3 Best Community Software with Buyers’ Guide

Viber

Customer engagement Communication tool  eCommerce brand discovery options On-premise customer engagement Perform international calls Promoting brand visibility Group chats Video calls Sticker content

eXo Platform

Digital workplace solution Build Grow Engage with community Range of powerful community tools Internal communication Knowledge management Social networking Create own community platform Informed Impactful business decisions

Website Toolbox

Easiest way to create community forum in the cloud No coding software or servers required Fully customizable Single sign on Embedded into website Robust security controls  monetization via fees or ads Simple Powerful 

Community Software

Community Software assists businesses for building and developing forums, getting and nurturing followers and maintaining memberships. The solution automate administrative procedures and offer businesses with actionable data on metrics and trends like site activity and user engagement.

Online communities offer a platform for individuals to connect with a shared interest, goal or activity. Users form a network, develop relationships and collaborate by sharing information and engaging with content. There are a wide range of solutions on the market designed to serve each type of business require, having customer support, brand building etc.

Businesses and associations offer  online communities to achieve many aims:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Growing customer base
  • Supporting customers throughout the entire customer life cycle
  • Considering, Buying, using, maintaining and/or replacing a product or service
  • Providing a forum for discussion/feedback regarding products and/or services

Communities should offer value to the end user. Community  solutions assist businesses build, launch, manage and measure the effectiveness of  online communities so as to achieve, maintain continuous improvement, such as offer the most value to the customer.

Features of Community Software

Member management : Enabling users for creating profiles, joining groups and/or chapters. Often search functionality or a directory. Have membership dues management as  works with merchant account platforms to manage paid memberships.

Content management : Creating web content and track to interact with various types of content. Can have  process wikis, documentation, articles and more. Setting up online and emailed content alerts for when content is updated or added.

Forums and discussion boards : Facilitating communication and collaboration between users, permitting them to get on with threads, sharing ideas, posting questions and responding to inquires. Includes features like mentions, sharing, posting, inserting emojis, add tags and other classifications to posts and archiving discussions. Often includes the ability to send private messages as well.

Blog creation and management : Setting up blogs for employees, business or individual members. Permit users for creating and sharing content, organize content using tags and  classifications and subscribing to blogs. Includes security settings, user permissions and the capability to turn commenting on or off.

Gamification/crowdsourcing : Enhance user engagement in community with tools like contests, gamification, surveys and/or polls. Inviting users to post scores on profile or sharing to their social networks.

Media libraries : Upload and store files in a centralized, searchable location. Features are customizable and need user permissions, share settings and the ability to turn on/off commenting. Enlist users in library maintenance by permitting them to tag out of date files, broken links etc.

Event management : Showcase events and conferences and work with partners to get sponsorships and customers to build out attendees. Features have agenda/calendar building, payment management. and online registration. 

Reporting and analytics : Have dashboards and reports for many metrics, having member activity, content shares, site interactions, and many more. Schedule one-off or recurring reports, view data in various graphical displays and export data to Excel. Creating custom reports for tracking trends unique to business or industry.

Types of Community Software

Community software helps to create and manage various types of communities. These can typically be sectioned as follows:

Internal business tools. This has communities designed to facilitate collaboration among employees and crowdsource ideas to solve internal business problems. They can act as an internal knowledge center when employees can join relevant groups, access reference material, and search for vital business documentation and procedures. Can also include professional development and training.

Business-to-consumer (B2C). This have a variety of communities designed to assist businesses engage with current and prospective clients, centered around customer relationship management, business development/sales, support and training. Can also host reviews of products and services. Non-profit and professional development associations can use software to engage with users rather than customers.

Business-to-business (B2B). B2B communities helps  businesses to interact with organizations in industry, through partner programs and industry & awareness brand marketing. The resource can be useful when highlighting new programs, updates and product releases as well as when creating and/or responding to RFPs.

Consumer-to-consumer (C2C). This category has communities built by consumers to serve and engage with consumers, like interest-based communities, professional development associations and product/service reviews forums.

Additionally, it’s possible for a hybrid community to exist within categories. Each community will need member management and provide degree of reporting/analytics for administrative members. As the primary aim for  systems is to offer value to end users, it’s vital to chose a software with reporting function which supports the business and industry needs.

Considerations while Buying for Community Software

Open-source community solution. There are many open-source software available in the market which can assist you get an online community set up with lower upfront costs with a paid solution. User will need an IT professional to host and operate the system, that means, as one seller tells on their website “you break it, you fix it.” User has limited training, support and customer service options with open source tools, so consider the requires of both administrative and end users before choosing the option.

Integration with existing business software. Integration permits seamless data transfer between applications, a major concern while using disparate systems. Try to check for tools to integrate with existing business applications like marketing, CRM, help desk and social media accounts to save time and decrease duplicate data entry.

Actionable insights/reporting. The key with reporting is to get actionable insights. Community software should provide to strive for continuous improvement to offer the most value to the end user, therefore, user should supplement reporting strategy with feedback loops. Look for trends which permit you to enhance and tailor the user experience to each member group, that can lead to increased and prolonged membership.

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