An online community platform cannot guarantee the success of a community. However, when chosen right, it can aid the process of running an engaging, thriving community. An online community platform can, essentially, be the guiding force behind the amplification and scaling of an online community.
With so many options out there and no standardization in place, it is important, first, to understand how to choose an online community platform.
How to Choose an Online Community Platform
Even before you begin the selection process for an online community platform, it is important that you are sure about the concept of your community and the need for it. There is no point in investing in a platform if people aren’t interested in the concept. Facebook groups can be helpful, here. Test your hypotheses and observe how active your members are on the group.
A mailing list could be useful, too. Push the kind of content you are hoping people would discuss in the community, and measure your average open rates. It will give you a sense of how interested people are in the idea.
Define Your Goals
Establish what you want to achieve with the community. For instance, if you are running a community for ex-employees, your top goals could be to rehire from the pool, turn them into brand evangelists, and engage their help in hiring fresh talent. Depending on your goals, shortlist the capabilities you want in an online community platform. For example, if you plan to run a community that largely has people in the age range of 16-20, maybe the ability to run a mobile version of your community platform is an absolute necessity.
While your list of priorities will vary depending on your goals, here is a list of essential features that any modern online community platform must-have.
Essential Features of an Effective Online Community Platform
The ultimate goal with any online community is engagement. In that regard, any online community platform should have features that facilitate engagement between users. For example, Jambo has Integrated Chat, which allows users to have one-on-one, private chats. Similarly, it allows for real-time notifications, which users can toggle on or off. Such features are geared towards pushing a dialogue between users of a community.
Other must-have features of an online community platform are:
1. Ease of Use
An online community software should have an intuitive UI. You shouldn’t have to spend too much time on learning how to navigate the different sections of the community. Similarly, the software should have the capability to render content that’s compatible across different screen sizes. The UI should be such that it is easy for users to stay on top of latest content and contribute. For instance, Jambo has an interactive feed that displays updates. The feed can also be used to make announcements for upcoming events, or a change in existing rules of the community. Similarly, Jambo lets you create polls, easily, which can be used to gather feedback.
Such features make the application easy to use, which is crucial for high-engagement rates.
2. Data Security
Building trust is crucial when you are running a community, no matter how big or small, local or global. A good online community platform will meet international security standards. Certifications such as ISO 270001 and adherence to data regulations, such as GDPR, are a good indicator of a company’s commitment to the privacy of data.
As your community grows, your needs are going to change, too. A platform should be able to keep up with those needs. It should be flexible enough to accommodate different scenarios. For example, Jambo allows admins to change permissions. The feature is useful to control how publicly accessible a community is. For instance, if you want to run a super-secret underground community for software developers, you can easily toggle settings to allow only approved members to see and post content.
Similarly, Jambo allows admins to make groups within a community, which can be useful for streamlining conversations in a large community. Groups can be secret, invite-only, or open to all.
Agile software is what you should be looking for when hunting for an online community platform.