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Community

Mapping the Growing Ecosystem of Community Tools

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.

Updated September 15, 2022 – When we first posted this article in August 2020, we had about 130 tools on this list. We’ve been steadily updating it over the past two years, and in this latest update we have almost 300 tools!

Community is a hot topic, 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 290 tools represented, it does start to paint a good picture of just how many tools community builders have to choose from. If you're building a new tool or know of a company that should be included, please let me know!

chart that shows all the various tools available for community builders to manage and grow their communities
👉 If you're more of a spreadsheet person, you can find all of the above tools in an Airtable here.

Before we dig in: if you're looking to build out your community management tool stack and you're finding the sheer volume of options out there a little overwhelming — I don't blame you! — be sure to check out our Essential Community Management Tools Guide.

🏠 Community Home Base (89)

A community home base forms the digital backbone of most communities. It’s the place where the community lives, and where most of the day-to-day conversations takes place. We’ve grouped them into three categories based on adoption, from big social and chat-based platforms like Facebook or Slack, to consumer tech such as Circle and Discourse, and Enterprise software such as Vanilla and inSided.

Big Social (22)

Platforms in this category have a big advantage wherein communities get the benefit of network effects. A community’s target persona may already be on the platform, removing the barrier to entry and encouraging growth.

These platforms encompass two main types:

  • Social media networks, where people communicate with friends and family (and strangers) as well as community groups. Notable examples: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit
  • Asynchronous chat platforms, which have a chat-style interface where conversations are often synchronous and ephemeral. Notable examples: Slack, Discord, WhatsApp, Telegram, Mattermost

Consumer Tech (42)

The largest of the Community Home Base categories, consumer tech platforms often have price points and features that are great for startups and entrepreneurs. Notable examples of consumer tech platforms are Mighty Networks, Circle, Discourse, Tribe, and Forem.

Enterprise Platforms (25)

Enterprise platforms have all the bells and whistles a large corporation needs to run an online community — strict security and data compliances, white-labeling, feature enablement, integrations, and a dedicated support rep, to name just a few.

Notable examples of enterprise platforms:

  • Vanilla – modern take on the classic forums
  • inSided, Zendesk Gather – specialization of forum software. inSided is forums for customer success, and Zendesk Gather is forums for customer support

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

📆 Event Tools (90)

Audio/Video/Events (67)

As companies really began to think about online interaction in our new virtual-first world, many new and interesting contenders appeared in the space, including:

  • Spatial.Chat, Mixaba – virtual parties, connections, and networking
  • Remo, Airmeet – virtual social lounges, with virtual tables for attendees to jump between
  • Crowdcast – webinar tool that aims to provide a more interactive experience, enabling hosts to ‘have meaningful live interactions with their audience’
  • Hopin, Tame, HeySummit – virtual conferences that to emulate many of the aspects of in-person conferences virtually, including sponsor booths, networking, and breakout sessions

👉 Read about our experience hosting the two-day virtual 2021 Community Club Summit for nearly 1,300 attendees on Hopin.

Event Management (23)

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 Meetup enable you to create a network of events and chapters.

👋 Networking Tools (11)

Networking or connection tools help community builders facilitate highly specific ways to bring members together outside of standard community communication (e.g. 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 connection tools designed to be used in addition to other core platforms.

Commsor’s Meetsy falls under the latter kind — it’s a self-contained connection platform, which you can also integrate with Slack.

📊 Analytics and CRM (29)

Platform specific analytic tools have sprung up to serve the gaps many popular community platforms have left open, including Chainfuel, which is built on top of Telegram. CommsorOS provides analytics across a range of platforms, from Slack to Circle to inSided and more. These analytics help CMs better understand their members, growth, and engagement.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools can help teams work cross-functionally and understand how customers and community members interact with the company across Community, Marketing, Sales, and Product. These tools will likely have analytics embedded in the product to better understand the customer journey. Notable names in this category include HubSpot, Insightly, and Close.

📣 Marketing Tools (40)

Email & Social Media Marketing (29)

With the rise of newsletters’ popularity in the past few years, we’ve seen so many newsletter tools launch. Some notable tools in this category are:

Social Media Management (11)

Social media management tools help with everything from creating content calendars to graphics to scheduling posts. Notable tools in this category include Hootsuite and SproutSocial, which provide publishing and scheduling, analytics, and social listening features.

📓 Administrative Tools (29)

Membership Tools (14)

Membership tools offer companies and creators a way to monetize their communities and collect one-time or recurring fees from members. There are a range of tools available, whether you charge for member-exclusive content or perks (or both). The most well-known of these might be Patreon, which is extremely popular with content creators. Tools like Podia let you sell courses and digital products while you build your community, while LaunchPass lets communities charge for access to Slack and Discord.

Documentation (9)

CMs often have a lot of documents and data to sift through, whether that’s member information or your community code of conduct. Tools like Notion let you organize and view your data in a multitude of ways, while Atlassian has different tools under its umbrella depending on what you need.

Automation (6)

Automation and integration tools let you build workflows that enable you to work faster, either within the tool itself or by connecting tools to one another. Notion and Airtable both have in-built automation features. Zapier and IFTTT help connect different tools to streamline your work or bring data in one place.

✨ 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 2020 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 — to help Community Managers connect, manage, understand and measure your community across all of your tools and channels, all in one place.

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

When we first published this post in June 2020, we had about 130 tools on this list. Today we’ve got 300! The community industry has seen phenomenal growth in the last two years, including growth in the tools that serve the industry’s needs as well. So where do we go from here? 

Commsor's Community Operations Manager DL Grant believes that number will just continue to climb. “The landscape will continue to flourish with innovation and new tools to meet all the niche needs of community. Tools with rich UI, an abundance of integrations, and their own thriving communities will stand out and take the lead in the coming years!”

Andrew Claremont, Founder at Community Stacks, says tools that tie community to business value and the rest of the organization will win. “Over the coming years, I expect that community tools will need to demonstrate both how communities deliver tangible value to the business, and how they, as tools, fit within the stack of platforms that businesses already use."

“Communities shouldn't exist in a vacuum. Neither should the tools we use to manage them. Tools that don't integrate with existing systems will not be as compelling, or as relevant, as their competitors.”

We're going to have our work cut out for us keeping this post up to date, aren't we? If the past two years are anything to go by, the future looks bright for community tools.

If you're building a Community-Led company, creating 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.

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WRITTEN BY
Mac Reddin
Jun 14, 2020

CEO at Commsor

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