features and tools of a community platform for business

How to Choose the Best Online Community Platform for Your Business

7 min read

Harnessing the power of community is becoming a necessity for any successful business. By choosing the best online community platform for your business, you can gain insight into your customer’s perspectives and concerns, finding a way to serve them better, and drive your business in the right direction. 


Before you can start reaping the benefits of having your own community, you first need to choose the right online community platform for your business. To do so, you should begin by setting clear goals of what you want to achieve so you can find a platform that meets your needs. After all, communities come in all shapes and sizes, and no platform is a one-size-fits-all solution. 



What is a community platform?


A community platform is an online space that hosts a group of individuals who come together for a common purpose. Typically, online platforms allow members to share helpful content, interact with each other, and have open discussions about a product, service, or hot topic. 


When you build an online community based on your business’ products and services, you create a space for customers to interact with each other and provide feedback. Online communities for businesses offer an easy way to connect with your audience, responding to queries faster, receiving feedback for your products, and providing resources and updates about your business. When used correctly, it can be a valuable extension of your marketing strategy.



What types of communities exist for businesses?


Every business is different, which is why it’s worth taking the time to think about the kind of community that you want to build. The best community platform considers what your customers want and is designed to pander to their needs.  


Let’s explore three main types of communities: 


Nowadays, most businesses have forums, guides, and FAQs on their website. However, static resources aren’t always helpful for a user with a unique issue. Instead, live communities offer a group of users and community moderators who can respond to a question in just a few minutes. 


Support communities offer quick and accessible advice for those looking for help with your product or service. Advice offered by support communities could be anything from troubleshooting your phone to asking advice on which car to buy. It’s a hassle-free way to lessen the burden on customer service representatives as users help each other with any problems that arise. 


Discussion communities are those that are created around a common interest or goal. Perhaps you are part of a Facebook group with other people with the same hobbies or interests as you. This type of community platform is a discussion platform. With a discussion platform, people ask one another for tips and advice and discuss important topics around a specific topic.


Discussion communities can be user-led or prompted by the business that manages the community. This type of online community is an excellent way for companies to engage their existing and potential users and gather feedback and information about their services. 


Online communities geared towards action are built by people who want to find others to take action with them. This could be anything from raising money for charity to organizing people to attend a protest. Spreading awareness of important topics through online communities has been on the rise in the last few years, as equality, diversity, and inclusivity have become hot topics.  



Why do you need a community for your business?


By 2019, 76% of global internet users were part of an online community. In the digital world, it is now easier than ever to understand what your customers think about your product or service using a community. Yet building a thriving online community can be challenging. So, why should you put in the effort? 


There are many reasons for creating an online community for your business, including: 

Brand loyalty and image

Creating a community is a great way to find and grow business advocates. Some members will be naturally more engaged and helpful. Acknowledging these members and highlighting their contribution will provide you with ready-made brand advocates that will spread the word about your product and your mission.

Market research and feedback

What easier way to carry out market research than within your own group of customers! Communities allow you to collect feedback on any product features or new releases through customer-to-customer discussion or direct questions. Paying attention to what people say about your brand, especially in the start-up phase or during a new launch, is crucial in defining the tone of voice and messaging style to make sure you speak to your audience in their language and match their characteristics. 

Social contribution

Your community will make the world a better place by pairing people with the same interests or affinities, creating togetherness, combating loneliness and social isolation.

Self-service customer support

A community often becomes a place for members to help each other out. The more engaged a community becomes, the more likely it is that members will start answering questions and offering tips to each other, taking the pressure off the traditional customer support channels. You can also build resources, tutorials and answer FAQs in your community. 

Source of user-generated content

People love being part of a community and part of something that is bigger than them. You can interview your members, collect testimonials, photos of the product, and share success stories. There are endless possibilities to find and repurpose content, just don’t forget to ask for permission.



What to look for when choosing the best online community platform?


Reaping the benefits of a community is something every community leader should be looking to achieve. An essential role in achieving these benefits is hosting your community on the right platform that matches your necessities and goals.


There is a multitude of options for building a community online. Gaining a deeper understanding of the options available will help you make an informed decision for choosing your digital community platform. Important things to consider when choosing which platform you want to use to engage and grow your community include: 


User experience. First and foremost, the platform must be easy to use and accessible on several different devices. If not, you’ll struggle to increase user engagement and grow your community. 

Matchmaking. How would you like your community to be organized? Would you like groups of users to be matched by interest, hobbies, or profession, or by your product and services?

Analytical tools. Like any other social platform, it’s important to track how many members you have in your community and their engagement level. This will help you tweak your strategy for the future. 

Monetization. If you’re hoping to plug products and services in your community and monetize your content, you will need to choose a platform that enables this. 

Flexibility. Will the platform you’ve chosen be able to keep up with modern developments in technology? You don’t want your business to miss out on new opportunities because of software that is out of your hands.

User safety. To maintain your community members’ trust, it’s important to choose a safe community platform that puts users’ privacy and safety above all else. 

Your budget. There’s no point investing in a community if you can’t afford the upkeep. Take a look at your budget, and find a platform that aligns with your financial goals. 


Establish Your Online Community 

Now you know the reasons why your business could benefit from building an online community, it’s time to get one up and running. 

Before you start, ensure you know the main goals behind creating your community. Is it to shape your product and better serve your clients? To create user-generated content? Help customers with troubleshooting? Or connect more deeply with your users? And how does this fit into your overall marketing strategy? 

Once you know the type of community you want to start and have found your perfect Community Manager, it’s time to create it on the platform of your choice. 

Remember to choose a platform that is suitable for your goals. It should be scalable and easy to manage. If you choose Panion, your members will gain access to community activity boards, space for members to quickly start conversations, share articles, join gatherings and events, get matched with a buddy or mentor with similar interests, and so much more…


Our final thoughts 


Choosing the best community platform for your business isn’t a process that should be rushed. It takes time to figure out what type of community will benefit your business most. It’s essential to choose a platform that meets both your customer’s and your business’s needs. By following the steps in this article, you should be well on your way to finding the right platform for you.

headshot of blogger Lily Jones
Lily Jones
As a contributor at Panion, Lily waves the flag for communities across the globe. You'll find her here most weeks, chatting with influential community managers, sharing tips on how to build a community and helping users to find their own corner of the community world.