Managing a fast moving, engaged community can be a little like the Chocolate Factory episode of I Love Lucy.
The messages can come in so quickly that you just have to…
Eat them? Um, no maybe this analogy isn’t going to work. But it can be overwhelming to keep up with all of the interaction!
On the flip side, when you’re still building engagement, there are tools that can help you create content that your community will love.
These are the best online community tools that will help you keep that Community humming along.
9 Best Online Community Tools
My mother likes to remind me all the time how lucky I am to be able to work from home, doing something I love (managing the Pocket Business community among other things). And she’s right. I am lucky.
But it’s not just luck. Before I became a community manager, I was a helpful, active community member.
I have community tools that help keep things from being overwhelming.
So it’s a mix of luck, hard work and good tools.
And the first online community tool you probably need to choose is your community platform.
And there are many to choose from, but these are some of the ones I’ve used. Plus Facebook. Which I don’t use.
5 Best Online Community Platforms
Creating a Slack community is simple and there is a free tier which works well. Slack is one of the places we host our Odd Noodle community and we love it.
Slack allows for fast-moving conversations (this is where it gets a little like that I Love Lucy episode at times!). Your audience gets quick answers to their questions and also a chat-like dialogue when an interesting topic pops up.
For the platforms I’ve used, it’s the best for creating a true sense of community. There’s an immediate back and forth with you and with each other that really builds relationships.
For building an engaged audience, Slack is one of the best online community tools that I’ve used.
Circle is more of a forum/discussion based community platform. There is no free tier with Circle, so that is something to take into consideration when making your choice.
Circle is great for communities built around courses or coaching programs. It’s completely white label, so it can look like a seemless part of your brand.
It’s not meant to be the fast-moving river of conversation that Slack is, so it the discussions are more long form.
It’s also a great tool to use as a resource library for your members. There are ways to set up spaces that make accessing information easy.
Discourse is another option somewhat similar to Circle in it’s discussion style.
There is a lot that you can do with Discourse including building smaller groups, for example, we put together accountability groups in Discourse.
This can be done on most platforms, but I like Discourse best for that particular function.
There is a 14 day free trial for Discourse, but no free tier after that trial.
I’m including Facebook because Facebook Groups are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about starting an online community.
It’s a simple choice if your audience is already on Facebook. You don’t have to ask them to join another space.
Of course, Facebook is also full of distractions and all sorts of other messages that are not going to be yours. That’s important to think about when you’re making your choice for your online community platform.
Other Useful Online Community Tools
The platform that you choose will make managing your community, well, manageable. But there are other online community tools that will help as well.
Here are some to consider.
It’s so important to offer your community some face to face interaction!
Zoom is perfect for this. You can host informal live chats with your members, formal workshops, or you can even just record yourself delivering content via video and then offer that to the community.
There are other options like Google Meet that will work just as well, too.
Typeform (or other survey service)
Typeform is a survey service that I love to use, but there are lots of options for creating surveys.. And surveys are important to use in your community for a couple of reasons.
First, they are fun and interactive. Within Slack, there are tools like Polly that are great for posting an informal survey for people to take and see the results in real time.
Typeform is a good tool for collecting information about your community that you can use to help them solve more of their problems. You can also use Google Forms.
Not long ago we surveyed our members on their progress with a simple Typeform survey that asked about how much their businesses were earning. This was a private survey, the results were available publicly like a Polly survey would be.
The interesting thing that came out of the survey was that we noticed a strong correlation between their monetary success and their site design.
We hadn’t asked about that, but it was very obvious as went through the results. That led to putting together new solutions that would help with site design, something we weren’t really tackling at the time.
Building engagement is your number one task for community management. One way to build engagement is to alert your community to interesting articles or bits of information that is relevant to them.
A content curator is a great way to find things to share. Tools like Flipboard work well. You select the kind of content you want to be shown and Flipboard collects for you. Then you can choose what to disperse to your community.
You don’t really need a separate service for this. Your Twitter feed might be full of interesting tidbits that your community would love to see.
Xmind (or other mind mapping tools)
Mind mapping tools are a lot of fun to work with. It’s brainstorming, but digital and super organized.
Mind maps have a lot of different purposes, but for community management, a mind map is great for organizing ideas for prompts that will build engagement.
Asking a thoughtful, relevant question in your community is a great catalyst for conversation. But if you have a goal of posting a thoughtful, engaging question every day, you don’t want to find yourself staring at your screen asking,
“What should I ask?”
Mind maps will help. Here’s an example of one for blogging:
Looking at the mind map, I can come up with lots of different thought-provoking questions to pose to my community.
ClickUp or Other PM Tool
Keeping yourself organized is going to be an extremely important part of building a strong community.
Remember the Lucy imagery from the beginning of the post? When there’s a lot happening daily in the community it can be easy to let some of your longer term community goals fall to the wayside.
Pick Your Tools and Go Engage
I know I just wrote a whole post for you about the best online community tools, but do you know what the very best tool is for your community?
Use any or all of these tools to help you, but it’s you showing up daily for your community that is going to be greatest tool in your community management toolbox.