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It’s no secret that as humans, we desire a sense of belonging. Even from a young age, we are encouraged to make friends, share, work collaboratively, take turns, and respect others.
And as we grow, we naturally gravitate towards people who have similar interests to us.
Whether we realize it or not, we create our own little community. This “community” serves as an environment where we can share our ideas, and opinions with like-minded people. It can offer us information and partnerships that we might otherwise have missed.
If you take a moment to think about it, you might notice that you are a member of a few communities already – perhaps a neighborhood committee, your child’s school committee, or an online community for holiday recommendations.
Duncan Elder defines an online community in his blog as “a group of people who interact online around a shared interest, challenge, or goal.”
But how can brands benefit from an online community? And why do brands need to focus their efforts in this way?
The answer is simple – because humans want to be around like-minded people. And if they interact with other advocates of your company, they will already have a lot in common. You’d be surprised how much they want to learn, teach, share, and experience on your community platform.
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 customers, prospects, and team members.
A branded community is described by Chloe West as “a place where people who have an emotional connection to your brand can connect with each other and with your brand.”
The best people to sell your brand are your happiest customers. And an online community is the best way to find these customers, meet them, guide them, and get to know them. And for them to get to know you too!
A brilliant way to truly humanize your brand and engage with customers is with video. Video can be used for conversations, ice breakers, informal greetings and welcomes, and also video testimonials.
Probably the worst-kept secret is that I’m quite obsessed with all things video.
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.
It's a known fact that including a video on your landing page can drive engagement and boost conversion rates by up to 80%. 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!
With video, there’s really no better way to humanize your brand. And companies should not be afraid of doing this, especially if their competitors aren’t using video themselves – what a great way to stand out!
At StoryPrompt we talk a lot about humanizing your brand. But what does this actually mean? It means showing behind-the-scenes, bringing a face to your company, allowing prospects to see happy customers recommending your brand and engaging with each other. And to sum it all up, it’s about building trust with your community.
Below I have reviewed the 5 best online community platforms. I have discussed the features, prices, and overall impression of the platform. And I’ve deeply analyzed their video functionality, if they have any at all. I have then commented on their video efforts so after reading about each platform, you can make the decision for yourself.
You might be thinking, why should I pay for a community platform if Facebook Groups are free? Aren’t they the same thing? The answer is a firm NO!
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 also won’t show up on Google searches. The obvious negative here is that not everyone who would benefit from your community is actually on Facebook.
You might find the novelty of a Facebook group has actually passed. People are tired of the endless notifications, and the lack of privacy of Facebook. There are also distractions from other pages and friends to factor in, and also a lack of awareness of where their content is actually going.
The real negative here from a community manager’s point of view is that you don’t own your audience, and it’s easy enough to have your own audience using a dedicated community platform.
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 with your own branding.
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.
All these can be added to your landing page:
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 unlimited members and hosts.
Mighty Networks offer a free 14 day trial.
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 😥
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!
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 option to add a cover image which I think is a great touch. There are options from Unsplash, or you can upload your own.
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.
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.
I think Circle is a great option. Like Mighty Networks it’s simple to use. 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.
First off, I love this name. It immediately captures that community feeling!
My first impressions of Tribe was that it was simple 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 Tribe, you have to create a “Space.” A space is a place where the discussion happens, similar to a Facebook group. After that you can create a post and invite members to join your space.
You are able to fully customize your landing page and decide how you want the engagement to work, for example by adding reactions. One thing I was a bit disappointed about was that you can only post to your community using text. You can add a link to YouTube, but that’s not really the same in my opinion.
Tribe offers a free 14 day trial.
With Tribe there’s no video at all :(
I’m a bit disappointed you cannot upload a video with Tribe. You can add a link to YouTube but that’s not really the same experience and definitely can’t be used for asynchronous communication.
I liked Tribe but I did feel like the lack of video was a huge negative for me. However, what it does do, it does well. Tribe is easy to use and would definitely help you start and leverage your community.
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.
When you set up your community, you can choose whether you’d like your members to pay to join. Disciple’s pricing structure is unique and you can create a plan that works for you specifically. To begin with you can select whether you want web or mobile. Afterwards you select your community size and any additional features.
For the sake of comparison, I have made a selection here:
Disciple offers a free 7 day trial - half the time of their competitors mentioned above.
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.
The pricing on Disciple is incredibly expensive. Considering I have only selected a web-based platform with 1000 members and it’s already coming in at $154 (see image above), whereas Circle would be $39, is a bit of a shock.
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 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.
There are no prices on the website, you will need to contact Insided for a quote. However, these are their plans:
When you set up your community, you can choose whether you’d like your members to pay to join.
As I was unable to sign up for a trial, I can’t comment on this truthfully. However I went to their knowledgebase 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!
I liked browsing Insided, but that’s the only verb I can use here. It feels very hush-hush. I had no access to a free trial or any pricings. 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 I think.
I had a hidden agenda when reviewing these tools. I was not only looking at their features, UX and prices, but I was also looking to see how they were using video functionality as a means of community engagement.
As a strong advocate of video, I think the best way to truly utilize video is spontaneously.
I think it’s ok to upload a previously recorded video, like Circle and Disciple do, but when using video as a communication tool, I think a response should be natural and “in the moment”. 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.
Perhaps the day will come when a community platform allows you to replace text with natural, unpolished video communication.
For now we can only hope!