Find out more about Online Community Software
What is Online Community Software?
Online community software can be used by a company’s employees as well as departments to work together on various tasks and assignments. The system can help to keep all users updated on the latest developments and ensure schedules are on track. You can manage all your important work materials from a single secure location and provide easy access to others. The app also helps team members to communicate effectively and you can identify project challenges early and resolve them quickly. We also like that teams based in diverse locations can use online community software for smooth communication and collaboration without bothering about geographical distances. This feature makes the app an essential one for companies employing workers in multiple locations. To help you find the right solution for your needs we have reviewed the top apps in this category and you can especially consider the leader eXo Platform.
Most Popular Online Community Software
Best Online Community Software
How To Choose The Best Online Community Software
For good or the bad, social media is already dictating communication and exchange of information, and it is not going away at any point in the near future. Some of you may think their business doesn’t need to shake hands with social networks since they’re only doing retail, but they’d be neglecting one very important circumstance: social networking adds a whole new dimension to the ‘Like it? Buy it!’ process, one where customers discuss, bargain, rate, review, tip each other, and share expectations. That takes us to the very first point of the article: for good, or bad, your online business is socially exposed.
What Is Online Community Software?
Best online community software platforms are in fact customer portals where people can discuss your products, namely: rate them, review them, share them, and participate in events. Having one obviously fosters the sense of community, reinforces customer loyalty, and has a considerably positive impact on trust.
When thinking of gathering customers under one roof, the first thing that pops in our minds is to use an established social provider (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.). The idea is fairly reasonable, knowing that such platforms could run cost-free and unsupervised, but why would anyone then opt for an alternative community platform? Most of the time, it will be because to complement their channels with exclusive and branded communication experiences, and strengthening the relationship with loyal customers.
Choosing solid Online community software for enterprises or SMBs can improve the communal experience of current customers and random visitors, and may end up popularizing your brand on social networks even more than running groups and pages on them. Let’s check how.
The unexpected facts
The way we have put it so far, running your own community platform sounds like a reasonable solution, but the thing with reasonable solutions is that they are never easy to make. Translated to social communication terms, this means that you have to know your audience quite well, to count on already established relationships, to develop an appropriate resource strategy, and only then pay attention to the social technology that can make it happen. Thereof, let us dismiss some common myths and misconceptions that can hinder your choice:
Online communities are not all about social networking
Yes, you will have a place to ‘receive guests and strengthen friendships’, but you’ll be doing that with a purpose. The idea behind every successful online community is to provide useful content to customers and to trigger discussions that can help.
The question ‘why’ refers to your customers, not to you
When asked why they need an online community of their own, most business owners would say that they want to boost sales and engage customers, but the #1 driver for enhancing social communication is to add value for customers, and to make them want to return.
Launching the community won’t be enough, you have to maintain it
‘You build it, and they will come’ is the worst possible approach towards your online community: you need to plan your content in advance and to develop a growth strategy managed by a person who will actually monitor the work of the platform and will be there to provide information.
It is not ‘just another expense’
Online communities are obviously not for free, but they require significantly less expenses for planning, management, and implementation than traditional advertising.
It empowers measurable ROI
You may be told that keeping customers engaged is an abstract strategy, and that it doesn’t produce tangible results, but that’s a huge misconception. The community’s impact can be measured and compared to your business objectives – it suffices to plan it in advance, and to consider the metrics that need to be followed/adjusted.
Get to know each product with free trial
You can start your search for the best online community software by signing up for the free trials of popular apps in the category. Here is a list of the apps that have received the highest SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction Rating in the online community software category that can help you discover the best online community software for your business: eXo Platform reviews, Magentrix, Cliqtalk, Jive, Zoho Connect, and PlushForums.
- B2B companies use online community software to get closer to their customers.
- Small and medium-sized businesses use the solution to help customers get more value from their services and products.
- Large enterprises like IBM, SAP, LexisNexis, and Palladium Group make use of the system to gain a competitive edge.
- eXo Platform: eXo Platform is designed as a social application and integrated with social tools to make work-related processes fast and easy.
- Jive: Jive is a social collaboration platform that links team members, upper management employees, and others.
- Magentrix: Magentrix is designed to help businesses collaborate with their communities without the need for long setup times or complex coding.
- Zoho Connect: Zoho Connect functions as a company’s private social network where employees can collaborate and convert concepts into reality.
- PlushForums: PlushForums is a cloud-based forum platform that offers useful features to make conversations more engaging, vibrant, and productive.
Types of Online Community Software
There are five main types of online community software:
- Public blogs are used to grow reach and awareness
- Public social networks are used to build relationship and boost awareness
- Public owned online communities are utilized to reduce support expenses and generate leads
- Private online communities are used for customer retention and to boost sales
- Hybrid online communities can be used to improve lead generation, customer retention, and sales.
Key Features of Online Community Software
How to choose the right online community platform: Have in mind that your platform will directly affect the quality of your users’ engagement experience, and it will become the core of your retaining strategy. Therefore, it is imperative to look for one whose format is somehow familiar, and to create a welcoming first experience that would motivate customers to return.
As you can notice, the process is not exactly easy, and requires plenty of targeted research. Before you are sold on a particular platform, make sure you’re choosing:
- A product that fits your strategy: Recommendations from experienced users are good, but conduct your own research first. Set a list of expectations and priorities, and narrow the choice to few reliable providers that can respond to the specific needs of your industry. Look for an unlimited scenario to involve maximum number of users, and avoid advanced features that are of no use to you.
- A product for your audience: Choosing the right platform is not about what you need, but about what customers would expect from it. Therefore, if the audience is interested in email discussions or Q&A sections, make sure you can offer those in some form.
- A functional product: There is no such thing as two identical online communities, and the reason is specific sets of features are meant to serve the needs of chosen industries and sectors. Still, all of them are supposed to have a certain degree of basic functionality without which customer engagement wouldn’t even be possible. For instance, there should be an interactive forum, ratings, reviews, crowd-sourcing space, a Q & A section, a publicly available knowledge base, blogs, contests, gamification, grouping, report analytics, and so on.
- An integrated product: The fact that you have your own community shouldn’t stop you from engaging and reporting on social networks. Your presence in out-of-community conversations may bring value to your business, so consider integrating with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. Mobile SDK and integrations with data management systems are also welcomed.
- A mobile-responsive product: We all know how customers are nowadays, and that they need to be engaged on the move more than at home or in the office. Therefore, give them a platform they can access via mobile devices, enabling them to perform practically every operation or to follow every discussion on the go. Alerts and notifications are an even better idea.
- A regularly updated product: Once again: a community platform is not something you launch and forget about, but a ‘living’ segment of your business that needs to be maintained. Failing to respond to functionality concerns may put an end to customers’ engagement, so make sure you’re following trends and keeping up with your audience’s expectations.
- An affordable product: Depending on deployment expectations, you can choose to host your online community yourself, or to use it as a SaaS application. The later will obviously cost more, but it is only because they diminish implementation and maintenance costs from the very beginning. The vendor’s reputation, the features, and the size of your business will be decisive for the price, but expect to pay a sum between $200 and $5,000 per month.
Benefits of Online Community Software
Quick and reliable results: Together with the fact that you get your product’s performance rated on dot, you will rate ad hoc projects with lengthy frameworks long before an actual report has been generated. The more members you’ve engaged, the faster your question would be answered (needless to say, it will be answered by genuine users, instead of random spammers gaining momentum on social networks).
Lower expenses: Implementing community tools and hiring people to maintain them is an investment at stake, but you have to consider the fact that it can be used for multiple other projects and purposes.
Familiarizing with customers: The way to benefit the most from your online community is to create and explore demographic profiles, and develop your product in accordance with the data you’ve obtained. You will be dealing with loyal customers and random visitors, which can give you an insight on many critical valuables, and will help you target audience the right way.
Instant connection with customers: Your customer is your most important resource, especially if he’s a brand loyalist who likes your work and wants to share his satisfaction. Even if a customer is less eager to popularize your brand, you can extract valuable information from his feedback, and build a long-lasting relationship of trust and commitment.
Data, data, and more data!
Depending on the size and purpose of your online community, it can be your worthy ‘why and because’ resource. The surveys, discussions, and stand-alone open-end questions may not exactly produce quantitative data, but they can certainly reveal the competitive advantages and downsides of your product.
All Online Community Software Reviews
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Our review platform employs our proprietary SmartScore™ algorithm to examine all the software in the Collaboration Software category so that we can help you decide on the best possible app. It analyzes the following aspects: individual features, collaboration possibilities, custom elements, integrations with other services, intuitiveness, customer support, security, mobile support, scores in other media. As of now, Wrike is the leader in this category and is recommended by our experts. Following thorough examination it got the best results among its competitors and our reviewers strongly suggest that you consider it as one of the choices for your business.
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