Community

The 5 Best Online Community Platforms of 2024 [19 Reviewed]

With countless online community platforms available, we've put together the ultimate guide to help you shine in 2024. We have reviewed 19 platforms and curated the 5 best to help you grow, and engage, with your community.
Martine Hammar
May 23, 2024

Building a successful online community is more than just inviting members, posting updates, and hoping for engagement. It’s about maintaining an active presence, fostering meaningful interactions, and nurturing a strong, engaged community. Additionally, it requires vigilant monitoring of conversations to identify and mitigate risks to your community’s reputation.

That’s why a powerful online community platform is essential for managing these tasks efficiently. With the right tool, creating and sustaining a thriving online community becomes significantly easier.

This post rounds up the top online community platforms available to help you choose the best option for building and maintaining your community. Let’s dive in.

Table of contents

The 5 best online community platforms

The best of the rest

What are online community platforms?

An online community platform is a digital space where individuals with shared interests, goals, or identities gather to interact, share information, and collaborate virtually. These platforms serve as hubs for fostering connections, discussions, and the exchange of ideas among members.

An online community can provide discussion forums, chat rooms, messaging systems, and multimedia sharing capabilities to facilitate communication, engagement, and education.

I’m sure you’re thinking, can I create a community on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp? The answer is yes sure, but at what cost? You have to remember, if something is free, you’re paying for it somehow and it’s usually with your privacy. I don’t believe your community members will necessarily appreciate that. There’s also the influx of ads, noise, distractions and behavioral targeting that you have to consider. 

They play a crucial role in enabling people from diverse backgrounds and locations to come together, form meaningful relationships, and support each other in achieving common objectives.

Why are online communities important?

Online communities offer a sense of belonging, enabling individuals to find like-minded peers and seek support within understanding communities. They provide valuable networking opportunities, connecting individuals with potential mentors, collaborators, or job opportunities.

Branded online communities are a great way to humanize and strengthen your brand. They allow you to share targeted information and create deeper connections with your customers and prospects too. Typically a branded online community is connected to your website, and might include clients, customers, prospects, and team members.

How does video boost online community engagement?

Everyone knows that video is the future, or they should by now. If community platforms have any longevity and want to avoid the death in engagement that all community managers fear, they need to be adopting video.

88% of video marketers see video as an important part of their overall strategy. The same is true for video content that's posted to your community channels. Your members will be engaged for longer and more likely to take action as a result of seeing the video. And, as community managers, we all know that more engagement = a happier, healthier community!

Video adds another layer to the authenticity of your community. People respond to people. By utilizing video in your community you become more relatable and trustworthy and as a result your members will be more engaged.

How to choose the best online community platform for you

There are many community platforms on the market, and picking one can be an overwhelming experience. So use these tips to help you establish your priorities that will in turn, help you narrow down your options.

  1. Purpose and Focus: Determine whether the platform aligns with your interests, goals, or professional needs.
  2. User Interface and Experience: Evaluate the platform's ease of use, navigation, and overall user experience. A user-friendly interface can enhance engagement, make interactions more enjoyable and increase longevity.
  3. Community Engagement and Activity: Assess the level of engagement and activity within the community. Look for evidence of vibrant discussions, frequent updates, and active participation from members. A lively and engaged community indicates a healthy platform where you're more likely to find value and connection.
  4. Privacy and Security: Consider the platform's privacy policies, data protection measures, and moderation practices. Ensure that your personal information is safeguarded, and that the platform provides adequate tools for managing your privacy settings and controlling who can access your content.
  5. Scalability and Support: Examine the platform's scalability, especially if you anticipate growing your presence or community over time. Consider whether the platform offers sufficient support resources, such as help documentation and live chat, to assist you in case of issues or questions.
  6. Customization and Branding: Look for platforms that allow you to personalize your profile or community space to reflect your brand or individual identity. Evaluate whether the platform offers customization options such as white labelled links and custom themes or branding elements.
  7. Integration and Compatibility: Consider the platform's compatibility with other tools, software, or social media platforms you use. Look for integrations with popular apps like Zapier. Compatibility with existing tools can save time and improve efficiency.
  8. Pricing and Monetization: Cost definitely can't be disregarded, evaluate the platforms monthly or yearly costs and decide whether the costs are within budget and also justifiable. Also consider whether the platform allows you to monetize by charging membership to join your community. Integrations with Stripe or Paypal would allow you to generate revenue

What to look for in an online community platform

  1. Clear visual layouts so communication can be viewed and responded to easily.
  2. Mobile apps so you can engage on the go.
  3. White labelling options so you can brand and personalize your community.
  4. Live event and live recording.
  5. Ability to monetize by charging access to your community.
  6. Course creation and hosting.
  7. Ability to burn captions onto videos thereby making your community accessible to everyone.
  8. Creating polls and surveys to increase participation.
  9. A focus on video – if you want to create an authentic community where your members feel connected to each other, always look for communities that allow you to record and upload videos.
  10. AI integration – to enhance user experience and increase engagement.

The 5 Best Online Community Platforms

Now that you’ve decided that creating an online community is beneficial, where do you begin? I’ll give you a clue – not from scratch! Below are 5 of the best online community platforms that you can use to start creating your own community. 

  1. Swarm – Best for Coaches, Creators, & Solopreneurs
  2. Circle – Best for B2B Businesses & Entrepreneurs
  3. Disco – Best for AI-Based Social Learning
  4. Mighty Networks – Best for Course Creators
  5. Skool – Best for Gamification

1. Swarm

Best for Coaches, Creators, & Solopreneurs

Swarm describes itself as a "video-centric community platform", so I was very eager to see how it differed from the other community platforms.

If you're tired of the text-heavy platforms that typically lack engagement, then Swarm's face-to-face community platform might be for you. Swarm stands out from faceless platforms like Mighty Networks, Circle, Skool, and Discord by making it easy for members to exchange short videos with each other, creating a true in-person feel.

It's hard to describe in words just how connected communities on Swarm feel. You really need to experience it for yourself. In addition to native video, Swarm also supports text and audio, allowing for a truly interactive experience for members.

The screenshot below was captured directly from their user community, Thrive:

Swarm offers a highly engaging community experience using short-form video

Swarm allows you to create a "Space", basically your own community area. You can then add "Hubs" which are like different channels or discussion topics within your Space. In short, this means that I can create a community and then have a separate area for each topic e.g. Introduce yourself, Ask me Anything. These channels felt very organized and likely to be a good experience for my community members.

Swarm: The Video-Centric Community Platform

The best part of Swarm has to be the face-to-face asynchronous video features. It ensures that all communication is essentially human-to-human. It's like having a Zoom conversation with someone but in your own time, so there is no need for lengthy, scheduled meetings. This also means that you're making yourself available to any time-zone 24 hours a day.

Swarm also offers really clever AI integration, with summarized transcriptions, removal of filler words and response assistance. Content can be created using video, audio, text and screen share. Swarm also have Stripe integration so you can basically start collecting payments as soon as you are set up and ready to go.

Swarm offers threaded text discussions in addition to rich video functionality

Best Features

All these features enhance your community:

  • Spaces can be setup in order to engage with groups or as 1:1 environments.
  • Dashboards can be viewed as vertical thread (card layout) or feed layout.
  • Ability to add interactive buttons and text to your videos.
  • Ability to tag community members.
  • Captions added to your videos automatically.
  • Ability to add a poll to your video.
  • When a community member responds to your video, you receive an email and can respond directly from your email or phone.
  • DMs for messaging community members privately.
  • Posts and responses can be video, text or audio.
  • Add gifs to your text messages.
  • Very visual threads so you can easily reply to messages.
  • Recap feature allows you to quickly catch up on what you missed using a transcript of the videos.
  • Pin posts to ensure important posts are noticeable.
  • Set aside videos to respond to a convenient time.
  • Speed up videos and your preferences are saved.
  • Screen sharing capabilities.
  • Stripe integration.
  • Mobile app.
  • Search for keywords.
  • Live streaming.
  • Member directory allows like-minded users to connect.
  • AI features include ability to create scripts, video summaries, filler word removal.
  • Ability to fully white label your community and add your own domain, branding colors, and branded mobile app.

Plans and Pricing

Swarm has three plans currently available, all prices shown are based on a yearly payment and include free 14 day trial:

  • The Novice Plan – $39/mo, 1 Space, 25 members, unlimited messages, Stripe integration, transcriptions and AI, 2 minute video limit.
  • The Pro Plan – $79/mo, 5 Spaces, 50 members per Space, Live streams up to 45 minutes, Zapier integration and REST API.
  • The Expert Plan – $149/mo, unlimited Spaces, 150 members per Space, Live streams up to 1 hour, White Label and SSO and branded mobile app.
Get your own-branded white label app on Swarm's expert plan

Video Capabilities

Swarm's video integration is by far the best I've ever seen. The video features really allow you to get to know your community members and foster stronger human connections. While other community platforms might offer some form of video, Swarm puts video on the forefront of the platform as videos can be captured directly from the platform.

Swarm: Go live  within your community

Summary

I think Swarm really stand out from the crowd and are the only platform out there that allows anyone with skills to become a trustworthy expert and get paid for it. There's no excuse not to monetize if you have expertise and like interacting with people :)

Swarm is ahead-of-the-game and definitely challenging the status quo. It feels like the future of online community! If your community appreciates the personal, human element, then I highly recommend you start a free 14-day trial or book a live demo.

2. Circle

Best for B2B Businesses & Entrepreneurs

My first impression of Circle was that it felt a bit complicated. I was immediately hit with a lot of information and a video telling me to get started in 25 minutes – um, no thank you! I don’t wish to take 25 minutes to get started with anything.

However, after the initial impression, I began to really like Circle. I was easily able to create a post. They have added in the ability to add a cover image which I think is a great touch. There are options from Unsplash, or you can upload your own.

Best Features

  • Ability to go live on a livestream – only when upgraded to Professional.
  • Add your own branding – only when upgraded to Professional.
  • Create private and secret groups.
  • Use a custom domain.
  • Create and run courses.
  • Integrates with services like Mailchimp, Slack, and Wordpress.
  • iOS app.

Plans and Pricing

When you set up your community, you can choose whether you’d like your members to pay to join. Circle offers a free 14 day trial.

  1. The Basic Plan – $49/mo, 100 members, 1 admin, 1 moderator, 10 Spaces, 4% transaction fees, 10GB attachment storage.
  2. The Professional Plan – $99/mo, unlimited members, 3 admins, 10 moderators, 20 Spaces, 2% transaction fees, 100Gb attachment storage, searchable member directory, events, paid memberships, custom domains.
  3. The Business Plan – $219/mo, unlimited members, 5 admins, 15 moderators, 30 Spaces, 1% transcation fee, 250GB attachment storage, workflows, custom profile files, API access, email white-labeling, transcriptions.
  4. The Enterprise Plan – $399/mo, unlimited members, 10 admins, 100 moderators, 100 Spaces, 0.5% transcation fees, 1TB attachment storage, unlimited workflows, SSO, analytics, priority support.

Video Capabilities

With Circle you can upload a previously recorded video. I uploaded the same .MOV 100MB video and was significantly quicker than Mighty Networks and you can download it afterwards. You’re then able to respond to the video with text or a prerecorded video of your own. I think they missed a trick here as it would be amazing if you could respond without having to leave, record, and upload.

Summary

I think Circle is a great option. It’s simple to use, which I appreciated. I like the fact that with Circle you can respond to a video with a video. Unfortunately, they have to be uploaded and not recorded spontaneously but at least the option is there.

3. Disco

Best for AI-Based Social Learning

Disco is an AI-powered community platform highly regarded for its ability to integrate learning and community management seamlessly. They link up courses and community very well and incorporate tools and data in one place.

Disco AI works across the platform by offering suggestions for each activity or task you create. Aside from that, Disco AI has a chat feature where you can easily ask questions and start a conversation like how you interact with ChatGPT or a chatbot.

Best Features

  • iOS and Android apps.
  • Engagement analytics, leaderboards, discussion boards and social needs.
  • Customizable options.
  • Ability to host events.
  • Ability to engage through direct messages.
  • Create an online community and upload a self-paced course, cohort-based course, and event series.

Plans and Pricing

Disco offers two plans, all prices shown are based on a yearly payment and include free 14 day trial:

  1. The Organization Plan – $359/mo, 1 community, 100 learning products, 6 admins, 10,000 members, 100 automations, full custom branding, custom domain, AI co-pilot, HD streaming, advanced analytics and reporting.
  2. The Enterprise Plan – Get in touch for pricing, unlimited features, dedicated success lead, product roadmap sharing and API.

Video Capabilities

Disco allows you to upload videos into your community but these will need to be pre-recorded.

Summary

Overall, Disco is one of the social learning platforms I recommend especially for customer communities, virtual academies, and learning organizations who want to manage their learning programs seamlessly and migrate from one platform to another. Disco makes you own the platform while engaging members without too much effort from you. Their AI integration is pretty powerful and overall design is pretty simple to use.

4. Mighty Networks

Best for Course Creators

My first impression of Mighty Networks was a very simple platform to use. Immediately I was able to create some posts and invite people to join my fictitious community.

Mighty Networks is very visual, which for a busy community manager, I really appreciate. I often feel that too much effort is spent on fluffy, overcomplicated UX, so I really appreciated Mighty Networks’ effort to keep things simple, and easy-to-use.

Once you register, you will be able to create and customize your own landing page with your own domain. 

Best Features

All these can be added to your landing page:

  • An icebreaker question – members can answer when they join.
  • Ability to go live on a livestream.
  • Hosting events.
  • Create and run courses.
  • Run premium groups.
  • Premium analytics called Mighty Insights.
  • IOS and Android applications.
  • All plans provide unlimited members.

Plans and Pricing

When you set up your community, you can choose whether you’d like your members to pay to join, or access a course. There is a large range of different currencies, and all plans have a free 14 day trial.

  1. The Community Plan – $41/mo, activity feed and featured content, rich member profiles, native live streaming and video, chat and messaging, events and Zoom integration, limited AI features.
  2. The Courses Plan – $99/mo, courses and resource library, unlimited course videos, member tags and badges, Zapier API and workflows, premium analytics.
  3. The Business Plan – $179/mo, white labeled emails, SSO, 2TB storage, additional livestreaming, charge for featured event, automated questions and polls, additional analytics.
  4. Path-to-Pro – $360/mo, community strategy consults, design assistance, additional storage, member video upload, brand banners, Space hosts and moderators for livestream, lower transaction fees.

Mighty Networks offer an enterprise package called Mighty Pro. you will need to contact them for pricing.

Video Capabilities

With Mighty Networks you can upload a previously recorded video, but it takes about 4 minutes to upload a .MOV 100MB file, and you can’t download it afterwards. You can post a video for your community to see HOWEVER…they can only respond with a photo, file or text. 

That made me sad 😥

Summary

I think this is a great option for creating a community. It’s simple and intuitive. Mighty Networks have a real niche in supporting online courses – this is a great addition to a community platform. 

One slight negative I discovered was the sign in process, I have no doubt this will annoy community members too. After leaving the platform I tried to sign back in. I had to add my email address and then go to my email account to click on a link to sign back in. Felt a bit like I was being punished for leaving. My advice – just don’t leave!

5. Skool

Best for Gamification

My first impression of Skool was that I was instantly overwhelmed, it felt like a brightly-colored yellow pages. I was quite surprised by the fact that there is no marketing site, but then again I do commend their confidence in their platform that they do not need to bore you with marketing jargon. I wasn't able to setup a test community because I was instantly asked to add my credit card details, which I definitely didn't want to do. So I checked out their community instead.

Best Features

  • Great use of leaderboard.
  • Very engaging feed layout.
  • Standard pricing which makes budgeting uncomplicated.
  • Ability to add polls.
  • Create online courses, group funnels, and masterminds.
  • Easy to use.

Plans and Pricing

Skool offers one plan for $99/mo, this comes with a 14 day trial. This would give you 1 group, unlimited courses and members and 2.9% transaction fee.

Video Capabilities

Skool does not offer any video hosting at all, so you'll need to use Youtube, Vimeo etc. I think this is a massive downfall for the platform and in my opinion, confirms the "yellow-pages" experience I felt as a first impression.

Summary

I think Skool is uncomplicated in terms of its pricing, but also its functionality and scalability. It very easy to set up a community, engage with others, post and reply to content. It reminded me of a Facebook-type look – very easy to engage with a community but no memorable or ground-breaking features.

Jump back to the top 5 community tools ↑

The Best of the Rest

Bettermode

My first impression of Bettermode was that it was highly customizable and easy to follow. I was greeted by the CEO, Siavash Mahmoudian, and was shown a quick tour guide which was very helpful.

To get started with Bettermode, you have to select a “Space” template or create a Space from scratch. A space is a place designed for common use cases such as discussion forums, Q&A, events, knowledge base, ideation, roadmap communication, product updates, etc. After that, you can create different types of content and invite members to join your space.

You are also able to fully customize your landing page – from a full-width layout with content from different spaces to a 3-column layout with a content feed. Of course, you can decide how you want the engagement to work, for example by adding reactions or adding upvotes. You can also post updates using audio, video, text, and images. To use video, you can add a link or embed a link to your video. These links can include YouTube and Vimeo.

Best Features

  • Customization tools powered by Blocks.
  • Templates to help you get started.
  • App Store that allows community admins to add the functionality they need.
  • Good integrations with business tools such as Zapier, HubSpot, Zendesk, Salesforce, Jira, and Intercom.
  • Intuitive onboarding.
  • Ability to add reactions to posts.
  • Great customization features.
  • Moderation panel – great for keeping an eye on posts.
  • Adding tags to your posts.
  • Embed tools to integrate into websites and products (both no-code and SDK-based).
  • Developer Portal to create custom apps to add custom features.

Plans and Pricing

Bettermode offers four plans, all prices shown are based on a yearly payment and include free 14 day trial:

  1. The Free Plan – 10 members, 5 Spaces, Bettermode branding.
  2. The Lite Plan – $19/mo, unlimited members, custom domain, 10 Spaces, 3 collaborators, 5GB storage.
  3. The Pro Plan – $49/mo, 20 Spaces, 5 collaborators, 25GB storage, 2 additional languages.
  4. The Business Plan – $99/mo, 30 Spaces, 10 collaborators, 100GB storage, 3 additional languages, priority support.

Video Capabilities

With Bettermode the only way to have video is to upload or embed a video and there are quite tight limits, even on the top plan. It’s not really the same experience as recording a video on the platform itself and encouraging an easy two-way video conversation in my opinion. 

Summary

I liked Bettermode, I felt that what it does, it does well. Bettermode is highly customizable and would definitely help you launch a unique community.

Facebook Groups

Facebook might seem like the natural place to launch your community right? After all, almost everyone you know is probably on Facebook already. 

But as beneficial as that sounds, it’s also the main problem with Facebook groups. Facebook Groups are amazing for small communities who want regular updates and a platform to ask questions and receive feedback. But for larger communities, I’d urge you to consider following flaws:

  • Facebook Groups give you absolutely no control over your data. The algorithm decides who sees your posts, thereby determining their reach, not you.
  • Your group won’t show up on Google searches.
  • Not everyone who would benefit from your community is actually on Facebook, despite what you think.
  • You might find the novelty of a Facebook group has actually passed.
  • People are tired of the endless notifications.
  • There’s a lack of privacy – you have no control over the content shared on your group.
  • Distractions from other pages and friends.
  • The real negative here from a community manager’s point of view is that you don’t own your audience – easy problem to solve using a dedicated community platform like Swarm.

Best Features

  • Ability to make groups private or public.
  • Easily see community members and network with them.
  • View community members Facebook profiles directly.
  • Completely free so a great way to start.
  • Link to related events from the Facebook group.

Plans and Pricing

Facebook is free to use but remember that means you’re going to be shown lots of ads. In my opinion, ads = noise, and don’t we all have enough of that?

Video Capabilities

Facebook allows you to upload videos onto your group, users can then comment directly on the video. All conversations will be typed in the comments though which means there is no two-way communication via video at all.

Summary

Facebook seems like the obvious place to launch your community, it’s frictionless and already a place your community members are likely to be. Unlike a new platform for them to navigate. I think Facebook is a great place for your community to start, but not necessarily scale.

Slack

You might think of Slack as a text-based communication tool, you probably use for employee engagement. But with Slack, you can easily create a community space with your existing Slack account. Similar to Facebook, it's likely your community members might already be using and comfortable with the platform, which means less friction.

When posting to your Slack community, you can upload files, record a video or audio clip. You can also add an emoji as a reaction to a post and tag other community members.

Best Features

  • Organized channels for different topics.
  • Slack Connect allows more collaboration.
  • Post using text, video, audio.
  • Ability to screen share from the platform.
  • Searchable transcripts.
  • Huddles for quick questions or brainstorming.

Plans and Pricing

All these plans include the pricing per active user, per month. It’s important to multiply this amount based on how many community members you have.

  1. Free Plan – posts removed after 90 days, includes 10 integrations (for example: Google Drive, Office), audio and video conversations with screen sharing.
  2. Pro Plan – $8.75/mo per active user, full post history, unlimited integrations, screen sharing up to 50 community members, the full message history, collaboration with outside organizations or guests.
  3. Business+ Plan – $15/mo per active user, advanced identity management through SAML-based SSO, 24/7 support.
  4. Enterprise Grid – Contact for pricing

Video Capabilities

Slack is probably one of the better video integration community platforms listed here. The reason is because they allow you to record directly from the platform instead of forcing you to record and then upload. This ensures that video communication feels natural and responsive.  

Summary

The one negative of Slack for a community platform is the pricing structure. At first it seems really cheap, and it would be if you had two community members. But imagine your community is growing, and every time it grows it costs you another $7.25 per member. Firstly, that can really add up and secondly, it seems like a bit of a headache. It also could add an element of friction. You might need to justify whether it’s worth adding a community member and if they will bring sufficient value to justify the cost. You could charge for the membership but this is still something to think about.

You have to consider that many of your members might have additional own Slack workspaces which screams out one word to me - distraction! Slack has been known to cause distraction from work because of the constant notifications and multiple Slack channels, so you have to ask yourself, how engaged will my community really be on this platform?

Thinkific

Thinkific prides itself on being a platform where you can leverage your online courses. I feel there is a brilliant link with a community platform. Online courses can be a lonely experience, so to combine it with an online community platform will definitely drive engagement, ongoing motivation, and further learning. 

After logging in, I was prompted to take a tour and was shown a video to help me get started. This felt quite personal, with video feedback from their users.

For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to focus on the community features but if you are looking to launch an online course, I would definitely check out these features.

When posting to my community I had the option of adding an image, video URL or file. Unfortunately I was unable to record a video directly on the platform.

Best Features

  • Great link with online courses and members can join a new course directly from the community platform.
  • Host live events.
  • Tag members.
  • Notifications so that updates aren’t missed.
  • Option to charge access to your community.

Plans and Pricing

Thinkific offers the following plans:

  1. Free Plan – This includes 1 course, 1 community, 1 administrator and unlimited students. 
  2. Basic Plan – $49/mo, this includes unlimited courses and 1 community.
  3. Start Plan – $99/mo, this includes unlimited courses, 1 community with 10 spaces and 1 administrator.
  4. Grow Plan – $199/mo, this includes unlimited courses, 3 communities with 20 spaces per community, 2 administrators, unlimited students.

Video Capabilities

Thinkific allows you to add video to your posts but like many of its competitors (with the exception of Swarm) this has to be recorded outside the platform and uploaded to your community. Once a video is uploaded, team members can like or comment on it.

Summary

I think Thinkific is a brilliant way to link your online courses and your community. Linking a course to your community is a great feature and could generate additional income for the course leader. The posting features might be limited but this is not such a deal-breaker for me. This is because as an add-on to your online course, your members are likely to receive a lot of value without the platform needing to be overly complicated.

Thinkific is a great platform as an add-on to your online course business but would be considered expensive when compared to other stand-alone tools in this list.

Zapnito

Zapnito is an enterprise-grade online community platform providing everything your business needs to design, engage, manage and grow your customer community.

Since 2013, Zapnito has helped global brands to take their community experience to the next level by replacing multiple legacy engagement tools with one fully customized Zapnito platform. Centralizing where customers learn, share and connect creates more impactful engagement, loyalty and advocacy.With open/private rooms, discussions, premium content publishing, content, events, courses, video panels, analytics, notifications and much more - you can build a one-of-a-kind customer community experience.

In addition to providing a leading online community platform, Zapnito also offers expert strategic support and the Zapnito Community brings together 500+ community leaders to learn, share and connect.

My first impression of Zapnito was that it's got a LOT of text-based content, it's pretty much filled to the brim. Zapnito is very different to the other platforms reviewed in this article because conversations happen in the comment section of the blogs.

Best features

  • Enterprise content management to engage audiences with high-quality, unique content.
  • Professional networking tools to foster meaningful connections between members and your brand.
  • Community analytics to understand members’ needs and behaviors.
  • Online event tools that can either be standalone for a virtual event or complement a hybrid/physical event.
  • Community monetization to diversify your revenue streams into advertising, sponsorship, premium content, and more.
  • Custom integrations to seamlessly work as part of a wider tech stack.

Plans and pricing

Zapnito do not offer a free trial and have 3 plans:

  1. Starter Plan – $1,600/mo, unlimited members, community analytics, Zapier integrations, custom branding.
  2. Scale Plan – Custom pricing, includes courses, SS0, dedicated customer success.
  3. Enterprise Plan – Custom pricing, includes multi-community structures, bespoke customization, custom integrations and migration support.

Video Capabilities

Zapnito allows you to upload a video and post it to your community. But like many of the platforms reviewed in this article, this is prerecorded and not recorded in the actual platform itself. This feature however is only included with specific privileges.

Summary

I liked Zapnito as a learning community. I did however feel that their engagement features let them down slightly and their pricing is extremely high. By only being able to comment or like a post, it does limit engagement in my opinion. To me it seems like a great place to host your content and invite members to read it. Whether that would give rise to an engaged community, I'm just not sure.

Reign Theme

Reign Theme is a WordPress theme that allows you to create a community website with various features, integrations and customizations. You can build a social network, an online course, an e-commerce store, a job portal or a directory or any other type of community website. It is compatible with many popular plugins such as BuddyPress, PeepSo, LearnDash, LifterLMS, Dokan, WC Vendors, WCFM Marketplace, GeoDirectory, JobMate and more. It also offers multiple header and footer layouts, color schemes, typography options, drag and drop page builder, and RTL support.

Best Features

  • Compatible with multiple plugins such as BuddyPress, PeepSo, LearnDash, LifterLMS, Dokan, WC Vendors, WCFM Marketplace, GeoDirectory and JobMate.
  • Multiple header and footer layouts to choose from.
  • Customizable color schemes and typography options.
  • Drag and drop page builder based on Elementor.
  • RTL support for right to left languages.
  • Dozens of live demos to kick start your business.

Plans and Pricing

Reign Theme has three pricing plans: 

  1. Single License – $69 for Single Site License
  2. 5 License – $129 for 5 Site License 
  3. 20 Sites License – $199 for 20 Site License

All plans include one year of updates and support, regular updates and one-click demo.

Video Capabilities

Reign theme supports video integration with various plugins such as BuddyPress Activity Plus, rtMedia for WordPress, BuddyPress and bbPress, PeepSo Videos etc. You can upload videos from your device or embed videos from YouTube, Vimeo and other sources. You can also create video galleries, albums and playlists for your community members. 

Conclusion

Reign theme is a versatile and powerful WordPress theme that lets you create your own community website with ease. It has many features and integrations that make it suitable for different niches and purposes. It also supports video integration with various plugins and sources but like most of the platforms listed in this articles, these videos cannot be recorded live and within the platform.

I think their flexible pricing plans and 30 day money-back guarantee are nice touches and definitely make you feel that your needs and requirements are being considered.

Disciple

Disciple is very clean and easy to navigate. I did however find it challenging to sign up for a free trial. The free trial is slightly hidden as they prefer you to book a demo, even before seeing the platform for yourself. I’m not really a fan of this because I don’t believe you should be taking up 30 minutes of my time if all I want to do is see the interface.

After putting my detective hat on, I was able to find the sign up button and was pleasantly surprised. It’s simple to create and post. I liked the fact that they send you notifications and that the buttons on the toolbar are vast, including adding GIFs. I was able to set up a poll and attach a video onto my post easily and quickly.

Best Features

  • Live streams.
  • Private folders.
  • Private messaging.
  • Scheduled content.
  • IOS and Android app.
  • Integrations with services like Slack, Mailchimp and Salesforce.

Plans and Pricing

Disciple offer three plans and allows you to pay yearly or 6 monthly:

  1. Grow Plan – $633/mo, 500 members, 2 seats, 500GB storage, unlimited live streaming.
  2. Pro Plan – $999/mo, 5,000 members, white label mobile app, 5 seats, unlimited content, courses.
  3. Enterprise Plan – Custom pricing, unlimited seats, advanced analytics, SSO and API.

Video Capabilities

I was able to add a video into a post, it was relatively quick to upload too. Users can then view, comment and share the video. They are then able to respond to the video with text or a previously recorded video of their own.

Like Circle, Disciple gives you the opportunity to communicate using video, but because you’re only able to upload a prerecorded video, the spontaneous video-based communication is lacking.

Summary

The pricing on Disciple is quite expensive. I have to wonder what it is that truly makes it worthy of that golden price tag. However I can see why it’s popular. It has no fluff and no overcomplicated, unnecessary UX. It’s really simple to follow and post to your community.

Insided

Insided has a real community feel. They integrate customer community content with a knowledge base. This means that users can contribute, help others and give feedback within the knowledgebase. They can also react to posts and earn badges. 

Unfortunately I was unable to sign up for a trial without booking a demo. I watched a video which was entitled “a brief look at our platform.” It was overly polished and salesy, and didn’t really give me any idea of what the platform looks like. 

Insided has integrations with tools such as Google Analytics, Zapier, API, Zendesk, Salesforce available with every plan. Integrations increase when plans are upgraded. 

Best Features

  • Great integrations.
  • Ability to highlight and prioritize the best content.
  • Earning badges.
  • User and product insights.
  • In-app embeddables – so you don’t need to be disturbed and can respond asynchronously.

Plans and Pricing

There are no prices on the website, you will need to contact Insided for a quote. However, these are their plans:

  1. Professional Plan – 3 admins, custom domain, customizable homepage, HTML widgets and custom CSS
  2. Business Plan – 5 admins, user groups, customer success manager, and access to private events
  3. Enterprise Plan – 10 admins, enterprise customer success manager, and advanced CS integration

When you set up your community, you can choose whether you’d like your members to pay to join.

Video Capabilities

As I was unable to sign up for a trial, I can’t comment on this truthfully. However I went to their knowledge base and saw that someone had asked how to add a video to a post. The response was that you can embed videos from platforms like Figma and Canva. I have some issues with this: firstly, how obvious is this feature if a user had to ask the question? And secondly, it appears that video is an afterthought, and definitely not a focus of their platform.

This question was asked 2 years ago so maybe this has been updated, but as I was unable to see for myself, we will always have to wonder!

Summary

I liked browsing Insided, but “liked” is the only verb I can use here. It feels very hush-hush. I had no access to a free trial or any pricing. I’m not sure if this was to create mystery, or to appear super-premium, but either way it was not a great first impression.

Hivebrite

I can’t tell you my first impressions of Hivebrite because, like Insided, I was unable to log into it without booking a demo. I toyed with the idea of removing Hivebrite as one of my options in this article because quite frankly, this first impression of this platform really infuriated me. I understand that they want me to book a demo to see the value of the product, but I don’t feel I should have to give away my time just to see the interface, or the pricing. 

Incase you might have more tolerance than me, I have listed some of information I could find below. 

Hivebrite seems to have four specific community use-cases: 

  • Education – Connecting with your alumni
  • Professional Networks – described as “A LinkedIn on steroids” 🤣
  • Non-profits – Engage with donors, host events etc
  • Corporate Alumni – Connecting with former employees and new business leads

Best Features

  • Impressive data management.
  • Full control over moderation.
  • Integrated CMS.
  • Organize and manage events from platform.
  • Social network integration.
  • Membership plans.
  • Ability to receive charity donations.
  • Allows you to create a fully branded community.

Plans and Pricing

Hivebrite have three plans:

  1. Connect Plan – From $799/mo, custom landing pages, resource libraries, user directory and map, memberships, global admins.
  2. Scale Plan – Contact for pricing, customized permissions and user access, visibility restrictions, ticketed events, additional membership options.
  3. Enterprise Plan – Bespoke pricing, advanced onboarding, specialized support, advanced functionality for groups and sub-communities.

Video Capabilities

I have absolutely no idea how to comment here either. But all I can say is that if video was a massive aspect of their platform, I’d be able to make a comment here despite not seeing the interface first-hand.

Summary

I’m sure that Hivebrite is a great platform with fantastic features and networking opportunities but I have no way of confirming that. And to be honest, Hivebrite annoyed me with the cold, uninformative welcome from the very beginning. Personally I have an issue with hiding information and forcing me to give up my time by having to book a demo just to take a peek. For me a demo is useful for an upgrade, to brainstorm ideas, or to explain challenging features. NOT to see the interface. 

This one isn’t for me. If Hivebrite have in fact produced a truly wonderful dashboard, then we’ll never know that, will we? Bit of a shame :(

Discord

Discord is available in your browser or as a downloadable app. The homepage makes it look fun but in truth, not very B2B. Once I registered, I was asked to “Create a server” and also had the option to use a template. 

It was simple to post to my test community. I was able to post using text, add a file, gif, and react using an emoji. 

There seem to be two types of channels, text channels and video channels. Text channels seem similar to Slack and can be seen in this image below. Video channels integrate with a video platform similar to Zoom. This is useful for video conversations.

Best Features

  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Add gifs and emojis.
  • Channels can be made private.
  • Has text channels and video channels.
  • Can create threads.
  • Inbox ensures you never miss a notification.

Plans and Pricing

Discord is mostly free but the free plan is limited. You can upgrade by adding Nitro which is $9.99/mo. This means that you get better emojis, bigger uploads and HD video with screen share and live streaming.

Video Capabilities

Discord allows you to have synchronous video conversations and screen sharing conversations. Within the text channel, you can upload a video but this is restricted to 8MB per video, or 500MB after upgrading. That’s quite a difference!

Summary

While Discord looks fun, I question whether this is the correct platform for a business community. I imagine it’s more a platform for gamers to chat while they play together. This type of user would probably be happy to spend money on avatars and emojis. 

In my opinion it seems like you would choose between Discord and one of the social media platforms, all are easy-to-use and a great starting point, but seem more geared towards consumers than businesses.

Uscreen

Uscreen is primarily a platform for creators to sell, grow, and scale their business using video. By adding community features, Uscreen are taking engagement to the next level. This feels quite similar to Thinkific where the community can engage on a dedicated platform after receiving value from the online courses (Thinkific) or the video features (Uscreen). 

Just like Thinkific, I am only going to focus on the community features for the sake of a direct comparison with the other community platforms in this article. 

I have to note here that my first impression with Uscreen was that it was a tad pushy. They kept encouraging me to book a demo, over and over again. To watch a recorded demo of the platform, I had to add in my contact details. Not sure I love that if I’m honest. In a world where competitors offer so much ungated content and make me feel respected and valued, I found this to be a bit of a sticky point.

Best Features

  • Fully customizable.
  • Built-in monetization and billing.
  • Community accessible on mobile devices.
  • Ability to schedule posts to your community.
  • Live streaming.

Plans and Pricing

Uscreen have 3 plans with a free 14 day trial.

  1. Growth Plan – $149/mo + $1.99 per subscriber per month, this includes 100 hours of video storage, live streaming up to 1 hour and 1 admin user.
  2. Pro Plan – $499/mo + $1.49 per subscriber per month, this includes 150 hours of video storage, 3 admin users, live streaming up to 10 hours, mobile app, integrations via Zapier and affiliate integrations.
  3. Plus Plan – Contact them for details, this includes custom branding, custom live stream packages, API access and dedicated support.

Video Capabilities

As I mentioned above, I had such high expectations for the video integration on Uscreen and now I feel a bit foolish. To only be able to post a photo or a file to your community means that Uscreen, a platform of massive video users, have missed the mark completely for me.

Summary

I understand what Uscreen are trying to create with their community features. They want it to be a place where members can engage, network and continue learning. I get that. But what I don’t get is why such huge video advocates would eliminate video from the community altogether?

Like Thinkific, the community features are an add-on to the primary video related features Uscreen offer. If you’re considering Uscreen as a standalone community tool, you need to see if you can justify the higher price tag over one of the other dedicated community applications like Swarm.

Guild

On Guild’s About page they specify, “Not owned by Facebook, Google, Amazon or Microsoft” I totally love this and support this 100%.

Creating a community with Guild was very simple and quick. I liked that I had the choice whether I wanted my group to be discoverable or private.

Guild allows you to add a photo, video, file and Gif to your post. Unfortunately the video has to be created outside of Guild and uploaded into the community. This obviously prevents a natural-feeling video conversation from taking place.

Best Features

  • Great mobile app - for iPhone and Android.
  • Ability to send direct messages to members.
  • Poll feature for voting.
  • Discover groups that you might be interested in.

Plans and Pricing

  1. Basic Plan – Free, 1 group, 1 admin and 200 members.
  2. Pro Plan – $60/mo, 3 groups, 1 admin and 1000 members, 3 moderators, brand customization and and video rooms.
  3. Business Plan – $365/mo, 8 groups, 3 admins, unlimited members, customer success, integrations.
  4. Enterprise Plan – Custom pricing, unlimited number of members, groups and admins.

Video Capabilities

Guild supports video but it’s pretty limited. All videos must be created elsewhere and then uploaded to your post.  

Summary

Guild was a great community platform, it’s simple to use and delivers exactly what it promises. No bells or whistles but in the current climate of overly complicated community platforms, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

I do however think their dedicated phone apps set them apart and are very helpful for mobile community managers and members.

MeltingSpot

When I first setup my Spot, I must admit I was a bit confused. I do think MeltingSpot is a great place to host a live stream and engage with your community, but I found it very different, and significantly more confusing, than setting up a community in Swarm.

Best Features

  • Built-in studio to stream easily and quickly any type of lives (webinars, conferences, workshops, roundtables, physical events).
  • Multistream to Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, Telegram, Trovo and more.
  • Member connections and interactions with 1:1 or group discussions.
  • Fully customizable to your brand: logo, colours, name, resources: customise your spot to your image.
  • Analytics & dashboards to track all your members’ activity.
  • Audience management tool with smart groups and tags to share the right content with the right people.
  • Public and private collections.
  • Automations and integrations with more than 1,000 external apps.
  • The ability to build your community as you go activating or deactivating each and every menu of your Spot: Homepage, Lives, Discussions, Collections, Members.
  • Content marketplace (they call “Kiosk) with lives to broadcast, Experts, Speakers to organize events with, or articles and white papers to share.
  • The support they provide for free or with their studio to externalise growth, design, content production or event organization.

Plans & Pricing

MeltingSpot offer 2 different plans but you have to contact them for pricing. Plans include:

  1. Basic Plan – Lives and webinars, knowledge base, audience management.
  2. Boost Plan – Full customization, API and webhooks, advanced analytics, SSO.

Video Capabilities

With their built-in studio, you can go live directly on MeltingSpot, they also integrate with popular external solutions like YouTube, Twitch or LinkedIn, allowing you to stream using your preferred tools. Additionally, their platform automatically generates a replay of your live stream, within 1 minute of the live ending. And if you have pre-recorded videos on YouTube, you can easily upload them to the platform.

Summary

I think MeltingSpot is a good platform for hosting your live event, but I do think that this is their main focus. The lack of video integration as a form of community engagement is a bit of a disappointment for me. However, MeltingSpot is a great platform to fully customize your Spot, share content, and grow your community.

Podia

I must admit Podia was a very new platform to me so I was eager to check it out. They have 4 main categories: Start (website and email list), Build (downloads, coaching and community), Grow (courses and webinars), and Scale (affiliate and teams). I like the simplicity of this and it also seems that you will be able to use a number of Podia's features for free.

I easily set up a community to test the features. It was simple to setup but quite honestly a bit bland and uninspiring. Straight away I was alerted to those words that send shivers down my spine "Upgrade your plan to add videos to posts."

So that obviously forced me to go to their pricing page which honestly didn't make me feel any happier. The way their plans work is that on the Free plan, you pay 8% fees. This means that Stripe or Paypal (passing the blame) will charge you 2.9% + 0.30¢ per transaction.

Best Features

  • Easily create webinars, courses, and coaching sessions.
  • Create and launch your own website.
  • Built-in affiliate marketing system.
  • Numerous integrations including Drip, HotJar, Google Analytics, Sumo.

Plans and Pricing

  1. Free – 10% fees, full website (using Podia domain), full community, 1 download, 1 coaching product.
  2. Starter – $9/mom 8% fees, full website, full blog, draft courses, draft webinars, custom domain.
  3. Mover – $39/mo, 5% fees, full website, full blog, unlimited downloads, unlimited coaching products, unlimited courses, chat support, unlimited webinars.
  4. Shaker – $89/mo, no fees, unlimited webinars, affiliates, third party code, Zapier integration.

Video Capabilities

Podia only allows you to upload videos on one of their paid plans. This means that you cannot record any videos on the platform, only upload prerecorded ones.

Summary

I thought Podia was ok, I was a bit underwhelmed about using it as a community platform. I also don't really like the fee structure of the Free plan as I believe it's very difficult to budget that way. I do however love the "mover and shaker" terminology, really made me chuckle. I think it's a great platform if you are wanting to create many different aspects of your business, community being just one. However you can't really compare to one of the other platforms where community and video are the foundation of the business.

Conclusion

When I started to write this article, I had clear areas I wanted to focus on: features, UX, branding, and the prices of all these platforms. However my main focus was to analyze how they were using video as a means of community engagement. 

As a strong advocate of video, I think the best way to truly utilize video is spontaneously. I appreciate that most of the tools like Circle and Disciple, allow you to upload a previously recorded video. But in my opinion when using video as part of your community’s communication, a response should be natural and spontaneous. 

If the respondent has to go out of the platform to record a video and then upload it, it adds unnecessary friction, which is a real shame. If asynchronous video communication were to even take place after leaving the platform, it would feel unnatural, overly formal and not very community-spirited.

When reviewing 19 platforms, it’s very easy to see the outlier. Out of all these platforms, Swarm was the only one to embrace video and branding to the degree I was hoping for.

Swarm allows you to respond to a video, with - you guessed it…another video! Because Swarm is an asynchronous video-centric platform, you can watch and respond to a conversation at a time that suits YOU. Not your already jam-packed calendar! And you can do all this in your own branded white-label version of the platform.

In conclusion, I’d like to add that the time really has come for community members to get to know each other better. And to stop hiding behind text and overly polished unnatural videos.

I think our communities are ready for a change and it's refreshing to see a platform like Swarm finally encouraging it. Start truly engaging with your community and sign up to Swarm to experience what a face-to-face, video-centric community platform truly feels like.

Martine Hammar

Customer Success Manager at StoryPrompt

Don't miss out on the latest community engagement tips.
Thank you! Look out for new plays in your inbox!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related articles