Generally, a community platform is a type of software that allows businesses to create an online community where people who share the same interests, passion, or goals can come together to interact and have conversations.
They typically have built-in features to enable users to create profiles, share content, comment on threads, and join discussions. The community platforms used by brands are white-label, which means companies can add their branding.
Most community platforms will help facilitate interaction between members by offering the ability to create profiles, share content, comment on threads, and join different discussions. Along with these features, some community platforms also allow members to message each other directly.
Companies that utilize a community as a part of their marketing and engagement strategy must have a community platform that supports their goals. You don’t want a community platform that doesn’t provide the engagement capabilities you need to grow your customer base.
Let’s review what a community platform is and what features you should consider when choosing a platform for your organization.
How does a community platform work?
Each community platform is different in how they’re set up. However, most have a user-friendly dashboard that allows the community manager to adjust the features that are available to members. It also allows the organization to customize the layout of the community to help improve the overall user experience.
If the community platform you selected is white-label, you have the option to add your own branding to the platform. Some platforms will also allow you to add the community directly to your existing web domain so that it appears as part of your current website.
Are there different community platforms?
There are many community platforms available, making it all the more important to understand what you want from your platform. If you’re looking to utilize a community-led growth approach, you’ll want a robust platform that allows you to engage with your customers.
It’s also important to consider what your community members’ expectations are. For instance, if your members are looking for a place that provides guidance on products or information to their questions, then you’ll want to select a community platform that offers features that focus on support communities. This is also true for discussion communities and activist communities.
What features should you look for in a community platform?
Since there are a variety of community platforms, it’s important to review the features they offer organizations and members. While the exact items you find valuable will likely vary from other businesses, the following features are considered crucial if you want to build a well-organized and engaged community.
The lifeblood of any community platform is the discussion section. While nearly all platforms will offer a space where community members can discuss different topics, it’s essential to consider how easy it is to facilitate conversations. Creating discussions and moderating dialog should be quick and easy for your team.
One of the biggest reasons people continue to frequent communities is the sense of belonging that the community provides. Offering the ability for members to communicate with each other through direct messaging provides a way for individuals to get to know each other personally. It also guarantees they will visit the community often to speak with friends and members.
While some members want to remain anonymous, most will want to create and share a profile with other individuals in the community. Having the option for community members to create a profile with information about themselves and pictures will add a more human element to the community.
Integrating engagement tools into your community platform is necessary if you want to drive community engagement. For example, having an event calendar on the community platform will increase community engagement and improve attendance for community events. Other engagement tools to keep an eye out for include gamification, polls, and surveys.
Allowing sub-groups in your community is a fantastic way to improve the structure of your community platform. It will enable members to find others with similar interests and can be a great way to see what type of topics your community is interested in. Sub-groups also help drive community engagement by offering a space for like-minded community members to meet.
Selecting the best platform for your community
To truly harness the power of an online community, you’ll want to ensure you select the best community platform for your organization. To identify which platform will support your organization the most, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- – How do you want community members to interact with your brand and other community members?
- – Are you planning on matching community members together by interests, or do you want them to just participate in general community discussions?
- – Do you want to work any type of monetization into your community, such as ads for products and services?
- – How important are new technology and features in your community?
- – How much security do you need to protect your members’ personal information?
- – What type of budget are you looking to stay within?
- – Do you want a community platform that can grow with your organization?
These questions will help you identify the type of community platform you’ll need. As you review each option, it’s important to also consider what your members will expect from your organization.
If they want your brand to consistently interact with them and respond to ongoing conversations, then you’ll need to take into consideration how easy it is for your staff to operate on the platform.
It’s often a good idea to have multiple team members demo the platform before deciding which software to purchase.
How can I start my own community?
The first step is to define the goal for your community, get internal buy-in, plan different stages of the launch and evaluate different platforms.
For instance, Bettermode is an easy-to-use customer community platform with a free plan you can use to get started. Check out our complete guide to building a customer community.