably at just $33 per month.

      If you want to start launching online courses, or access Pro features it's easy and seamless to upgrade further down the line.

      We use the Business Plan here at Visualize Value, which offers an incredible return on investment every month.

      • Community Plan - $33 per month billed annually, or $39 billed monthly

      • Business Plan - $99 per month billed annually, or $119 billed monthly

      • Mighty Pro - bespoke, launch your own branded mobile app

        Thinkific

        Thinkific Online Community Platform

        Thinkific is another leading online community platform that offers a brilliant all-in-one solution.

        The Thinkific platform is used by over 50,000+ course creators and entrepreneurs and supports over 100 million courses that have already driven over $650 million.

        Their customers include Shopify, Hootsuite, and Later who use the platform to manage their communities and sell digital products and online courses.

        If you're looking for a place to manage communities, sell online courses, and market your business then Thinkific has you covered. Their website builder allows you to create multiple-page websites on your own custom domain. And you can choose between drag and drop page builders and customizing HTML/CSS with their advanced editor.

        Pricing starts at $74 for the Thinkific paid plan - you can create 1 community, and enroll 1,000 students. From there, the Grow and Expand plans give you the ability to scale up.

        Features we like:

        • Website builder - build out your entire website with landing pages, about pages, testimonials, and more. Access existing templates, as well as drag-and-drop features to get the look and feel you want. There is zero coding experience required and you can run your community site on your own custom domain

        • Community spaces - once you're set up you can create virtual spaces for hosting your community - these spaces are great for facilitating introductions, hosting discussions, and updating your community

        • Live events - the best online community platforms give you provide space for you to connect with your community. Thinkific allows you to host Q&As, live streams, workshops, office hours, and dedicated coaching sessions all under one roof

        • Profiles, comments, and reactions - each member gets their own dedicated member profile and has the ability to comment, direct message, and @ other members. If you are looking to facilitate discussion, then Thinkific provides you with all the tools you need

        • Sell online courses - once you're ready to take your community monetization strategy to the next level, Thinkific gives you the option to launch online courses. It's easy to create mixed media lesson plans with self-paced learning or scheduled lesson plans. Thinkific also gives you the ability to schedule live lessons, and offer completion certificates

        • Checkout flexibility - you can monetize your audience and online courses with one-time payments or subscription options. Thinkific also gives you the option to offer order bumps, coupons, and other tools to help drive conversions

        • Free plan - there is an option to create a free plan with 1 community, 1 online course, and up to 1,000 students - you won't be able to use a custom domain but this offers a great way to get started

          Thinkific pricing:

          Thinkific offer a range of pricing options to suit you as you start out, and as you scale.

          If you're just getting started, check out the Thinkific free plan to test the feature set and get your community set up.

          The Free Plan does not allow you to launch your community on your own custom domain, but once you're ready it's a seamless process to upgrade to the Start Plan which offers this functionality.

          For growing and established businesses, the Grow and Expand Plans give you the opportunity to scale.

          • Free - $0 per month, 1 community, 1 online course, up to 1,000 students

          • Start - $74 per month, 1 community, unlimited courses, unlimited students

          • Grow - $149 per month, 3 communities, unlimited courses, unlimited students

          • Expand - $374 per month, 10 communities, unlimited courses, unlimited students

            Tribe

            Tribe Online Community Platform

            Next on our list of the best online community platforms is Tribe.

            Tribe is used by big brands to run online communities, including IBM, ConvertKit, and ASUS. The community software offers a range of modules that give you complete control over how you grow your online community.

            This includes spaces for your community to engage and network, gamification features to provide members with badges and leaderboards, member analytics and moderation, as well as complete control over what members can access, and how they pay.

            Tribe's pricing starts at $59 per month, for 2,500 members. However, there is a huge ability to scale up to 100,000+ members with the Advanced and Enterprise plans.

            Tribe also offers a Free Plan to get you started, which is free for up to 100 members.

            Features we like:

            • Codeless customization - access pre-built themes to customize the look and feel of your community, and modify styling to match your brand. Tribe gives you control over how you structure your community layout, which is really helpful

            • Community spaces - we love this community feature as it allows you to use containers to structure your community platform as you see fit. It's also each to set member permissions to restrict access to certain spaces based on their subscription/payment plan

            • Explorations & discovery - Tribe offers excellent exploration and search functions to get members where they need to be faster. It's also possible to build exploration landing pages within your community spaces to guide members, facilitate discussions, and host Q&A sections

            • Personalized activity feeds - members get a contextually rich, personalized experience based on the spaces, and content that they interact with. Tribe will also notify members when there have been updates that are relevant to their usage

            • Analytics - Tribe provides you with a full suite of analytics to help you keep an eye on top-performing spaces, membership engagement, active members, and other key metrics. Like Mighty Networks and Thinkific, this ensures you have the tools to make the right optimizations to your community structure over time

            • Apps & integrations - there are pre-built integrations with 1000s of apps via Zapier. Tribe connects to your ecommerce stack, email marketing services, and analytics platforms seamlessly. It's also possible to set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console within the Tribe platform

              Tribe pricing:

              If you are just starting out, Tribe offers a free plan for your first 100 community members.

              After that, the Plus Plan is affordably priced at $59 per month, offering you the chance to build an online community of up to 2,500 members.

              Once your online community is thriving, Tribe's Premium and Advanced plans provide plenty of space to grow.

              • Plus - $59 per month, up to 2,500 community members, 3 staff seats

              • Premium - $299 per month, up to 25,000 community members, 5 staff seats

              • Advanced - $599 per month, up to 100,000 community members, 10 staff seats

              • Enterprise - custom pricing plans

                Discourse

                Discourse Online Community Platform

                If you are looking to launch a community forum, then Discourse offers an excellent solution.

                Discourse supports thousands of businesses, hosting over 3.5 million posts per month, and 500 million page views across thousands of community forums.

                Pricing starts at $100 per month, which allows you to support unlimited members and up to 100,000 monthly page views. If you are looking to grow beyond 100,000 monthly page views there are Business and Enterprise Plans available.

                Discourse also integrates with a wide range of tech applications like Slack, WordPress, Zendesk, and Google Analytics.

                Features we like:

                • Mobile-first design - community members can access Discourse forums on the go via their mobile browser or the Discourse mobile app. This means your community can find information and contribute from anywhere

                • Community moderation - you don't have to act as the only moderator within your Discourse community. Other members can suppress spammy content, and resolve disputes without your intervention

                • Dynamic notifications - members get emailed and notified when they have direct messages or have been @'d by other members. This pulls members back to your forum and increases discussion

                • Spam blocking - there is nothing worse than having your community spaces overrun with spam. Discourse offers Akismet spam protection to ensure that spam is contained, and can be flagged if ruining the experience for others

                • Pageless design - Discourse community forums offer just-in-time loading so that users can continue scrolling without having to deal with page breaks

                  Discourse pricing:

                  There are three pricing plans available, and each comes with a 14-day free trial.

                  If you are an enterprise looking for customized community forum software then contact the Discourse team to find out how they can support you with a customized plan.

                  • Standard - $100 per month, unlimited members, up to 100,000 page views per month

                  • Business - $300 per month, unlimited members, up to 500,000 page views per month

                  • Enterprise - custom

                    Vanilla Forums

                    Vanilla Forums Online Course Platform

                    Vanilla Forums is an online community platform that is built to deliver enhanced customer experience.

                    Trusted by big brands like EA, Qualtrics, and ACER, Vanilla Forums helps you build brand advocates, improve customer retention, and deliver excellent customer support.

                    Vanilla Forums offers a range of tools and community features for setting up knowledge bases and self-service Q&A environments. Their platform also allows you to gamify the experience for community members by setting up badges, and reputation scoring.

                    There are three pricing plans available, but Vanilla Forums do not promote their pricing via their website - you will need to speak with the Vanilla Forums sales team to get set up.

                    Features we like:

                    • Community forums - like Discourse, Vanilla Forums offers you the ability to launch community forums. Members can build profiles, launch avatars, and @ each other. There are also advanced features available that make it easy to create member groups, manage users, access user analytics, and manage settings/permissions

                    • Rich content editing - members can access the Vanilla Forums rich content editor to upload video, imagery, audio, text, HTML, and markdown. This gives you complete control over how you and your community interact and communicate

                    • Launch knowledge bases & Q&A sections - Vanilla Forums makes it easy to build beautiful knowledge bases to help answer customer and community questions. It's easy to track the impact of your knowledge base over time with analytics. And Vanilla Forums builds in advanced features that allow you to optimize SEO and launch federated search

                    • Gamification - Vanilla Forums have built a reputation engine, which helps to promote good member content, grant additional member privileges, and automate community moderation - spammy content can be downvoted and greyed out, while top members can earn badges, and grow their reputation with member scoring

                    • Integrations - there are tonnes of integrations available with a wide range of tech applications, including search connectors (Zendesk), CRM systems (Salesforce, Commsor), product management software (Jira, Github, Productboard), and communication platforms (Slack)

                      Vanilla Forums pricing:

                      There are three Vanilla Forums pricing plans available; Essential, Coporate, and Entrerpise.

                      There is no pricing on the Vanilla Forums website so you need to reach out to their sales team via the Vanilla Forums website to find out more information.

                      Hivebrite

                      Hivebrite Online Community Platform

                      Hivebrite is an all-in-one community management platform, used by some of the biggest brands around, including NYSE, P&G, and American Heart Foundation.

                      They offer complete customization around how you build your online community, including how users sign up to your community, build their profiles, access community features, and interact with your brand.

                      Hivebrite is particularly useful for non-profits, corporate networks, and teaching institutions who are looking to facilitate their online communities. And they offer accessibility for members across iOS and Android apps.

                      Like Vanilla Forums, pricing is only available via the Hivebright sales team.

                      Features we like:

                      • Community management - the great thing about this online community platform is that you can target messaging very accurately. That means you can build messaging for users based on specific location and user interest. This is really useful if you want to segment users by city or zip code

                      • Content management - Hivebright offers full you with full control over your online community content. It's possible to integrate RSS fees, isolate content for specific members, and to notify members when content that is relevant launches in the platform

                      • Event management - if you are looking to launch events, Hivebright makes it easy to sell tickets, receive online payments, and keep members up to date with integrated calendars. It's also easy to communicate with your anticipated audience by sending out notifications and reminder emails

                      • Integrated donations - for charities, it's easy to integrate the ability to accept donations into your community facing web assets. On top of this, you can build membership plans to collect regular donations from community members over time

                        Hivebrite pricing

                        Like Vanilla Forums, Hivebrite only offer pricing via their sales teams. With that said, Hivebrite is used by hundreds of small to large entities, so don't be put off from reaching out and setting up a demo.

                        Facebook Groups

                        It's worth mentioning Facebook Groups before we wrap up our review of the best online community platforms.

                        Facebook Groups are free to use and allow you to invite Facebook members to public or private groups where you can network, share content, and build online communities.

                        This is great for anyone looking to get set up quickly, with zero cost. Facebook also offers a huge pool of users to target and bring into your commiunity, where you can retarget them via their newsfeed and direct messaging.

                        We don't recommend setting up your online community on Facebook Groups if you plan to access some of the advanced community features we've run through - for example private spaces, events, online courses, or analytics.

                        Likewise, if you build an audience within a Facebook Group, you can't access user data to communicate with them off of the Facebook platform.

                        Why should you invest in a community management platform?

                        If you have built an online community using social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Telegram, the chances are you're sitting on a big opportunity to take your business to the next level.

                        While social media offers an incredible opportunity to connect with new, like-minded people, there are some huge pitfalls when it comes to growing, monetizing, and maximizing the potential of your online community.

                        Online community platforms ensure you own your community

                        Whenever you build a large social media following, your ability to interact with your audience is at the mercy of the social media platform you're using.

                        That means if your account is blocked, the platform stops getting used, or the algorithm changes (which happens a lot), your ability to interact with your audience can diminish quickly - meaning you constantly have to shift focus.

                        What's more, getting your content in front of people is a constant uphill battle. The second you stop posting or interacting, the algorithms start moving against you - and your competitors take over.

                        That's where online community platforms step in

                        Investing in online community software gives you a place to send your social media audience (or any audience for that matter) where you can connect with them directly.

                        And by leveraging community features, you can level up your communication strategy by offering live streams, webinars, private events, and more.

                        Here are some of the top reasons to invest in an online community platform for your business.

                        • Personalized activity feed - your members get personalized content based on what they care about. The best online community platforms make it easy to see members who live nearby, share interests, or care about the same things

                        • Private spaces - community software gives you a private place to talk to your community directly. Invite the members you want to communicate with, or host events, webinars, masterclasses, and live streams for your entire community

                        • Communicate directly - when someone signs up for your online community, they share their contact details. This means you can get in touch with them via email marketing any time that makes sense

                        • Custom domain - the best community software allows you to build and launch your online community under a custom domain. This helps you build a brand, and own a place on the internet that is yours

                        • White label app - advanced community platforms like Mighty Networks give you the ability to launch native iOS and Andriod white label apps. These native iOS apps and built, managed and maintained by the community software, so you don't need any technical knowledge to get set up

                        • Community moderation tools - once you start to build a community, it's important that you moderate it in a way that is right for your brand. Community software provides a management system with moderation tools so that you can set up member-level access as you see fit (and based on whether members are using free or paid plans)

                          We took the jump to start using our online community platform in 2020, and have since been able to sell over $2.5 million of online courses, growing an online community of over 20,000 members in the process - check out our story.

                          What are community platforms?

                          The best online community platforms provide you with a range of tools to build and maintain an online community.

                          Basic online community features include drag-and-drop landing page builders, spaces to communicate with your members, analytics to monitor usage, and the ability to charge community members one-time or paid subscription fees.

                          More advanced community software makes it easy to build and launch online courses, provide private spaces for your community to chat and network, as well as offering advanced features like white label mobile apps.

                          Online community platforms like Mighty Networks and Thinkific have been incredibly successful because they empower the creator economy.

                          Startups and businesses like Visualize Value have been able to migrate social media audiences onto online community platforms in order to build and own their audience, and communicate in more curated, powerful ways.

                          How to pick the best online community platform for your business

                          Before you invest in an online community platform for your business, check out these key community platform features to look out for.

                          • Digital products - the best online community platforms give you all of the tools and features you need to run a successful online community, without stunting your growth. If you plan to launch digital products and online courses in the future, pick a community platform that is built to scale with a suite designed to run and promote your online course

                          • Community features - make sure that all of the community platform features you need are accessible within the platform. Most community owners need to be able to host webinars, live streams, offer personalized newsfeeds, and facilitate private spaces where community members can chat and network. These should be table stakes for your online community

                          • Native events - the best online community platforms offer you the ability to run native events for your entire community, or selected members. Check that you have the flexibility you need to run online events in a way that makes sense for your business

                          • Native mobile apps - if you are looking to build a truly branded community, then pick a community software that gives you the ability to access pro features like branded mobile apps. Platforms like Mighty Networks can build and maintain fully branded community spaces and mobile apps to help create a seamless community experience

                          • Integrations - running an online business is hard enough - pick community platforms that connect to your existing tech stack, offering you flexibility. We use Shopify and ConvertKit alongside Mighty Networks, which are knitted together with pre-built integrations. Check that this will be the case for your business as you scale up

                          • Seamless payment options - if you plan to build landing pages using your online community platform then check that you can collect payments in a seamless, flexible way. That means that new members can check out using multiple payment methods and currencies and that you can charge using either one-time payments, subscription payments, or a mix of both

                            Sign up to an online community platform and start growing your audience today

                            It's time to start converting new community members.

                            Click through to each of the online community platforms we have recommended and check out their pricing plans and feature sets in more detail.

                            Once you have landed on the community platform you want to build on, sign up for a free trial or pick a paid plan to get started. Start with Mighty Networks, and Thinkific to get started (these are our top two picks).

                            And if you want to learn more about the tools and tactics we used to build an online community of over 20,000 members, check out our online courses to get started.

                            We show you how to productize yourself, build passive income streams, and develop content that makes you money while you sleep.

                            "Experience is the comb that nature gives us after we are bald." – Belgian Proverb

                            Over long periods of time, building and betting can both be positive-sum games.

                            We are present when we can experience reality without being consumed by what has already been or what might be.

                            Learning is like climbing an infinite ladder.

                            We're conditioned to think of a single percentage point as an almost non-consequential gain. In conventional wisdom investing, 1% would be laughed at.

                            How long it takes to learn something is a better proxy for how valuable something is than how long it takes to do something.

                            It's comforting to think that hitting a certain target or achieving a definable milestone will bring us lasting comfort.

                            If you make $10,000 or $1,000,000 and spend 100% of it, the outcome is the same.