Choose a community platform

Business benefits

Design a successful community experience by choosing a platform designed for your community type, membership projection, and community goals.

Identify the right category of community platform for your needs, based on your budget, technical skills, and expected audience size.

License and hosting costs Implementation fees Expertise required Customization Features
Custom-built $,$$$ $$,$$$ - $$$,$$$ Extreme High Variable.
White Label $$$ $$$ Low Low Low
Open Source $,$$$ $$,$$$ High High Medium
Enterprise platforms $$$,$$$ $$,$$$ Medium Medium High
Social Media None None None Low Low

Benchmark the membership size, activity level, and capabilities of comparable competitor communities. Join those communities, if possible, to observe firsthand.

If you don’t have access to web traffic or clickthrough data, competitive benchmarking provides a reasonable estimate of the membership number you will be able to reach.

Project membership for your community based on web traffic, clickthrough data, competitive benchmarking, and audience size.

Because many platforms charge by estimated visitors, a membership projection can help you decide what type of platform to choose. Review the number of visitors to your homepage in a month, then multiply that number by the percentage you believe would join the community.

You can also estimate the number of active community users based on website click-through data. For example, if you know that 5,000 people per day look up answers to questions on your website, you can estimate that a percentage, such as 10% or 20%, would instead ask questions in your community.

Review the data points you have gathered, then add the total audience size to which you can promote the community upon launch. Use the combination of each data point to make an accurate membership projection that helps to choose your budget.

You can also use Feverbee’s Community Projection Tool to estimate your membership.

Write a list of use cases for the member needs your community must solve to provide value to your audience.

Member Need Use Case
Not be overwhelmed with information. Newcomers receive a restricted set of information upon joining the community focused only on the next actions they need to take.
Get guided through the journey of what they should tackle at each stage. Newcomers advance through a structured 30 day program of discussions, mentoring, and in-house expertise.
Feel confident enough to ask a question without being attacked. Newcomers are partnered with an experienced mentor with whom they can ask and answer questions.
Newcomers join a private group to ask beginner-level questions and not risk being embarrassed in front of others.
Get advice on their particular situation. Members can share screenshots of what they’re working on and see the screenshots of others to get instant feedback.
Know if they’re doing it right Members share and track their progress against others also going through the same stage of progress.
Easily find relevant information and documentation. Members receive pop-ups in the product directing people where they can see questions and answers relating to this phase.
Feel connected to others in their exact situation. Members can see the number of days a member has been using the product in their profile information.
Feel a sense of achievement at achieving minor things. Newcomers advance through a graduation when members have surpassed 30 to 60 days (along with a reward / discount / referral code).

Create member stories that capture what your members want to do in your community and why. Use the formula: I want to [behavior] so that [functionality].

I want to… So that…
Be able to post questions and reply to existing questions I can get solutions to my problems and help others solve their problems.
Like and vote posts I like Indicate which questions and answers are also relevant to me.
Ask questions without anyone knowing my name I can get solutions to problems without having to risk my reputation.
Publish long-form blog posts in the community I can share my expertise and build a reputation within the community.
Include multimedia content within my responses and blog posts I can provide context in my contributions and make them as easy to solve as possible.
Update my profile with photos, text, and what I’m working on I can define my identity and look for people in similar situations as me.
Start a group within my niche / sector I can get specific expertise which is most relevant to me and feel a sense of community with others.
Share what [client] apps and tools I use I can impress others, share tips, and learn what others are using which I might also want to use.
Tag if an answer solved my problem I can reward the poster and help others also solve this problem.
Share my ideas for [client] products and vote on the ideas of others Help develop the products and services which will solve my problems.
Be rewarded for recommending [client] to others I can earn rewards and increase my reputation among my peers.
See how I compare against other [client] users I can feel good about my standing and build a reputation.
Easily quote a previous person’s response in my own responses I can be clear about what I’m referring to without having to duplicate their entire message.

List community features you want your community to have, and score each from 1-3.

1: Nice to have though not essential.
2: Very important, but can survive without.
3: Essential; a showstopper if not present.

Decide your budget, based on estimated community size and functionality desired.

Create a shortlist of 2 or 3 community platforms that could meet your needs using a community platform comparison tool like Feverbee’s Community Platform Comparison Tool.

Social media and other inexpensive tools White label platforms Open source platforms Enterprise platforms
Facebook Groups
LinkedIn Groups
WhatsApp
Telegram
Mailchimp
Zoom
Citrix
GoToWebinar
Slack
Bevvy
Eventbrite
Reddit
Twitch
StackExchange
Ning
Circle
MightyNetworks
Tribe
Hivebrite
YourMembership
Meetup
Drupal
Discourse
Vanilla
Joomla
ELGG
Khoros
Salesforce
Insided
Telligent
Vanilla
Discourse
HigherLogic
Yammer
Microsoft Teams
Sharepoint

Use the tool to review platforms based on your budget and estimated membership numbers.

Review each platform on your shortlist according to its ability to satisfy your member needs and use cases based on your business and community goals.

Research your finalists by reviewing case studies and examples from other organizations on the same platforms, or even join the communities in question to act out the use cases. Take the time you need to test each of your user needs, behaviors, and use cases for all the finalists.

At the enterprise level, create an RFP that specifically lists your business needs and use cases to encourage finalists to discuss them specifically. Prioritize each feature you need on a scale of 1 to 3 (nice to have, important, and essential) to weigh each platform and make the best decision.

Choose the community platform that most closely matches your budget, technology expertise, anticipated membership levels, and prioritized platform features.

@lsmous

This whole playbook is unfocused and has more steps than it needs. Have a look at the Assignment slide – slide 20 – in the lesson slide deck. I think those five steps work much better as a framework for the playbook.

This isn’t action-oriented enough. I know this can get tricky, because we’re giving you informational material and asking you to turn it into instructional material. As a general rule, though, think about what the reader will actually be trying to achieve.

Will they simply want to review something? No. They want to choose something, or narrow down their choices. In this case, they want to identify the type of community platform that will best suit their needs and resources.

Transcribe the Comparing different types of platforms table on slide 13 of the slide deck so that people also have some alternatives to look at.

Don’t link to that playbook for member needs and use cases – it’s focused on organization goals and driving user behaviors to meet those goals. When you start a community, there are two sets of needs at play – member needs and organization needs. Both have to be considered.

Instead, transcribe the Creating Member Use Cases table on slide 15 from the lesson slide deck.

Heavy edits and restructuring done to make the steps clearer and better reflect the outcome desired.

Hi @lsmous! I recorded a Loom video for you regarding transcribing tables into Discourse – sorry, I probably wasn’t clear on how to do that.