5 Best Online Community Platforms & Software

Andrew Kratz

When it comes to selecting the ideal customer community platform for your business, the choices can be overwhelming. At Social Edge, we'll help you navigate the landscape and make the right choice for your organization's needs.

Our primary focus revolves around enterprise online community platforms. While there are smaller discussion or forum-based platforms and others catering to the event space, our expertise lies in assisting companies seeking robust platforms with diverse content capabilities. These platforms enable a wide range of use cases for engaging with customers or partners in an online community setting.

What is Customer Community Software?

Customer community software is any platform designed to facilitate interactions and engagement between a company and its customers. It provides tools and features that allow customers to share ideas, ask questions, find answers, and collaborate with each other and the company. This type of software helps organizations build strong, loyal customer relationships by creating a space for support, feedback, and community building.

Best Online Community Platforms

Our recommendation for the best community platforms stems from over 11 years of experience in the customer community industry, during which we've successfully implemented over 600 community platforms for our clients. Repeatedly, these five platforms have emerged as top choices, often making it to the shortlist in competitive evaluations.

We suggest considering the following five best platforms to build an online community:

1. InSided

 InSided offers a centralized platform for customer engagement across various categories and user groups. What sets InSided apart is its focus on product-led growth and customer success. It excels in creating self-service communities that integrate seamlessly with product interfaces, making it ideal for SaaS companies. InSided's strength lies in its ability to foster peer-to-peer support, reducing the load on customer service teams while enhancing user experience.

2. Khoros

Khoros stands out for its comprehensive approach to customer engagement. It goes beyond just community management to offer a suite of tools for social media management, messaging, and analytics. What makes Khoros special is its AI-powered insights, which help businesses understand and predict customer behavior. Its robust integration capabilities with CRM systems make it a powerful choice for enterprises looking to unify their customer experience strategy.

3. Salesforce Experience Cloud

Salesforce Experience Cloud, previously known as Salesforce Community Cloud, leverages the power of the Salesforce ecosystem. Its unique selling point is the seamless integration with Salesforce's CRM and other products, making it an excellent choice for businesses already using Salesforce. It offers highly customizable portals for customers, partners, and employees, with the ability to create branded experiences that align closely with business processes.

4. Higher Logic Vanilla

Higher Logic Vanilla shines in its simplicity and focus on community-building. What makes it special is its emphasis on gamification and member engagement features. It's particularly well-suited for organizations looking to create vibrant, interactive communities. Vanilla's strength lies in its flexible theming options and its ability to scale from small groups to large enterprises, making it adaptable to various business needs.

5. Verint Community

Verint stands out in the realm of digital marketing and support communities. Its unique feature is the integration of advanced analytics and AI-driven insights, helping businesses understand community trends and customer sentiment. Verint excels in knowledge management, making it particularly useful for companies looking to build comprehensive self-service portals. Its ability to tie community interactions to broader customer experience metrics makes it valuable for data-driven organizations.

How Do I Choose a Community Platform?

Selecting the right community platform is key to the success of your online community. Here are key steps to guide your decision when reviewing the top community platforms above, or any other customer community vendor:

  1. Define Your Objectives: Clearly articulate what you want to achieve with your community. Are you focusing on customer support, engagement, or knowledge sharing? Your goals will significantly influence your choice.
  2. Understand Your Audience: Consider your users' preferences and technical abilities. Some platforms are more user-friendly, while others offer advanced features that may appeal to a tech-savvy audience.
  3. Assess Your Resources: Evaluate your budget, considering community software pricing options, and the internal resources available for managing the community. Some platforms require more technical expertise than others.
  4. Consider Integration Needs: Look at your existing tech stack. Choose a platform that integrates well with your current systems, especially your CRM and support tools. Review the various community widgets and integrations our team has built for the top customer community solutions.
  5. Evaluate Platform Features: Compare the features of different platforms against your requirements. Key areas to consider include:some text
    • Content management capabilities
    • User engagement tools (gamification, rewards)
    • Analytics and reporting
    • Mobile accessibility
    • Customization options
  6. Check Platform Scalability: Ensure the platform can grow with your community. It should be able to handle an increasing number of users and expanding feature requirements.
  7. Examine Security and Compliance: Verify that the platform meets your industry's security standards and compliance requirements, especially if you're handling sensitive data.
  8. Read Vendor Reviews and Case Studies: Look at what other organizations in your industry are using. Read reviews and case studies from sites like G2 and TrustRadius to understand real-world experiences with the platforms.
  9. Request Platform Demos: Narrow down your choices and request demonstrations from your top community platform picks. This hands-on experience can provide valuable insights. You can book community platform demos with the Social Edge team - we’ll setup tailored demos based on your community and business requirements.
  10. Consider Support and Training: Evaluate the level of support and training offered by the platform provider. This can be important for successful implementation and ongoing management. If you need professional support or a partner to support your online community transformation, our online customer community consultants can help.

Choose the Best Community Engagement Platforms for Your Needs

The landscape of online customer communities boasts a vast array of options, with over 150 platforms aiming to meet your criteria. 

As we saw in the article, you can explore comprehensive lists on websites like G2 or Trust Radius by searching keywords such as 'community platform,' 'external community,' 'best online community platforms,' and similar phrases. However, based on our extensive experience, we highly recommend considering the aforementioned five platforms during your evaluation and selection process.

Should you require any assistance in choosing the right intranet or customer community platform or learning how to evaluate customer community platforms effectively, please don't hesitate to contact Social Edge Consulting. We're eager to partner with you in this endeavor. 

Learn more about our intranet and customer community services.

For more videos, visit our YouTube channel which has videos covering customer communities in-depth.

This blog post was originally published on 10/04/2023, and updated on 07/07/2024.