Making Money

Top 10 Community Platforms For Creators [2022 Comparison]

 | by 
Rajesh Gupta
Rajesh Gupta
·
min read

Choosing the right community building platform can be a make or break for your business as a creator in the long run. A comparison of the top 10 solutions in the market.

Top 10 Community Platforms For Creators [2022 Comparison]
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The internet is exploding with community platforms. Why suddenly? Multiple reasons:

1. Greater loyalty than social platforms
2. Loyalty is in community (not in an audience)

I love this particular analogy by David Spinks. An audience is all focused on one central person or brand. It lives and dies with that central focus. 

They’re all listening to you, but they don’t necessarily feel a common sense of belonging and shared identity with others who are also listening to you.

A community is focused on the group of members who are a part of it. Members of a community form a shared identity and a shared sense of belonging.

For creators here is what means to have a community over an audience:

  • The community supports the creator.
  • The audience demands more and more (and then lapses)

If you are an online creator (aka you teach something online, have a following, sell a membership) - chances are you have had first-hand experience of what I’m talking about. So, I'll dive straight into helping you pick a platform that serves you right.

I’ve been a creator for the last 4 years and have run small and large scale communities. I’ll use these learnings to compare some of the top options available out there.

I sampled a few reviews from G2, TrustRadius and Capterra for some platforms (won’t name which yet). I did this to show you how detrimental a wrong decision can be for your business. When it’s about your community in 2022, you want to leave no stone unturned.

Your community is your biggest business asset - you really don’t want to mess up.

We’re going to compare:

1. Scenes

2. Facebook Groups

3. Patreon

4. Circle

5. Discord

6. Discourse

7. Tribe

8. Buddyboss

9. Mighty Networks

10. Slack

- Criteria for evaluation:

6 key criteria for evaluation of a community platform for creators

1. Shop

The definition of  a creator implies that it’s a profession. It has to make money. Two very popular ways creators can become full-time creators:

1) Lease out some space on your newsletter, videos or posts to brands. Brands pay you to show up in front of your audience. This is also called being an affiliate for a brand.

2) Create your own info products (paid newsletter, courses, membership sites, etc) or branded merchandise (like your own sneaker collection, outfit brand, etc.).

In either scenario, you want to have a dedicated space to set up a store where people can browse, see, click and buy from.

2. Membership management

One of the lowest hassle (and most popular) ways of monetizing your audience via a community is to have a paid membership-based community. This is different from your free community. This is a place where very curated discussions happen, there is extra effort from your side to make sure people in this community are treated well and assisted in whatever way. This is like a premium club, where people pay to get in (they pay for the access). This is an insider circle.

How do you enable this? A way to segregate free members from others.

3. Live-Streaming

Live-stream and pre-recorded videos are poles apart. They seem similar, but are very different. Live Streams are engagement first, whereas pre-recorded videos are content first. Think of it this way, why do you go to a concert and pay up to 100x the price of listening to it on Spotify. It’s about the sense of real-time connection with the artist (and potential interaction). Who cares if the artist even lip syncs his entire performance!

Similarly, teaching is a very live-stream centric activity. You never went to lectures to just consume content, you went there to become inspired and made curious. Content could always be found in slide decks, books and videos.

The end effect of a live-stream is very different. Stats show that a live video would hook a viewer up to 15 times more than a pre-recorded one.

Another aspect where you’re probably already using live-stream - is for webinars to drive sales. A webinar lets your potential customers interact with you and ask queries regarding whatever you’re selling. Live-streams build unmatched trust, which is why I’m including them in the list of must-haves.

4. Notifications

What happens when someone browses your community for a few minutes and logs off? Are you going to rely on them to automatically come back to see what’s next? That almost never happens. You’ll have to do something to bring them back.

Take your favorite social apps for example. Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Quora, YouTube - they all pull you back in via notifications. You should do the same for your community - send notifications to your users about interesting updates. This is called re-engagement.

If you have an audience over the social platforms I mentioned above - the issue is that THEY decide what notifications to send & when (also, they can choose to de-prioritise your notifications - hence, no guarantee). You can’t trigger notifications at will, you’re at mercy of their algorithms. But if you’re building your community, you should aim for the ability to own the notification control for your members.

5. On boarding

You’re a creator. You likely have a top-of-the-funnel following on some social platform. How you play the game is by plugging your community every once in a while in your content (or you’ve put the link in your bio / description). What could go wrong? Friction. What happens when someone clicks the link? How friction-heavy is the process of getting onboarded inside your community? What is the click to join ratio?

In every online call to action (CTA) which is usually a prompt for the user to take a specific action, the equation that determines conversion is:

C= 4m+3v+2( i-f )-2a

m- User Motivation to join your community

v- Value Proposition presented for the users ( e.g. become a world class designer)

i-  Incentives for users and what benefits they will get

f-  Friction in joining (what factors are making users drop off before joining)

a- Anxiety/objections that are preventing him/her from joining

Your content and offering can solve for most of this, except friction. The most friction-less way to join a community that I’ve come across is how WhatsApp & Telegram do it (via magic link). We’ll aim to find something similar across the platforms we evaluate.

6. Guestview / Searchability

Quora and Reddit have hosted some of the most active community forums over the last decade. Chances are you searched for a query on Google, and found the result as a Quora or Reddit page. This is their most effective user acquisition strategy. New users discover quora & reddit this way and eventually become users.

It’s possible that your community platform should index public discussions on Google results too. How can you enable that? There’s a technology called server-side rendering that enables this. Once you do this, you’ve unlocked the holy grail of growth - you’ll get quality members in your community on autopilot (just the way it happens for reddit & quora).

#1 Scenes

Scenes is a mobile-first community building platform tailor made for creators, by creators.

More than 65% of people use the internet on mobile phones. Almost all the content created by today’s creators gets consumed on mobile. Hence, it makes logical sense for you to choose a mobile-first platform for their base. Unfortunately, there aren’t many I can think of - except one, Scenes.

Scenes was built mobile-first with creators as the core target persona. 

What else makes Scenes stand out from the crowd?

  • Audio/Video (voice rooms and live streaming) : host live-streams, webinars, and clubhouse-like discussions in audio rooms. Scenes has the most robust audio/video infrastructure across all platforms. The team has battle-tested it on events with extreme scale (‘All About Money 2021’ hosted 13,000+ members concurrently in the Audio/Video channel aka stage). 
  • Built-in Shop: sell courses, information products, digital goods, merchandise or even membership tiers. All of this, with the lowest transaction fee across the category.
  • New member application + on boarding: allow new members to join the community (or an event) with zero friction via one-link invites. Also, to preserve the quality of discussions - you can gate the community with an application form. You get to decide who gets in and who doesn’t.
  • Push notifications on mobile: Email notifications often get missed. However, push notifications are a tried-and-tested way for some of the biggest apps to re-engage users. Scenes enables this powerful feature for any creator using Scenes on mobile. This is a sure shot way to keep your community truly active and engaged. You can also schedule events and send push notifications as reminders.
  • Member interaction through group chat with intuitive UX: Conversation on forums is very formal. Your community deserves more than just that. They’re used to WhatsApp and Telegram groups. While Scenes too has forums, it also has chat groups for casual conversations. In fact, it sort of replicates the same intuitive UX of WhatsApp and Telegram. 
  • Ultra customizable & fully white-labeled (web & mobile) app: Plug your own domain, paint it in your colors, put your own branding and if you want, even copy/paste your exact UI (via custom CSS). Scenes can sometimes make your audience believe that you built the entire platform, by yourself - because it’s so ‘on brand’.

Scenes Evaluation

The verdict:

Scenes is the foremost choice for a community platform amongst creators because it checks all these boxes. As a creator, you and your community will feel right at home with Scenes. Each and every feature is so intuitive. It’s almost like your own Quora, Reddit, Clubhouse, Telegram, Zoom, Google Calendar - all in one place (without the evils of algorithms).

Book a demo now

#2 Facebook groups

We conducted a survey internally, and found out that more than 79% of the users who have a community on Facebook wanted to change bases.

Facebook is a common starting point for small business owners because it’s free, easy to set up, and requires the user experience is familiar to users.

What are the features of Facebook groups? 

New members can discover your community through Facebook’s built-in search features, and you’ll get helpful tools like live-streaming, content moderation, and polls.

Facebook Evaluation

The verdict:

Facebook Groups are not ideal for creators as:

  • It’s hard to monetize your community and create paid memberships
  • No custom domains or white labeling
  • Trolls and bullies can ruin your group
  • Your content will not be shown to all of your followers

However, they are free to set up and have a user experience that is familiar.

#3 Patreon

Patreon creates an income stream for creators as they can set up monthly membership plans for  loyal fans to support your work financially. As a reward for their backing, members get access to exclusive sneak-peeks and content of the creator.

What are the features of Patreon?

While Patreon wasn’t designed as a membership community forum per se, participants can have limited communication ability within the platform a.k.a comments.

Patreon Evaluation

The verdict:

Patreon is not an ideal platform for creators due to:

  • Lack of communication across community members and also limited communications with the creator( only post comments)  which can lead to drop-offs in the future
  • There are no free community plans
  • Transaction fee is hefty

However, you can choose Patreon as one of the income streams for yourself if you find nothing better but beware that the community aspect is missing which can hinder your long term goals as a creator.

#4 Circle

Circle is a community platform for creators who are looking for community features in the tool like live-streams, chats, events, discussion forums, etc. 

What are the features of Circle? 

Circle has features like different subscription tiers, build a member directory, private chats or group messaging rooms, and events.

Only the Professional plan members can run live video streams on Circle.

Circle Evaluation

The verdict:

Circle.so is not recommended for creators because of the following:

  • There are no built-in tools for selling creator products like courses, digital products, coaching etc. Shop feature is a priority while considering a platform
  • Transaction fees is hefty and non sustainable
  • There is also a limited storage facility. So while scaling it will be a problem

However, if all you are looking for is just community features like events, live streams etc then you can choose Circle. To maximize revenue opportunities, Circle is not recommended. 

#5 Discord

Discord was created so groups of friends could stream video games and chat simultaneously, but people started to use it to build their  online community.

What are the features of Discord? 

Discord allows you to make channels around different topics, converse with members, and run group audio and video calls. You can create private channels and even grant custom permissions for members.

Discord is good for gamers and member engagement, but it’s best for creators who don’t need event management systems, or paid community tiers or a CMS. 

Discord Evaluation

The verdict:

Discord is a decent platform as a community suite but not recommended for creators because:

  • As a long-term bet for you discord can limit your revenue-making ability as it doesn’t have inbuilt shop feature and it doesn’t have in-built suite for selling courses, digital products etc
  • Also, as your community grows Discord has scalability issues as you can only have up to 25 members in live streams
  • Plus, if you are looking for customisation, Discord is not the place for you. It’s user experience is also gaming first. 

#6 Discourse

Discourse is a simple community chat platform that focuses on conversations.

What are the features of Discourse? 

Discourse allows you to upload file attachments, create polls, and make invite-only communities and use their themes to customize your community.

Discourse Evaluation

The verdict:

Hosting a community on Discourse is a strict no-no for creators because of the following reasons:

  • No opportunity to monetise and in-built shop features are not available. You won’t be able to monetise your members by selling them courses, digital products etc. 
  • There is also a limitation in the kind of content you can host on the platform. With no live streams, the platform becomes unfavorable for creators.
  • Without smooth on-boarding of members it is very difficult for creators to scale communities on this platform.

#7 Tribe.so

Tribe is a customizable community platform used by businesses and brands alike.

What are the features of Tribe? 

Creators on Tribe can set up unlimited spaces, tag posts based on categories and interests, and build public or private communities. 

There are also community management and moderation tools available.

Tribe.so Evaluation

The verdict:

Tribe.so is not suited for creators as their positioning also says. It is only meant for businesses. We will tell you why: 

  • No built-in shop channels. If you are looking to make revenue using tribe you won’t be able to sell courses, digital products, etc natively.
  • There is no ability to live-stream which is a must needed feature for a creator to maintain connect with his/her members
  • Push notifications for mobile are also not prioritized on Tribe which makes retention very hard.
  • Overall as a creator, don’t set up base on Tribe because it won’t be a good long-term bet for you.

#8 BuddyBoss

BuddyBoss is a WordPress plugin that lets you build an online community on your own website.

What are the features of BuddyBoss?

With BuddyBoss, you can create an activity feed, build a member directory, and set up distinct groups and forums.

Creators can add blog functionality, charge for community access, and sell digital products through additional integrations. 

Buddyboss Evaluation

The verdict:

If you  have technical know-how of using WordPress and its plugins, then only BuddyBoss is recommended for you. Otherwise don’t setup base on BuddyBoss because:

  • WordPress plugins can break anytime which can cause disruption in your community and lead to frustrated members.
  • Too many plugins need maintenance and can be hard to track and manage
  • Notifications are also pretty bad on BuddyBoss. So member retention can become a serious problem in the future. 

However, if you are a creator who is also a WordPress expert or can hire one, then only set up Buddyboss. 

#9 Mighty Networks

On Mighty Networks, you can create free and paid communities with unlimited members.

What are the features of Mighty Networks? 

Mighty Networks allows you to host events and run real-time live streams but for a limited time-period based on  the plan.

Mighty Networks includes community sales pages, and you can sell courses on the Business plan and above.

Mighty Networks Evaluation

The verdict:

Mighty network is a good alternative for creators however it lacks in some areas and is not the best solution for creators. This is why:

  • If you are looking for a long term bet and revenue maximisation as creator, stay away from Mighty Networks as they both charge a flat fee and also 3%+ transaction fees which will curb your revenue
  • Also, Mighty Networks is not built mobile-first. More than 65% of users will use mobile in 2022. Its features are not built mobile-first like notification systems.
  • Mighty Networks also gives you limited access to its features. For example, you can only live stream for like 2 to 4 hours a month.

If you are fine with hefty transaction fees along with a monthly subscription, Mighty will work for you. Otherwise, it won’t be a good long-term bet.

#10 Slack

Slack was originally designed for remote teams in startups and large corporations. It however got repurposed  for online communities.

What are the features of Slack?

With Slack, you can create public and private channels for each topic. You can also send private messages and group chat is also there.

Slack Evaluation

The verdict:

Slack is a big no-no as a community platform for creators. This is why:

  • There is no way to monetise your community as slack lacks an in-built shop. You won’t be able to sell courses, memberships, access, etc. 
  • There are limited forms of interaction you can do on Slack. Live stream which is a must-have is not there on Slack.
  • Slack is also built web-first. Since your users are on mobile, its features are not optimized for mobile. The Notification system for mobile is bad.
  • Lastly, no customisation is possible which will hinder your branding aspirations as a creator in the long run.

- Platforms Comparison

Choosing the right community platform can be a make-or-break decision for you as a creator in the long run.

To stand out in 2022, you need to provide your members with a great experience. And you can do that through smooth onboarding, giving them the comfort of mobile and customising your community. All these are key features designed on Scenes.

As a creator, your long term-goals most definitely will include making money from the community. Make more money than you will from Scenes and use the shop to sell seamlessly.

If you need help with discussing your use case and creating a robust community, book a demo here, and let's talk

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