According to a study by Vanilla Forums, 88% of branded communities say that online communities help improve customer experience. Happy customers tend to stick to a brand and generate more revenue. Improving customer experience can also prompt customers to recommend a brand to family and friends.
This article will explore the best community forum software in the market and what they can do to help you have a booming online community to support your brand.
Community Forum Software Shortlist
Here’s the list of the best tools that I’ll cover in this article.
What do I look for when I select the best community forum software? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria:
- User Interface (UI): Moderators handle many tasks, so I look for software with easy-to-find features to help them save time.
- Usability: Online community members come from different backgrounds, so I look for software anyone can easily use.
- Integrations: Other tools can improve online communities, so I look for software that works well with other apps and tools.
- Value for Pricing: Most online communities are free to use, so I look for software with excellent features but reasonable pricing.
Community Forum Platform Key Features
- Moderation Tools: These allow you to control the content published in your online community.
- User Profiles: This allows users to customize their profiles to promote individuality.
- Digests: Summaries of important community updates since a user last used an account.
- Private Messaging: This allows users to hold private conversations with other members.
- Gamification: This allows admins and moderators to reward productive online community members.
- Dashboard: This will enable admins to assess the performance of an online community.
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Overviews Of The 10 Best Community Forum Software Solutions
Here’s a brief description of each community forum system to showcase each tool’s best use case, some noteworthy features, and screenshots to give a snapshot of the user interface.
1. Discourse – Community forum software with badges feature.
Discourse is an open source online community software to help promote conversations among online forum members. This online community platform has dynamic notifications that alert members when someone quotes their post or mentions their name. It automatically expands cited links to provide more information and context to other members.
Discourse is the best community forum software with badge features to help reinforce positive behavior. You can award badges automatically through custom triggers or manually to reward productive members of your online community. Badges are also a gamification feature to promote healthy competition among the members of your discussion forum.
Discourse integrates with other user engagement tools like Telegram, Slack, and Google Analytics.
Discourse pricing starts at $100/month/up to admin accounts and offers a 14-day free trial.
2. Flarum – Community forum software with an informative admin dashboard.
Flarum is a simple online community software for creating and managing an online discussion forum. Community members can add tags to posts to classify posts and help them find previous posts quickly. This open source software has 38 translation packs to help you localize forums and engage customers in different countries.
Flarum is the best forum software with an informative admin dashboard to assess your online community. Flarum’s dashboard lets you see the number of users you have to monitor your community’s growth. You can also use the dashboard to see how many discussions and posts you have in a given timeframe to assess the level of user engagement.
Flarum is a free community forum software, but users can donate to reward the developers.
3. phpBB – Community forum software with a private messaging feature.
phpBB is open source software for managing online forums with key features like unread message tracking, user preferences, and forum moderation. It has a customizable registration process to limit registration attempts, specify username lengths, password complexity, and disallow duplicate emails. This forum solution allows the customization of user profiles with avatars, signatures, and preferences for a more personalized experience.
phpBB is the best free and open source forum software with a private messaging feature to communicate with other members. Members can send private messages to more than one user simultaneously to communicate with multiple users. A user can create custom PM folders and create filters and rules for automatically sorting private messages.
phpBB is a free open source forum software.
4. Codoforum – Community forum software with a daily and weekly digest feature.
Codoforum is an online community software that’s mobile-ready, so there’s no need for a mobile app to access the community forum. It lets users add images and rich content to make posts more interesting and interactive. Codoforum has a notifications feature that alerts users when their username is mentioned, or someone responds to their posts.
Codoforum is the best forum software with daily and weekly digests to help admins keep up with what they missed while not logged in. This feature also alerts admins to the number of new posts and topics on the community platform to spice things up if the number of new topics and forums drops. Forum admins can also send digests to users to help them keep track of their favorite topics.
Codoforum has a free version with limited features, while the one-time fee for paid plans starts at $49.
5. Khoros – Community forum software with a self-service knowledge hub.
Khoros is a forum solution for building digital spaces for community members to connect with peers and share ideas. It has moderation tools to help admins maintain the integrity of discussions. Khoros has real-time analytics to assess the community forum’s health and help admins reach their goals. It has a gamification feature to motivate participation and increase user engagement.
Khoros is the best community platform software with a self-service knowledge hub to help customers find solutions quickly. Khoros lets admins and users create and edit knowledge base articles to share their expertise with other members. Admins and users can also repurpose community content into knowledge base articles to save time while making the knowledge base hub more comprehensive.
Khoros integrates with online community and social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and WeChat.
Khoros provides pricing details and a demo upon request.
6. Vanilla Forums – Community forum software for creating small groups.
Vanilla Forums is a community platform for members to post topics, questions, and polls. It has an avatar feature so users without profile pictures can create avatars of themselves. Vanilla Forums has a real-time preview feature so members can see what their posts look like before making them public. It also has a private messaging feature for one-on-one discussions or private chats among several members.
Vanilla Forums is the best community forum software that allows members to create small groups and private discussions. Members with common interests can also use small groups to schedule events for group members to boost user engagement. Moderators and members can set groups as public to increase participation or private to limit participation to selected members.
Vanilla Forums integrates with other business tools like Zendesk, SkillJar, and Slack. You can connect Vanilla Forums to a paid Zapier account to access other premium apps.
Vanilla Forums provides pricing information and a demo upon request.
7. Hivebrite – Community forum software with an integrated content management system.
Hivebrite is a community forum software for engaging your members. It has a media center where members can access all the files and documents you shared. Hivebrite has an event management feature for organizing events, sending invitations, and taking online payments. This online forum software has a job board feature for members to share employment opportunities.
Hivebrite is the best community forum software with an integrated content management system for creating interesting and informative content. It has moderation tools to help you control the content that members publish. This online forum has an RSS Feed feature to automatically post content on your platforms like news, feature articles, reviews, and job openings. Hivebrite lets you manage the visibility of published content to control which ones to show visitors and which are private and available only to select members.
Hivebrite integrates with other business tools like Microsoft Dynamics 365, Blackbaud, Salesforce, and Twitter.
Hivebrite provides pricing details and a demo upon request.
8. Orbit – Community forum software with a task automation feature.
Orbit is an online forum platform to help you grow your online community. It has an automated alerts feature to know when members perform specific actions, use a keyword, or publish posts. Orbit has a community feed feature for a quick glance at your members’ activities. It has a reporting feature to gauge the performance of your online community, uncover trends, and identify productive members.
Orbit is the best forum software with a task automation feature to help you save time by minimizing manual tasks. You can use Orbit to automate the sending of rewards and recognition using specific rules. It has an automatic activity tracking feature to see your most active members and plan ways to increase inactive members’ engagement.
Orbit integrates with other tools like GitHub, LinkedIn, Product Hunt, and Twitch. You can connect Orbit to a paid Zapier account to access other premium apps.
Orbit has a free version with limited features for up to 3 admin seats, while the pricing for paid plans starts at $200/month/up to 10 admin seats.
9. Wix Forum – Community forum software with subscription plan feature.
Wix Forum is an online forum to start conversations and engage community members. It has a Q&A forum for members to get recommendations or give advice to other members. You can create private categories for selected members as a form of gamification feature. Wix Forum lets you customize your forum’s layout and design for branding and attracting more members.
Wix Forum is the best online community software for creating subscription plans to monetize your community forum. You can offer tiered subscription plans so members of your discussion forum can choose a subscription plan they can afford. Wix Forum lets you customize subscription plans with unique features and benefits to entice members to upgrade their subscriptions.
Wix Forum is free online forum software.
10. MyBB – Community forum software with built-in template and theme editor.
MyBB is an online forum software for starting conversations to promote engagement among members. It has moderation tools to let admins and moderators control the published content. MyBB has a messaging feature so members can have private discussions with several members simultaneously. It has a forum plugin feature for adding more features to attract more members.
MyBB is the best online forum software with a built-in template and theme editor to give you complete control of how your forum looks. It has a simple mode for newbie forum creators and an advanced mode for those adept in using CSS. The theme editor lets you customize your forum’s stylesheet, colors, and fonts to promote your brand.
MyBB is a free and open source forum software but you can donate to developers.
Here are a few more that didn’t make the top list.
1. vBulletin – Online community software with AI-assisted user engagement feature.
2. Joomla! – Website builder for creating an online community.
3. Simple Machines Forum – Open source and free community forum software for creating customizable community forums.
4. XenForo – Community platform for creating digital spaces for interacting with customers.
5. Invision Community – Customer community platform for connecting with customers and elevating your brand.
6. Reddit – Discussion website for submitting posts, files, images, and videos.
What do you think about this list?
Online communities are digital spaces where customers can interact with your company and other members. You can use an online community to promote brand awareness and help customers get the most out of your products and services. With the help of the best community forum software, you can improve your NPS scores to attract more customers and increase your revenue.
Aside from community forum software, there are many useful tools to help you grow your business, and you can learn more about them by subscribing to Indie Media.