Social media has permanently changed how your users shop and exchange information on the products they purchase. Buying online has evolved from single, disjointed sales into recurring, communal experiences where buyers relate information, product reviews, and tips through social platforms.
Providing your own online community platform for your customers is one of the best ways to ensure you are generating a communal experience for your customers and visitors.
An online community platform is a platform where your customers can go to comment on, review, share, and relate to your products, events, and brand. It fosters community, reinforces loyalty, and makes your business far more accessible to your customers, increasing trust and positive sentiment.
Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn may pop into your mind when you think of online community platforms. However, there are a wide variety of online community solutions that allow you to build your own. These custom, alternative social communities provide various experiences that compliment existing channels while still providing an exclusive, branded experience.
Some of the benefits of building your own online community can include:
- Boost organic search from customer-generated content
- More social media shares and increased social proof
- Increase retention and return frequency
- More repeat sales
- Generate brand trust and loyalty
- Fine-tune products and services by addressing customer pain points
- Overall, get more quality, engaged traffic
If you are looking for a branded, customizable social experience for your customers that traditional social media can’t provide, check out these 12 software for building your own social network:
Hoop.la allows for the creation of a online community that you own. As the group owner, you retain complete control over member lists and content. You can give any group an awesome home base that is managed on your terms. Set your desired ground rules and retain ownership of all of your group's content and member info.
- Platform offers forums, chat, blog, a calendar, clips, and more.
- "Drag and drop" functionality for easy control and content creation.
- Optimized for use with other social media and mobile devices.
Hoop.la is ideal for the business owner looking for a user-friendly online community solution that's easy to integrate on the fly with their business and existing social media accounts. With no software to install and hosted entirely by Hoop.la, this online community minimizes headaches while maximizing functionality.
Ning was one of the first online community platforms in existence, and it was built from the ground up to optimize the social experience. The platform is hosted and scalable, and it includes all of the tools and expertise you might need to build your brand while creating a thriving community online. Ning is a one-stop solution that's user-friendly, dynamic, and affordable. Community owners retain total control of member lists and content.
- Trusted, experienced online community hub that's been in business since 2004.
- Includes the capacity for unlimited sub-group creation.
As an online community platform with longevity, Ning has fine-tuned its interface to appeal to a wide range of users and business owners. The help center / F.A.Q. is one of the most comprehensive in the business, so you're sure to get your questions answered efficiently and have a shorter learning curve.
Socius is a software-based community solution that was founded way back in 2002. The focus is today as it was in their beginning: to assist companies and organization in creating a place for their customers and supporters to "connect, interact and collaborate" around any aspect of the business or group.
- Flexible software that keeps evolving and adding new features for optimal customization.
- Document sharing, product management tools and media library features as well as wikis for fleshing out future ideas.
- Intuitive member profiles tools allow individual members to brand themselves as an expert in a specific product or industry.
The open design of Socious' social networking software offers large and mid-sized companies and organizations both functionality and flexibility in creating and launching their online communities. It allows very specific types of organizational goals, structures and requirements to be met fluidly and intuitively. This solution is ideal for B2B businesses, professional and trade associations, academic societies, software user groups and non-profits.
Groupsite brings together social media and the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Sometimes referred to as the next generation in online community building, Groupsite offers all the most requested features in a community platform site: discussion forums, blogging, calendars, files and media sharing, and dynamic member profile creation and management.
- Email blast capability as well as a recent email activity digest, usage statistics and privacy controls.
- Easy profile creation and sharing of external contacts, member endorsements, and private or public visibility.
- Excellent for maximizing SEO while building support for your brand.
If you're looking for a user-friendly way to provide customer support or community involvement, Groupsite just might be your ideal solution. Sharing documentation and providing a 24/7 support hub has never been easier for groups of any size than with an online community platform like Groupsite.
Pathable is a mobile event and social community creation app that is specifically geared toward use on tablets and smartphones. However, it's also much more than a mobile event app, because it allows for connecting audience members one another as well as your company content via any type of device before, during and after any event.
- Allow for the creation of searchable attendee directories and speaker profiles.
- Public discussion forums and private messaging capacity affords participants more opportunities to make important and meaningful connections as a result of attending your event.
- Integrates easily with dozens of registration and ticketing providers such as RegOnline, Eventbrite, Cvent, Experient, etouches, Xing Events, WuFoo and more.
If your business or organization hosts a lot of events and you want to take things to the next level, Pathable is a must. This dynamic solution allows your guests a deeper, richer connection experience at any event, and they'll come away with a strong, positive impression of your organization or brand.
YourMembership is an integrated solution for managing members, communications and events in an efficient and user-friendly manner. It is also excellent for automating workflows intuitively and effectively. YourMembership essentially offers two software products: one that focuses on managing members and member data from the cloud, and one that assists in the creation of online job boards.
- Easily connect with your members as well as area businesses.
- The platform and tools help to make your job easier by simplifying daily tasks and automating workflows.
- Membership management software or job board creation software is configurable and integrated, helping to showcase your organization to its full potential.
If your main concern is membership management and/or the creation of a dynamic and effective job board or career center, then YourMembership just could be for you. Easily create an online community based around your group's specific community influence and collect valuable member data through a dynamic membership community. Excellent for associations, non-profits, educational and alumni groups and chambers of commerce.
BuddyPress is an elegant and powerful suite of social networking tools and components made with WordPress in mind to assist users in building a dynamic but flexible online community. It is a powerful WordPress plugin that takes WordPress sites far beyond just the blog, allowing for social-network style features such as user profiles, groups, activity streams, and much more.
- Application allows for the developing, designing and testing of customized BuddyPress themes along with a great default theme.
- Friend connections allow people with similar interests to easily link up based upon dynamic profile creation.
- Activity streams enable an easy and intuitive way for multiple users to connect, interact and spark individual discussions.
If you're a fan of WordPress and WordPress reliant, then BuddyPress is the logical solution. The plugin allows for seamless integration with your WP blog or site. This tool could be ideal for creating an internal company communication tool, a social network for a school, a group focused on a new product or innovation, or a niche topic or interest group.
SocialEngine is one of the easiest and most user-friendly social platforms for creating your own online community or social media website. No coding or design skills are required, and your new site can be launched within minutes. Affinity groups allow for users to share their passions with like-minded people as well as discuss and give you feedback about your business and products.
- Easily create a private social network for employees and/or key community members without the need for a lot of IT knowledge.
- Fully unencrypted source code allows complete access to the PHP source code, allowing for the adding and integration of custom features.
- With SocialEngine, you get to keep your content; unlike other hosted services, you won't be prevented from serving your own ads or moving your community.
Whether you have just a lttle or quite a lot of technical experience, SocialEngine is a user group creation platform that facilitates the making of your custom social network at a very reasonable cost. With multiple social frameworks to choose from, different friendship levels, intuitive sub-networks creation and drag-and-drop content management, SocialEngine has it all.
Oxwall is an extremely flexible and user-friendly social networking software platform. It utilizes PHP/MySQL in a highly flexible way that allows for rapid change using Oxwall plugins. Each plugin functions as a total, standalone unit of functionality for a range of purposes. The Oxwall solution offers behind the scenes efficiency for full-featured sites. Best of all, it's free.
- User features include photo and video sharing, forums, blogs, forums, wiki, friends, events and groups as well as profile and privacy customization.
- Easy and seamless collaboration with file sharing and video-conferencing tools defined by plugins.
- Custom statistics available using a variety of different metrics.
Oxwall can assist with a wide range of projects from family related sites and custom-made social networks to dynamic collaboration as well as enterprise community solutions. This solution would be ideal for freelance developers looking to streamline their projects, a company looking to create a destination for customers, or someone looking to create a customized community site.
JomSocial is a premier community creation software application made especially for use with Joomla. Use JomSocial to easily turn a Joomla site into a dynamic social networking site, or add this functionality. It has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a premier online community creation application, but it's made for Joomla sites and blogs.
- Allows for your existing users to automatically have their own JomSocial profiles; works with Joomla templates just like any another extension.
- Members can easily post their status and add photos, videos, moods, location and more.
- Ease of commenting, sharing and liking, all with intuitive privacy control ability that’s easy, flexible and secure.
If your existing sites are reliant on Joomla and you want to create an online community or user group that's compatible, JomSocial is an excellent choice. Made with Joomla in mind, it functions just as any other Joomla plugin would.
11. Evoq Social
Evoq Social allows for the creation of thriving online communities that can be accessed across a wide variety of devices including mobile. Community members can keep conversations going and employees can answer questions and blog on the fly from either desktops, smartphones or tablets. Evoq provides an excellent user experience across all of these devices.
- Allows for the creation of one of the richer online community experiences.
- Mobile-ready in all of the areas that your community might wish to engage with members.
- Responsive design allows for simplified viewing on smartphones and tablets and a more complete experience on devices with larger viewports.
Why Evoq Social?
If you're looking to create a truly rich, intuitive and immersive online community experience on your own site, Evoq could be for you. The integrated interface will allow visitors to locate your site more easily, browse longer, engage more with your brand, and be far more likely to return.
Drupal is an open source content management platform created, used and supported by a diverse, active group of people worldwide. It can be used to build personal blogs as well as dynamic enterprise applications, and everything in between. You get to choose from literally thousands of modules that can be added on, in addition to designs for creating just about any type of site you can dream up.
- Open source and developed in PHP by a dynamic and very active user community.
- Has several thousand third-party developer modules available to add on to it as well.
- Distributions are pre-configured themes for creating highly feature-rich websites, online communities, online stores, media portals, and more.
Drupal is a capable, seasoned, and popular online community creation platform that includes all of the bells and whistles you would hope for, as well as support for OpenID, a workflow subsystem, excellent security, and more. If you're a hands-on developer who wants a highly customizable online community creation experience, Drupal can provide it.
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