11+ Best Online Community Platforms (Free & Paid) 
Online community platforms are digital networks or software that facilitate the creation, growth, and management of internet-based groups where members engage around common interests, goals, or purposes.
These platforms connect people from anywhere and everywhere and offer a space to learn, network, or just have fun. In fact, in 2020, when there was a loneliness epidemic, 76% of internet users were part of an online community, according to the Global Web Index.
Whether you’re an individual starting a virtual group or an organization launching your online community, picking the right platform can be the difference between hosting engaging events with repeat attendees and…not. This article will take a look at some of the top online community platforms so you can find the right fit for you, your event, and your community.
What are Online Community Platforms?
Online community platforms are digital spaces where people gather to communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, or pursue common interests. These platforms enable interaction, discussion, and the building of relationships among members.
They can range from forums and discussion groups to more structured communities with advanced features for video conferencing, content sharing, messaging, and more.
Why are Online Communities Important?
Online communities have evolved to become pivotal in the digital landscape, with their importance extending beyond mere virtual hangouts. About 66% of people cherish online communities largely due to the profound connections they establish with like-minded individuals. This bond nurtures mutual understanding, provides emotional support, and offers a space to exchange knowledge and ideas.
Online communities also significantly impact consumer behavior, with 27.3% of customers conceding that online communities influence their purchasing decisions. Amidst the overwhelming number of products and services available today, these platforms help consumers sift through choices, making more informed decisions based on peer experiences and recommendations.
Other reasons why online communities are essential:
They foster learning and skill development through shared expertise.
They offer support networks for people undergoing similar challenges or experiences.
They are platforms for innovation, where ideas can be brainstormed and refined.
They help brands receive direct feedback, facilitating better product and service improvements.
Features to Look for in Online Community Platforms
When considering online community platforms, several crucial features can help ensure the platform meets your needs, fosters engagement, and provides value to its members. Here's a breakdown of the features to look for:
Online Meetings: Online community platforms should make it easy for members to interact in online video meetings.
Private Spaces: Private spaces are crucial for confidential discussions, sensitive topics, or exclusive groups, offering members a secure environment to interact and collaborate.
Discussion Forums & Boards: These are foundational for any community platform, enabling members to start and participate in conversations.
Content Creation & Sharing: Members should be able to post articles, photos, videos, and other types of content. Features might include blogging capabilities, media galleries, or document sharing.
Notifications & Alerts: Keeps members informed about new content, replies to their posts, and other relevant activities.
Moderation Tools: Essential for community managers or moderators to ensure a positive environment, handle disputes, and remove inappropriate content.
Analytics & Reporting: Provides insights into user engagement, popular content, member growth, and other metrics to help community managers optimize the platform.
Integration Capabilities: The platform should play well with other tools, allowing for integrations with CRM systems, email marketing platforms, social media, and more.
Mobile Responsiveness: Given the increasing use of mobile devices, the platform should be accessible and functional on smartphones and tablets.
Gamification: Features like points, badges, or leaderboards can motivate members to participate and engage more frequently.
Best Online Community Platforms
There's no shortage of online community platforms. However, a select few stand out in terms of features, user experience, and value. We've curated a list of the best online community platforms below.
AllTakes focuses on enhancing online communication and community-building for various purposes, from casual gatherings to professional events all held at the Roundtable.
Roundtable is a dynamic and engaging video conferencing platform that sets up meetings in a circle structure to help reduce online fatigue and improve engagement. It's perfect for study groups, work events, gatherings with family and friends, and any online gathering that prioritizes fostering true connections. Roundtable offers 60-minute free sessions and provides a uniquely energizing and dynamic online meeting experience.
Connected Video Conferencing: At the Roundtable on AllTakes, circle time mimics real-life seating arrangements, encouraging communication, participation, and growth.
Animated Expressions: Add depth and personality to your virtual meetings with unique expressions.
Add Music: Choose a track that aligns with the theme of your event (meditation, dance, etc.) and add it as your welcome music, during transitions, and more.
Easy Sharing: Sharing your screen is finally simple. Whether it's video or audio, AllTakes makes it easy to get involved.
Host Fireside Chats and Panels: Engage in intimate conversations or feature a group conversation prominently.
The user interface is easy and intuitive to set up and manage
Replaces a myriad of tools, including Zoom, Google Meet, Mailchimp, and more, so users only have to focus on setting up—which takes less than 5 minutes.
Provides a communal feeling, making it easy for new members to join and make contributions
Responsive customer service that is always willing to help
Free 60-min sessions
It is ideal for coaches, community builders, and event organizers who want to manage their communities
Best for personal, communal events, so may not be the right fit for one-way webinars hosted by enterprises.
Best For: AllTakes is ideal for hosting interactive, engaging virtual sessions where you can make private group spaces with content libraries, easy registrations, and managed attendees.
Slack offers a flexible workspace where users can connect via chat, audio, video, or live huddles. The core of Slack's functionality is its organized messaging channels, enabling asynchronous collaboration across departments, locations, and different organizations.
Channels: Allow users to create spaces for specific projects, topics, or teams. Includes public channels, private channels, and Slack Connect for collaborating with external organizations.
Chat: Enables users to connect to remote team members from different locations.
Huddle: Allows users to share screens while continuing to work within the existing Slack environment.
Enterprise key management: Provides organizations with control and visibility over their data using encryption keys.
Supports real-time interaction among teams
Provides integrations with other major tools
Provides the ability to create polls in the channels
Customers have to pay per user after 10k messages
It can be demanding on systems resources, especially on older devices or computers
Notifications can get overwhelming depending on the size of the group or channel
Different channels can be hard to manage
Enterprise Grid: Customizable
Enterprise Grid: Customizable
Best For: Chat-focused, remote working teams that can pay for multiple users.
3. Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups is a platform that allows users to connect with people who share similar interests and build a sense of community. Users can join existing groups related to their interests or create their own dedicated group. Within these groups, members can engage in conversations, share content, and gain valuable insights about their audience.
Group insights: Group administrators have access to insights about group members and their interactions.
Live streaming: Facebook Live can stream real-time video content directly to their groups.
Ads: Enables users to generate income by incorporating advertisements into videos and live broadcasts, using features like In-stream ads and In-stream ads for Live.
Community support: Followers can become paying supporters through features like Stars, Paid Online Events, and Subscriptions.
Branded content: Users can utilize branded content tools to develop their business by engaging in paid partnerships.
Admins can set rules and automation to manage groups
Access to livestreams
Not popular among younger generations
Accessibility and usage can be constricted on mobile platforms
Best For: Creating and managing large communities on Facebook.
4. Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks enables creators to build their own branded online communities, courses, and memberships through a Community Design framework. The platform also gives users the option to upgrade to their own branded mobile apps and websites for a cohesive brand presence.
Spaces for organization: Structured organization of content, members, and events.
Chat and real-time interaction: Chat functionality with embeds and GIFs for communication.
Course creation: Users can build courses directly within the platform, including live cohort-based courses, content-only courses, and community-based courses.
Live streaming and events: Supports various events with streaming, Zoom integration, and in-person gatherings.
Custom branding and design: Users can customize the look of each Space with colors, logos, and custom graphics.
Responsive customer service
Analytics capabilities are not as advanced as users would like
The platform is very challenging to learn and use
Doesn’t offer video conferencing in app, so users have to add links to other platforms
Mighty Pro: Customizable
Best For: Workforces that want to monetize their community.
Circle integrates content and community features to accommodate various community types, including brands, customer communities, course communities, memberships, coaching, and clubs/organizations. Circle also offers features for organized discussions, immersive courses, live streams, and more.
Courses: Users can create learning experiences and integrate live sessions, coaching, and student engagement.
Events: Live video experiences for workshops, coaching sessions, and live Q&As.
Workflows: Enables users to automate manual tasks, personalize member interactions, streamline onboarding processes, and boost engagement.
Community AI: AI tools can generate ideas, repurpose content, and automate video transcriptions.
Setup and navigation are relatively easy
Streamlines communication for users and their clients
Offers flexibility with subscription options and multiple currencies.
Real-time chat can be glitchy and slow, according to some users
Some users don’t find the webinar/live calls feature very intuitive
Limited customizable templates
Best For: Organizing and publishing content.
Bettermode is a community engagement platform for hosting online communities. Product, marketing, and customer success teams can use Bettermode to design, build, and run a virtual community. Bettermode also offers a developer portal for building custom apps, and administration tools for managing members, content, and security.
Custom spaces: Tailors user content experiences with dedicated Spaces for Q&A, job listings, or reviews.
Gamification: Includes badges and a leaderboard system to reward active participants and recognize their contributions.
Translation: Allows users to choose their community's primary language and enables real-time content translation.
Embeddable widgets: Enables users to embed their community into a website or mobile app.
Developer portal: Offers a developer portal to build custom apps using GraphQL API, Webhooks, and Liquid template engine.
Responsive customer support
Customizable and intuitive
Users can host communities in different languages
Users can select, arrange, and configure blocks to create the layout
Technical issues might take a while to get resolved
There can be glitches when integrating with other data platforms
Best For: Enterprises that want to engage their customers.
Kajabi enables users to create, market, and sell various types of content, such as online courses, coaching programs, memberships, podcasts, and more. It provides a set of tools for marketing and management and also offers analytics, payment processing integrations, and a customer relationship management (CRM) system for users to grow their businesses.
Marketing tools: Users can create and manage marketing campaigns, content, and funnels.
CRM integration: Built-in CRM capabilities that enable users to manage customer information, collect payments, and access analytics.
Contact management: Allows users to tag and categorize contacts by behavior, and then use the information in marketing, automations, and product offerings.
Page building: Users can create dynamic landing pages.
Options for creating course content
Live webinars, training, and guides for users
Limited customization and configuration in the checkout space
Steep learning curve for new users
Landing page builder needs improvement
Best For: Small businesses looking to implement marketing automation.
8. Higher Logic Vanilla Forums
Higher Logic Vanilla serves as a community platform with a primary focus on driving outcomes across businesses. It facilitates self-service support, and customer engagement, identifies brand advocates, and aids in the development of products. This platform also offers customization options for branding and layouts, provides analytics to measure engagement, and centralizes knowledge base resources.
Support ticket deflection: Reduces support tickets by enabling self-service support.
Community essentials: Provides building blocks for users to create, launch, and grow an online community.
Branding & Layouts: Allows users to customize the look and feel of their community to match their brand.
Community expertise: Offers strategy guidance through a customer success manager, and provides a support team for troubleshooting.
Integrations: Integrates with popular applications such as Salesforce, Zendesk, ProductBoard, and Zapier.
Has a simple user interface
Responsive customer service
Requires hours of developer hours to make changes
Lack of an email digest option
Pricing: Higher Logic Vanilla requires customers to contact sales for a quote.
Best For: Web-based creators looking to manage their members.
Discord is a versatile platform that provides a space for various communities, such as school clubs, gaming groups, or global art communities, to connect and communicate. It offers organized servers with topic-based channels, enabling collaboration and discussions without cluttering group chats.
Users can join voice channels for spontaneous conversations, and the platform supports community management and customization.
Topic-based servers and channels: Allows users to create or join servers, with channels that organize discussions around specific subjects or interests.
Voice and video calls: Users can engage in both voice and video calls with low latency, ideal for casual conversations or more immersive experiences.
Custom member access: Server administrators can assign roles and permissions to members, granting specific powers or access to private channels.
Screen sharing: Users can share their screens with others, useful for showcasing games, presentations, or collaborating on projects.
Invite-only servers: Allows users to create invite-only servers, ensuring that only selected individuals can join a specific server for exclusivity and security.
Accessible on mobile
Developer friendly environment
Accommodates large groups
Requires technical knowledge to setup
Has a steep learning curve
Notifications can get overwhelming
Best For: Smaller, phone-based communities.
Thinkific is an online learning platform designed for users to create, market, and sell their expertise through various learning products. It offers multiple learning product options, including course creation, community engagement, and membership offerings. With Thinkific, users can build collaborative learning communities accessible across devices, and earn recurring revenue through subscription-based memberships.
Quizzes and assignments: Users can create interactive learning experiences by incorporating quizzes and assignments into their courses.
Drip scheduling: Creators can schedule content releases over time, providing a structured learning experience for students.
First-time creator support: New creators can take advantage of Thinkific Academy courses to get started in online education.
Pricing control: Allows creators to control pricing for their courses and memberships.
Analytics: Creators can gain insights into student behavior and interests through analytics, enabling users to optimize content and marketing efforts.
Intuitive and simple to use
Responsive and knowledgeable customer support
Steep learning curve for beginners
More customization is needed
Best For: Creating and selling courses for students and professional audiences.
Discourse is an online platform that provides an environment for users to create and manage communities. It facilitates connections through discussions, with features tailored to various use cases. The platform offers customization options, moderation tools, and integrated chat features. Discourse is also an open-source software, providing ownership and data control to its users.
Fully open source: Discourse's codebase is open to the public and available for anyone to access and modify.
Unlimited conversation history: Users have continuous access to the complete history of their community's conversations.
Integrated chat and discussions: Integrates quick chats with long-form discussions.
Moderation tools: Provides moderation tools to maintain discussion quality.
Customizable themes and templates: Users can create a unique visual identity for their community, aligning it with their brand or preferences.
Users access engagement statistics
In-depth conversation opportunities
Trust badge incentives
It may require a developer to leverage more advanced tools
It can present a steep learning curve for users
Best For: Integrating with your personal website.
Connect With the Best Online Community Platforms
Each online community platform boasts its own suite of features and functionalities, from advanced customization to in-depth analytics. But the right choice for your community depends on your specific needs, whether you're aiming to build a niche hobby group, a professional networking center, or a customer-centric forum.
Among this exciting collection of online community platforms, AllTakes stands out, not only for its unique circle-time seating arrangement but also for the energy and depth it brings to online conversations. It seamlessly combines the essence of real-life interactions with the convenience of digital communication to create an online space where people can learn, grow, and make authentic connections.
If you're seeking a platform that mirrors the intimacy of face-to-face interactions and offers a plethora of features to enrich community engagement, give AllTakes a try.