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An online community is an excellent place for people to interact, collaborate, and share relevant ideas and other various benefits. Using community engagement software can help you build a space where your members can post content, share, and talk about relevant topics. The primary goal of any community engagement platform is to develop a sense of belonging amongst your members, bringing together people with the same interests or those who might be looking to achieve the same goal.

As a media creator, building a community can be an excellent way for you to reach a new audience. The best community software offers media creators more than just a space to have a discussion; many provide administration tools to help you manage members and define guidelines and rules to maintain a safe community and keep things running. However, various solutions are available, and it can be difficult to choose the right one. That’s why I have put together this list of community engagement software, some key features, and strengths.

Here’s the list of the best tools that I’ll cover in this article.

  1. Vanilla Forums 
  2. Hivebrite
  3. Mobilize
  4. Breezio
  5. Viafoura
  6. Amity Social
  7. Orbit
  8. Khoros
  9. The HiVE 
  10. CitizenLab

Comparison Criteria

What do I look for when I select the best community engagement platform? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria: 

  1. User Interface (UI): I look for an intuitive interface for community managers and their members. You should be able to find the tools you need quickly. It should also meet current accessibility standards and guidelines. There should also be a frequent update cycle that keeps up to date with feedback or the latest technology developments.
  2. Usability: I look for secure and easy-to-use software that your team can use and collaborate proactively. This includes access to training, helpful resources, and a vendor support system. A quick look at the interface can give you a good understanding of how usable the system will be for you.
  3. Integrations: I look for community engagement platforms that can easily integrate with other systems. The number of systems that media creators use grows year after year, and the community platform you use should be able to use those systems. Your platform should have real-time integrated reporting that allows you to collect all the activity in your community in one place so that you can increase productivity.
  4. Value for $: I look for a platform that genuinely provides value at a cost that’s suitable for your community. Depending on the usage and scope of the platform, the price tag can vary greatly. But, I found some options that can provide the best value for your budget.

Community Engagement Software Key Features

Choosing the right software isn’t an exact science. There are many options; some are more reliable, some are easier to use, and some are more rigorous than others. The following features are what the majority of community engagement software should have.

  1. Content and Communications: If you’re regularly speaking and giving relevant, informative information, the communication features of a platform can help your members feel as if they’re a significant part of the community. Consistent, relevant, and clear communication can lay the foundation of an engaging community.
  2. Events: A community platform should let its administration team publish events that the members can join. Holding regular events is an excellent way to develop a community, and a platform should allow you to manage them through the platform.
  3. Analytics: Without the right insights, there’s a significant amount of information about your community that you won’t understand. A community platform with an analytics dashboard can track and measure your community’s engagement levels, allowing you to make any necessary improvements to your engagement strategy.
  4. Content Types: A community engagement platform shouldn’t limit you when it comes to the various types of content you and your members can create.
  5. User Management: This feature is an essential function that the vendor offers to help you provide an excellent community experience to your members. Some things to consider are the member registration and authentication process, user permissions, and community moderation workflows.
  6. Engagement Tactics: To help you and your team create and maintain an exciting community, some vendors include methods to help incite member engagement. One way to do this is by gamification triggers which create engagement among members and keep them coming back for more.
  7. Promotions: To ensure you can grow your community easily, a community engagement platform should provide a way for you to carry out a promotion. One way to do this is by sharing your community on social media.
  8. Privacy and Security: It’s important to use plain language and make sure your members understand which information your community is collecting since privacy and security are significant concerns for most people engaging online. Using a community platform that aligns with your policy and helps you display these details to members is vital.
  9. Surveys and Polls: Ideally, a community platform will give you access to survey and poll templates to make it easier for you to get users to engage on a topic or give you feedback.
  10. Member Benefits: Connecting with other members and presenting their own special offers, events, or job opportunities is a significant feature to look for in a community platform. You can even allow users to connect through direct messaging.

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Overviews Of The 10 Best Community Engagement Software

Here’s a brief description of each community engagement system to showcase each tool’s best use case, some noteworthy features, and screenshots to give a snapshot of the user interface.

1. Vanilla Forums – Create customized forums for specific goals

vanilla forums community engagement software screenshot
Customize your forum theme with an easy point-and-click interface with the option to use your own code.

Vanilla Forums is a community-building platform that allows brands and media creators to collaborate with their members, boost engagement, and build loyalty. The platform provides a full suite of tools to help you create a form where members can share ideas, interact, ask questions, get answers, or just talk about various topics. You can also divide your forum into categories and subcategories around various relevant issues. Many community creators use Vanilla Forums as an add-on to an online course, to provide customer support, or as a method to build a following for their businesses.

When using Vanilla Forums, you can customize your community around a specific goal, such as a space for Q&A or a knowledge base. The software is customizable right out of the gate. Still, if you have a web developer on your team or you know HTML and CSS, you can customize your forum even further. The platform can scale for your use in each forum you create, from the smallest online community to a large deployment of language-specific spaces. It’s also fully compliant with regional privacy laws, such as GDPR.

Vanilla Forums connects to thousands of third-party apps that you might already be using, such as Slack, Mailchimp, Salesforce, WordPress, and Hootsuite.

Vanilla Forums offers customized pricing upon request.

2. Hivebrite – Built-in event management system for in-person events

hivebrite community engagement software screenshot
Hivebrite allows you to centralize communications with your community’s members.

Hivebrite is a popular option for professional associations, alumni groups, and nonprofits. The nonprofit features help users bring together members, donors, and volunteers to make engaging, fundraising, and turning constituents into advocates easy. If you’re running a professional network, you can use Hivebrite’s unique features, such as creating a job board where members can upload their resumes. You can also use the platform to create membership tiers, accept donations in your community, and charge subscription fees.

Hivebrite gives users the ability to organize events and advertise them on social media networks for more exposure; you can even sell event tickets at different prices. The built-in event management system also includes invitation e-mails and calendars to help ensure that everyone attending has the most up-to-date information. The content management system in Hivebrite allows users to create and share content that you and your team can moderate and approve or reject before other members can view it.

Hivebrite’s modern API allows you to integrate it with applications such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Zapier, Zendesk, Google Calendar, and Meta for Business.

Hivebrite offers customized pricing upon request.

3. Mobilize – Work with a strategic services team to develop an engagement strategy

mobilize community engagement software screenshot
Efficiently manage events and sync the details to members’ calendars.

Mobilize allows users to create a community to engage members and partners in a private space to build a professional network. Various professional networks, associations, membership-based organizations, and other communities of any size can use the platform to create an engaging community. You can create an external application form to publish online for potential members to complete. The data they enter is automatically passed to their membership profile.

Mobilize also has a Strategic Services team that helps community owners and managers generate engagement in their forum. They have experience helping develop some of the most thriving communities around the globe. If you want to fix a retention issue or resolve inquiries quicker, the Strategic Services team can help.

Mobilize integrates with Shopify, Salesforce, Zendesk, and WordPress. Their API can also help you integrate with your other systems that might not have a direct connection.

Mobilize offers customized pricing upon request.

4. Breezio – Build a collaborative community and support content contribution

breezio community engagement software screenshot
Breezio makes it easy for your members to engage with each other in your forum’s content actively.

Breezio is designed to help associations create a community by combining knowledge exchange, content management, and professional development features. The platform allows media creators to discover subject matter experts to ask questions, learn, and get feedback. Breezio also helps your members learn and share through peer-to-peer online learning to grow your community’s knowledge base.

Breezio allows members to actively engage with each other through video conferencing straight from the platform. Your members can use their social profiles to showcase their skills and multi-media content, such as articles, blogs, and videos. You can also create courses on the platform consisting of multi-media lessons and customize your course for each learner.

Breezio offers customized pricing upon request.

5. Viafoura – Moderate your community 24/7

viafoura community engagement software screenshot
Viafoura’s audience insights can help you identify your most popular discussion topics.

Viafoura helps media brands and publishers to build an engaged, thriving, and online civil community. The platform offers an end-to-end solution that encourages members to subscribe to your content. You can add social features like push notifications and a personalized news feed across your community’s site or mobile application. The identify management feature makes it easy for your users to create an account and follow authors, topics, and content categories.

The auto-moderation feature in the Viafoura platform helps you catch most spam and toxic user-generated comments before going live on your site. This feature also monitors those continuously violating your commenting terms and bans them from your community. This makes it easier to monitor your community site all day, every day.

Viafoura integrates with third-party applications, such as MPP BI, Outbrain, LoginRadius, and Zephyr Enterprise.

Viafoura offers customized pricing upon request.

6. Amity Social – Add social experiences to your platform

amity social community engagement software screenshot
Manage your social applications from your personal dashboard.

Amity Social helps communities in various industries, such as online media, hospitality, and live sports streaming, connect with members and increase loyalty, interest, and retention. You can give members the ability to create groups in your application to build a positive association and connect to your community’s focus. Using Amity Social to make an in-app social network helps you enable deeper interactions with your members by helping you understand their preferences and create an information feed that you can customize with content and promotions. Your members can scroll through your feed and interact with it through likes, comments, and reactions.

Amity Social allows you to integrate various social network functions into your platform or application. These features can help you grow your community, engagement, and even your revenue. The platform split the social functions into four products: chat, social, video, and bots. Using these functions can help you integrate modules that help members message each other, create profiles and content posts, enable video stories and live streaming, and allows you to build, launch, and manage custom chatbots.

Amity Social costs from $0.06/monthly active user. They also offer a 15-day free trial.

7. Orbit – Build a strong community with data insights

orbit community engagement software screenshot
Create thoughtful discussions between members with automatic organizing posts based on topics.

Orbit is a community engagement platform that helps media creators of all sizes monitor, measure, and understand their members. Your community members have complete control over their profiles and can decide whom they wish to connect with over private messaging. You can cultivate meaningful relationships with member profiles that display key interests and skills. You can use this information to create thoughtful conversations that are easy to search for.

The data insights Orbit provides can help you learn more about your community members. When creating an event on the platform, this data enables you to see how effectively the attendees connect with your community. Whether you’re a solo community organizer or a small team, you can use the tools within Orbit to manage it.

Orbit costs from $30/community/month when paying monthly or $24/community/month when paying annually. They also have a free option.

8. Khoros – Provide a space for members to connect with experts

khoros community engagement software screenshot
The Khoros reports and analytics dashboard helps evaluate performance and engagement.

Khoros allows organizations to host and manage a peer-to-peer community for members to develop expertise and share experiences. The platform enables you to engage and connect with your existing members and attract new ones to join. You can do this by using Khoros to integrate authentic, helpful content into your member’s journey in your community.

With Khoros, your members can share their knowledge, learn, and find the answers to their questions within the community. You can use forums, contests, blogs, and quizzes to host and manage conversations to encourage participation from your community’s members. Plus, your members can add comments, provide peer validation, and moderate these conversations.

Khoros integrates with Salesforce, SAP Customer Experience, RingCentral, and Localist.

Khoros offers customized pricing upon request.

9. The HiVE – Create a consistent feedback loop with your community members

the hive community engagement software screenshot
Collect location-based feedback from your members via an interactive map.

The HiVE provides you with dozens of features to help you set up, deliver, and manage your community’s participation process. The qualitative, quantitative, and spatial insights can better inform you to develop significant outcomes for your community. You can customize your community website to keep them informed or empower them to take part in the decision-making process that affects the site.

The HiVE’s relationship-building tools allow you to promote active, ongoing member participation. Your site’s members can subscribe for notifications in their areas of interest and follow content that can impact them. You can also create a simple registration process to gather meaningful community data and learn about your member’s needs. The platform can help you achieve greater representation in your community and develop long-term relationships with your members.

The HiVE offers customized pricing upon request.

10. CitizenLab – Manage engagement projects and make decision-making more inclusive

citizenlab community engagement software screenshot
Manage project ideas from your community dashboard.

CitizenLab is a community engagement software platform that focuses on local governments that are looking to encourage their constituents to participate in projects. The platform helps these governments increase engagement with their members, manage their input, and make decisions based on constituents’ feedback. The two-way transparency in the conversations within the community can lead to an increased participation rate and build more trust among members.

CitizenLab provides an engagement expert to help design impactful engagement projects. In the platform, you can intuitively set up projects quickly, either from scratch or using one of the available templates, with your expert’s support. You can easily filter your constituents’ ideas by topic, project, or status so you can manage them and give your feedback.

CitizenLab provides users with an API to help them integrate the platform into their current systems with the help of a developer.

CitizenLab offers customized pricing upon request.

Other Options

Here are a few more that didn’t make the top list.

  1. Bang the Table - Create a platform that helps schools, governments, and districts have a place for reporting, engagement, and analysis.
  2. Circle - Create, engage, manage, and monetize an online community through discussions, live streams, chats, memberships, and events.
  3. Higher Logic - Build a full-fledged online community for associations with e-mail marketing campaign features.
  4. Discourse - Open-source community creation platform that allows users to tweak the codebase to customize their forums.

Other Community & Event Software Reviews

Here are some other ideas for community-building software (for events, forums, and more).

What do you think about this list?

Thanks to technological advances, you no longer have to create a community in person. Community engagement software has come a long way, and each platform provides tools to help you create a safe space. The software I talked about in this list can help you grow a following, generate revenue, or create a company culture. So the purpose of your community will help you decide which one is the best fit.

A significant way to see which software is right for you is by testing the platform with a free trial. This way, you can test multiple platforms to see exactly what you’re getting. If one of the options on this list helped you create or enhance an online community, let me know in the comments.

If you’re looking for other tools to grow your platform, or you wish to learn from other media experts, you can subscribe to the Indie Media newsletter.

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Francois Marchand
By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is Indie Media Club's content strategist and editor. He is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, media producers, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in marketing, ecommerce, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.