Mapping the Growing Ecosystem of Community Tools

Update August 18, 2020 - Many new tools have launched or been brought to our attention since originally posting this, and we've now updated the graphic and post with 43 new tools! There are now more than 170 tools represented in this graphic.

Community is a hot topic right now and the world of community is exploding with new tools and platforms. We get asked all the time about various tools in the community space, or if we've heard of a new product that just launched.

At Commsor we started keeping track of community tools, and have compiled them all into the graphic you see below. The plan is to keep updating this post and graphic on a regular basis as new tools launch and we become aware of them.

This is by no means a completely exhaustive list, but with more than 130 represented it does start to paint a good picture of just how many community building tools are out there. If you're building a new tool or know of a company that should be included, please let me know!

Before diving in, its worth noting that 63 (45%) of the tools are less than 3 years old! Update - the new version of this list contains many newer tools, meaning that 101, or nearly 60%, are less than 3 years old! This explosion in new tools can especially be seen in the "virtual events" and "other platforms" categories.

👉 If you're more of a spreadsheet person, you can find all of the above tools in an Airtable here.

🏗 Platforms (86)

These community platforms tend to form the digital backbone of most communities, from social groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, to forums such as Vanilla and Discourse, and chat-based platforms like Slack or Discord.

Forum Platforms (42)

Tools in this category primarily use threaded, forum style conversations with topics. This is the most sizable category, with both a large number of older, more traditional forum tools (vBulletin, Higher Logic, nodeBB), and many very new entrants (Playgroup, Tribe, Circle, etc).

Notable examples of forums:

It's also definitely worth mentioning Chaordix. They power LEGO Ideas, one of the coolest communities out there!

Chat Platforms (21)

While similar to their forum counterparts, chat platforms are categorized by a chat style interface, often live and more ephemeral than threaded forum conversations. Big names in this space include Discord, Telegram and Slack.

Other Platforms (20)

The tools in this category didn't quite fit into just chat or forum for whatever reason. Most of them have built out more specialized features, such as verticalizing for e-commerce brand communities, or providing white-label mobile apps.

Some notable examples:

Voice Platforms (3)

A relatively new category, these tools are primarily audio based (think live chat and live podcasts). This category contains three entrants (so far) - Chalk, Clubhouse and Space.

📆 Event Tools  (53)

Virtual Events (25)

"Think beyond the webinar." As tools really begin to think about online interaction in our new virtual-first world, many new and interesting contenders have appeared in the space, including:

Virtual Conferences (7)

A distinct enough category to stand apart from virtual events, the virtual conference space has been pushed front and center in the past few months as the entire world scrambled to move online. Most of the players in this space are less than a year old, including Hopin, Tame, HeySummit and Vito.

This platforms go well beyond your classic webinars, attempting to emulate many of the aspects of in-person conferences virtually, including sponsor booths, networking, and breakout sessions. Definitely a space to keep an eye on!

We recently hosted a two day virtual summit for nearly 1,300 attendees on Hopin. Read more about our experiences here!

Event Management (12)

Event management tools enable registration, tickets, and other infrastructure needed for hosting both in-person and virtual events. More traditional options here include Eventbrite and Tito, while tools like Bevy and Meetup enable you to create a network of events and chapters.

Webinar (9)

While there are definitely many more webinar tools than documented here, these are the primary ones that we've seen used by community teams to facilitate community events as opposed to traditional marketing webinars.

Crowdcast is specifically interesting in this space, as they aim to provide a more interactive experience, enabling hosts to "have meaningful live interactions with their audience".

👋 Engagement Tools (14)

An engagement tool is a mechanism for community builders to facilitate highly specific ways to bring members together outside of standard community communication (eg. forum or chat). The tools in this category are either built on top of existing platforms (such as Slack), or act as their own self-contained engagement tools (like Toasty) designed to be used in addition to other core platforms.

Lowdown, Sparkly, and Donut are all built on top of the ever-growing Slack community ecosystem and provide ways to curate engagement amongst community members.

📊 Analytics (5)

Platform specific analytic tools have sprung up to serve the gaps many popular community platforms have left open, including Komms and Chainfuel, both built on top of Telegram. These analytics help community managers better understand their members, growth, and engagement.

✨ Operating System (1)

With the increasing need for community and the explosion in community tools, more and more community builders find themselves running their communities using multiple tools and platforms. At the recent Community Chat Summit we hosted, a poll of attendees found that 72% regularly use 3 or more tools to manage their community, and 10% regularly use more than 5!

This is why we're building Commsor, helping community managers connect, manage, understand and measure your community across all of your tools and channels, all in one place. We're in early access, but would love to show you what we're building!

What does the next 10 years look like for community tools?

At the Community Chat Summit two weeks ago, John Peterson, Rob Gelb, John Saddington and Jason Grad presented a great panel on the future of virtual community tools and digital engagement. You can watch the full recording of this panel below!

Who is investing in community tools?

As the ecosystem of community-driven companies and tools explodes, investors are also increasingly taking notice. While they aren't included in the graphic above, a couple of investors that immediately jump to mind:

Jesse Middleton at Flybridge

Li Jin

Ben Hassler at Polymath

Ryan Hoover at Weekend Fund

Alexis Ohanian at Initialized

Sarah Drinkwater at Omidyar

Jess Lee at Sequoia

Stephen Wemple at Spero Ventures

Brianne Kimmel at Work Life

Betaworks

Collaborative Fund

If you're starting a community-driven company, building a community tool, or investing in the community industry, feel free to reach out and chat! We're always excited to talk about community and see what others are working on.

Part of the formatting of this post was inspired by Pietro Invernizzi's Future of Work post.

Mac Reddin
CEO at Commsor

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