January 28

The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You’re Done With Facebook

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I truly believe that owning a digital course business is the single most powerful and exciting way to make an impact in the world while growing your income. I also truly believe that you need to know where to go to find your community (aka the people who will buy your course). That’s why you need a list of the 10 best community platforms for course creators who are done with Facebook.

It’s also why I’m so excited about this Ultimate Online Course-Creation Starterkit, which is jam-packed with everything you need to know about finding your people. The ones who are going to buy your course.

If you have an online course or programme, or you’re thinking of launching one, it’s very possible that you also want to have a community as part of that, because learning with others has been proven to be more effective for individuals.

I can also imagine that with all the recent shenanigans of big social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter making up rules on the spot as to what they allow you to do and not do, shutting accounts down and basically playing God with us mere mortals, that you probably don’t want to use or rely on them for your marketing and community building efforts. 

I’ve been thinking the same thing, especially after recently having Facebook ban my Facebook Ads Account overnight; one that I’ve had for almost 10 years and never had a problem with. 

The fact that they were able to just take away this avenue of targeted marketing, citing the reason was that they ‘thought I was a Trump supporter’ (how insulting), seemed utterly ridiculous to me, and left me feeling completely helpless and frustrated. 

It’s got me thinking seriously about what it looks like to build an online business and online courses without the use of social media at all.  That, and watching The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary (a must-watch for all of us) clearly showed how manipulated we are by social media sites.

⭐  That’s why I’ve put together this ultimate guide to the 10 best community platforms for course creators and community builders who are DONE with Facebook groups. 

Woman looking at her cell phone

Up to now Facebook groups have been one of the easiest and most convenient places to run a community linked to your online course or programme, right? For one, everyone seems to be on Facebook. Except…they’re not.

And two, the groups are currently free. A few years back Facebook did a great job of improving their group features to include units to post your lessons and the ability to post resources, and even credit top members of your group. They were making a play for you to do EVERYTHING on their platform including hosting your course within your group.

Remember, on Facebook, you don’t own your groups. And not everyone who joins your course wants to be part of yet another Facebook group. I’ve actually discovered this with my own course students recently, and this has made me pretty determined to look at other options, so that I can offer up an alternative place to engage, connect, support, and grow as a community.

Here’s the thing, though: You want those platforms to allow for vibrant communities. You want your students to enjoy being there – you want them to wake up in the morning and make a cup of coffee and head on over to where you’re at, right? And you also want it to be really intuitive for them to use. It would be really great if it had similar Facebook features so they can get to grips with it easily and be on their way.

What would be even better? A space you own 100%. A space that can never be taken away from you (as Facebook did with my ads account recently – that was really a ton of fun).

So, where do we find the 10 best community platforms for course creators?

What are your alternatives to building a community for your online course? 

Not all platforms and tools are created equal. Get the wrong site for your needs and you may undo all of the many hours you spent slaving away developing the very course you’re trying to sell! And nobody has time for that!

I’ve rated and reviewed the best of the best platforms and tools to ensure you match the right one to your needs. This post is chock-full of valuable insights and important recommendations so that you can rock your own membership-focussed offerings like a pro. 

It’s actually broken down into platforms you can use for pure community building; platforms that let you host a community and a course; and course-only platforms, depending on your needs.  My Virtual Assistant and my Digital Business Manager have spent hours checking out all these platforms too, so we’ve done our research into the 10 best community platforms for course creators. And at the end, we’ll tell you which membership sites are our faves!

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Here’s what is included in this Ultimate guide to the 10 best community platforms for course creators who are done with Facebook.

You can simply click on the section that interests you most and skip straight to it or I recommend reading it from start to finish AND bookmarking this page to come back to.

  1. What makes a great membership site
  2. 11 features of great membership sites
  3. Standard glossary
  4. My pick of membership sites
  5. MightyNetworks
  6. Circle
  7. Podia
  8. Simplero
  9. Wild Apricot
  10. System.io
  11. Kajabi
  12. Buddyboss
  13. Memberpress
  14. Learndash
  15. Minds

This post covers features such as peer-to-peer comms; directory for members; pricing; availability for different tiers of membership within each platform; whether it’s a WP Plugin like Learndash or stand-alone software; features; reviews; and urls.

What Makes A Great Membership Site for Course Creators?

Image that says Benefits of memberships

Firstly, let’s look at what actually makes a great membership site to host your community on.

Honestly, when you’re looking at the 10 best community platforms for course creators your decision will depend on your specific needs and your strategy.

So, it’s important to make sure you actually have a strategy in the first place:

  • How often do you want to connect with your community?
  • What do you want to connect about?
  • In which ways do you want to connect with them?

The next step is to understand your community’s needs. You know them best (well, I hope you do), so think about how they want to interact with you. 

What problems do they have? What are they motivated by? Where are they gathering online? It’s important to know where your community is and how they’re already engaging online.

Are they super-interactive, thriving on community engagement, and do they need group chats and hosted online events?

It’s worth ranking their requirements after you’ve surveyed them, as well. Your initial list may be incredibly daunting, so it’s all right to eliminate some requirements or combine them.

Then you can group your requirements into a tier system – from important to medium and least important.

That’s not to say that your choice of platform will always be perfect for your needs; your needs are going to grow and change as your business develops. Remember to keep an eye on engagement levels and what your community needs and wants.

Smart feature and functionality checklists are mandatory.  Try and have a checklist already compiled so you can rank different vendors and give them scores – hopefully this post will help with that. Look for the things that are most important to you – you don’t need everything.

Also, speak with peers and colleagues and find out who they’ve used in the past. When dealing with each platform, make sure that you compare them to your checklist. And remember, the checklist isn’t your final answer but is an important decision-making tool you can use.

11 Features of Great Membership Sites

So, you might be thinking, that’s all great, but how do I actually KNOW what makes a good membership site? What features should I be looking for? Start by considering the following 11 features when deciding on your community platform, and you’ll be on your way to creating a thriving online community.

Also remember that while a community platform is about profit, it’s much more about relationships and interaction. So, here are a few things for you to look for before we dive into the 10 best community platforms for course creators.

1. Let’s You Create Your Superusers

An online community should always support and showcase its superusers. A passionate community that feels empowered by you will develop into your brand advocates. This means they’ll recommend you to other people, create trust for your brand, and ultimately increase your revenue. Hello, marketing potential!

2. Useful And Authentic Content

I am all about high-quality content. It’ll be your bestie for life. So, you want to be in an environment that expects its users to create user-generated content (UGC). This increases engagement between all the members in the community – and that means stronger bonds, and increased value, for you and everyone else too.

Platforms and communities that encourage UGC have more members, and are always growing. Content that is written by real people is trusted and shared more often, and this helps the community grow and thrive.

In my $10K Club, the members are in the group all the time, asking #questions, sharing #wins, and letting people know when there’s cause to #celebrate

Image of various screenshots from a facebook group

That’s what you want for your community too. Trust me.

3. Mobile-optimised

It’s more important than ever that websites are mobile-friendly. Obviously! More than 50% of the world’s population accesses the internet from phones or tablets. Isn’t that off-the-charts? 

So, a successful online community has to be mobile-responsive, and offer a seamless experience. Even better, if it has a mobile app to support its desktop platform like MightyNetworks does, then you’re far more likely to keep your members engaged and logged in. Because when they’re logged in, they’re plugged in and learning – and that is GOLD for your business and for their results.

4. Collaboration

Does the platform you’re looking at allow its community to crowdsource ideas? This is a major deal! Say you want to gauge interest or collect ideas about a new project you have in mind. How are you going to do that if you can’t collaborate with your most invested customers and other community members? The answer is, you can’t.

Great community platforms have features that allow people to submit ideas, vote, and add comments, like polls, surveys, and simple upvotes to ideas.

5. Track Users

This is huge. Like…HUGE. The best online communities use data and analytics tools to track shifts in ideas and sentiments; topics people are looking for; and analyse which people are more likely to take part in conversations. This helps you create relevant content and adapt to shifts in attitudes and perspectives. And that is what you want, right? Because you’re a leading learner who is also teaching people stuff. Makes sense.

Plus you’ll want to track how many of your members are logging in, contributing, spending time in your community and all their movements, without being all big-brother stalker-like, you know?

6. Reputation System

This is a system that basically allows users to get to know each other and foster trust. It’s kind of like English class but waaaay cooler, and without all the prescribed readings.

It recognises users for their participation by establishing what content is most high-quality. This ensures high-quality content is always being created. And that just takes your business to a whole other level – you learn. They learn. Everyone is learning. It’s like Dead Poets Society up in your face. Loves it.

7. Integration

The best online communities offer full integration with existing systems, allowing your brand to offer the best customer service possible and collect important data. Make sure to tie in your existing CRM system so you can answer all questions and offer top client support.

So, if you’re all like “OMG, how am I going to connect my email to my course to my online community to my funnels to my social media challenges to my bra straps”…this little feature has got your back.

8. Make it Personal

A great platform will curate content, showing you what’s relevant to you. This way you’re treated as an individual and you can treat your community members that way too. And that’s what we all want in life, right? To be seen. To be acknowledged. To fill the deep gaping void created during childhood….wait, that’s a whole other blog post.

9. Variety Of Content

Is your community of choice visual? This will almost certainly drive more traffic. Photos, videos, galleries…they all help with engagement. And this will increase your community size.

Variety is Queen. Just ask your taste buds.

10. Search Capability

You may create a piece of content that is GOLD for other community members. But as more and more content appears on the platform, that one will get buried. No, no, no. We do not want that. That would be bad.

To make sure it retains its value and potential for engagement, a searchable repository is a must-have feature for online community platforms.

11. Gaming Mechanics

Also known as gamification, this allows users to award each other badges or similar rewards. People love prizes. It’s basically hard-wired into our brains that we should always be receiving accolades for everything. Wait…maybe that’s just millennials. Either way, it increases the impetus for sharing and interaction and makes for a more sophisticated member journey experience.

Standard Glossary

Image with wooden blocks saying Glossary

Some of these words/phrases you might not have heard before. So, while penning this love letter about the 10 best community platforms for course creators, I wanted to make sure you understand everything. Here’s a simple glossary to get you speaking the lingo, and to help you know exactly what you’re looking at.

Stand-alone:

The programme isn’t part of bundled software. You can build your entire business infrastructure in one place.

Plugin:

This means the tool requires you to have a site set up already to plugin. Most commonly this is the case on WordPress, where you install a plugin and can instantly use all its features. 

Zapier Integration:

Want to connect your Gmail to your Slack? Or your course platform to Mailchimp? Zapier lets you do that. It’s an online automation tool that lets you connect two or more apps, without the hassle of coding or developers.

SSO (Single Sign-On):

If you already have a gazillion passwords, then this nifty software lets you log in with a single ID and password to various related, but independent systems. In fact, the BIG MAMMA of SSO lets you log in once and access everything without having to re-enter any authentication at all.

My Pick Of Membership Sites For Course Creators

Does it all

These platforms allow you to grow your community and host courses. Each of them is basically a one-stop-shop for your brand.

MightyNetworks

Logo for Mighty Networks

As its website says, this is “So much more than a community platform.”

MightyNetworks has transitioned into a website builder, so you can start with your website and build from there. It brings together your content, community, online courses, and memberships. Everything about your brand is all in one place, but without the noise of Facebook.

Choose the Free or Premium Plan and immediately invite people to join you. You can also select your features from articles and blogs to polls, events, topics, and courses.

Overview: Out of the Stand-alones, this has a FREE forever membership, but with limited features.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Unlimited members
  • Your own web landing page
  • It’s become very popular in the coaching community 

(Note from Natalie: I was part of a Mastermind using this platform and I love that I could host my courses there, have the community section for chat, Q&A, etc, post my coaching call recordings and have calendar invites in for future calls, as well as direct messaging other members and seeing who’s who on the directory.)

Features

  • Charge for membership
  • Mighty Networks has its own iOS & Android apps
  • Share and post topics & blog articles
  • Direct messaging between members and a directory

Pricing

  • The Free Plan
    • FREE forever
    • Personalised activity feeds for members
    • Topics, articles, and direct messaging
    • Make public, private, or paid
  • The Community Plan
    • $23/mo, annual +2 mos free
    • $28/mo, monthly
    • Your own web domain
    • Unlimited moderators
    • Charge for membership
  • The Business Plan
    • $81 per month annual, +2 mos free
    • $98 per month monthly
    • Can host online courses within your community
    • 2,000+ Zapier integrations
    • Premium analytics

Circle

Circle Logo - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

This is a modern community platform for creators who want to bring together discussions, memberships, and content.

You can integrate a thriving community wherever your audience is, all under your own brand.

Overview: Has Zapier integration and SSO with Memberstack and MemberSpace.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Directory for members
  • Peer to peer comms
  • 3 tiers of membership (Basic, Professional, Enterprise)

Features

  • Very flexible, so it can be embedded into your own web pages
  • Can be used for various communities (including membership sites, course communities, customers or product communities)
  • Can be used as a plug-and-play solution for creating a structured space for your audience (whether you host a podcast, write blogs and newsletters, or have a YouTube channel)
  • You can customise your platform, as well as white label it to your brand at the same time
  • User accounts can be created with your community so members can get started right away (members can also be tagged for organisation and recognition purposes)
  • Spaces (these are like channels in Slack). Posts within these spaces are called topics. Spaces are fully customisable, and you can organise your spaces into Space Groups.
  • Configurable notifications
  • Searchability
  • Real-time direct messaging

Pricing

  • BASIC
    • $39/mo
    • 1,000 Monthly Active Members
    • 10 spaces
    • Custom domain
    • Zapier integration
    • SSO with Memberstack and MemberSpace
  • PROFESSIONAL
    • $79/mo
    • 10,000 Monthly Active Members
    • 100 spaces
    • API Access
    • Complete white-labeling
    • Custom CSS & JavaScript
    • Advanced reporting
    • SSO with WordPress and Memberful
    • Priority email support
  • ENTERPRISE
    • $199/mo
    • 100,000 Monthly Active Members
    • 1,000 spaces
    • 3 communities
    • Custom SSO via OAuth
    • Account manager

Podia

Podia - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: One place that allows you to sell online courses, webinars, downloads, and memberships, without worrying about the tech (it’s also where I host my courses – WHOOP!)

 

Natalie's courses on podia

 

Overview: Not only can you sell your amazingness, but you can also build your website and grow your email list with their inbuilt marketing. Two price options are available.

Note from Natalie: While their membership functionality is limited at this time, I just talked to their Marketing Director and am thrilled that by mid year they will have a fully fledged community functionality! It’s super-easy to set up a recurring membership subscription with annual or monthly pricing, create membership posts and allow embers to access specific courses you have on Podia, which I love!

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Unlimited video hosting
  • Sell and market webinars
  • Sell as many digital products and courses as you like

Features

  • Free migration from other course platforms
  • Live customer support that rocks
  • 11 languages and 22 currencies
  • Customisable branding and flexible layout
  • Website and landing page drag-and-drop builder
  • Drip content for your courses and emails
  • Email marketing built in and direct messaging for customers to you
  • Affiliate programme on two of the pricing plans
  • 1-Click upsells
  • Ability to bundle products and cross-sell products

Pricing

  • MOVER
    • $39/mo (save $78 when paid annually)
    • Your own website
    • Online courses
    • Digital downloads
    • Webinars
    • Email marketing
    • Messaging
    • Additional teammates ($20/mo each)
    • Zero transaction fee
    • Unlimited products, customers, emails sent, sales, and files hosted
    • 7-days-a-week support
    • Free migrations
  • SHAKER
    • $79/mo (save $159 when paid annually)
    • Your own website
    • Online courses
    • Digital downloads
    • Webinars
    • Email marketing
    • Messaging
    • Additional teammates ($20/mo each)
    • Zero transaction fee
    • Unlimited products, customers, emails sent, sales and files hosted
    • 7-days-a-week support
    • Free migrations
    • Memberships
    • Zoom integration
    • Blogs
    • Offsite buy buttons
    • Affiliate marketing
    • Third-party code

Simplero

Simplero - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: One simple software that allows entrepreneurs to scale their business through marketing, online courses, and memberships.

Overview: The bottom two pricing plans are pretty limited. Once you’re on the top plan, things get interesting.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Grow Your Email List
  • Create Products & Programmes
  • Build Sales Funnels

Features

  • No integration hassles
  • Fast and simple setup
  • Complete customer insights
  • Manage payments
  • Maintain your website
  • Website builder
  • Landing pages

Pricing

  • BUILD
    • $24 per 30 days billed annually
    • $29 per 30 days billed monthly
    • All Core Features
    • Contacts−+ 1000
    • Storage 10 GB
    • Products Draft
    • Membership sites Draft (you can publish one on the LAUNCH plan)
  • LAUNCH
    • $83 per 30 days billed annually
    • $99 per 30 days billed monthly
    • All Core Features
    • Contacts−+ 1000
    • Storage 100 GB
    • Products 5
    • Membership sites (only one, but unlimited on the RULE THE WORLD plan)
    • Worksheets & Quizzes
    • Subscriptions
    • Concierge migration Included with Annual 5hrs
  • RULE THE WORLD
    • $124 per 30 days billed annually
    • $149 per 30 days billed monthly
    • All Core Features
    • Contacts−+ 1000
    • Storage 1 TB
    • Products Unlimited
    • Membership sites Unlimited
    • Worksheets & Quizzes
    • Subscriptions
    • Upsells & Downsells
    • Concierge migration Included with Annual 10Hrs

Wild Apricot

Personify Wild Apricot - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: Easy membership management software!

Allows you to automate and simplify membership tasks for yourself, your members, volunteers, and board.

Overview: This is the 2nd cheapest out of all Stand-alones, but it is Contacts-basis pricing. This is more membership basis without features of peer-to-peer communication/hangout.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Email and Contact Database
  • Member Database
  •  A website builder designed especially for membership sites

Features

  • Email and contact database
  • Event management
  • Member database
  • Mobile app
  • Online store
  • Payments
  • Website builder 

Pricing

  • FREE                   FREE *                50 contacts
  • PERSONAL         $40/mo           100 contacts
  • GROUP                $50/mo            250 contacts
  • COMMUNITY      $90/mo           500 contacts
  • PROFESSIONAL $160/mo          2,000 contacts
  • NETWORK           $290/mo         5,000 contacts
  • ENTERPRISE       $350/mo        15,000 contacts
  • GLOBAL               $600/mo        50,000 contacts

Systeme.io

systeme - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: Has all the features you need to run an online business from a single place, making life and business easier. You can build sales funnels, set up email campaigns, sell products, run courses and webinars, and fully automate your business.

Overview: The best Clickfunnels alternative.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Sales Funnels
  • Email Marketing
  • Sell Products

Features

  • Online courses
  • Drop shipping
  • Launch your blog
  • Run evergreen webinars
  • Create an affiliate programme
  • Automate your business

Pricing

  • Startup
    • $27/mo
    • 5,000 contacts
    • Unlimited emails
    • Unlimited sales funnels
    • Unlimited blogs
    • 3 membership sites
    • 0 custom domains
    • Unlimited file storage space
    • Unlimited membership site members
    • Marketing automation
    • 1-click upsells
    • Order bumps
    • Stripe integration
    • Paypal integration
    • Run your own affiliate program
    • 24/7 email and chat support
  • Webinar
    • $47/mo
    • 10,000 contacts
    • Unlimited emails
    • Unlimited sales funnels
    • Unlimited blogs
    • 5 membership sites
    • 2 custom domains
    • Unlimited file storage space
    • Unlimited membership site members
    • Marketing automation
    • 1-click upsells
    • Order bumps
    • Stripe integration
    • Paypal integration
    • Run your own affiliate program
    • 24/7 email and chat support
    • 3 evergreen webinars
    • Coupon codes
    • A/B tests
  • Enterprise
    • $97/mo
    • 15,000 contacts
    • Unlimited emails
    • Unlimited sales funnels
    • Unlimited blogs
    • Unlimited membership sites
    • 5 custom domains
    • Unlimited file storage space
    • Unlimited membership site members
    • Marketing automation
    • 1-click upsells
    • Order bumps
    • Stripe integration
    • Paypal integration
    • Run your own affiliate program
    • 24/7 email and chat support
    • Unlimited evergreen webinars
    • Coupon codes
    • A/B tests
    • 1-on-1 kickstart coaching session

Kajabi

Kajabi - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: Kajabi has everything you need to grow in one place. You can access your website, products, marketing, community, and more from a single dashboard. 

Overview: Out of the Stand-alones, this is the most expensive. It has Unlimited Landing Pages and Unlimited Marketing Emails for basic and growth plans.

Note from Natalie: A lot of people really like Kajabi as it offers most of what you need including the ability to create a pretty cool sales funnel for your courses, and offers affiliate marketing to help you promote further. It’s not easy to make the sales and landing pages look good, though, and that’s a major limitation unless you know some fancy HTML coding. The hosting of your course looks really good and the interface is clean and clear and easy to use.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Unlimited marketing emails
  • Unlimited landing Ppages
  • When it comes to membership site creation, Kajabi has the most to offer for a hosted platform. It allows you to host your videos, create quizzes and surveys, drip feed your content as well as set pre-requisite lessons.

Features

  • Easy to build websites from scratch or use a template available (for Online Courses/Webinars)
  • Email Marketing/Campaigns
  • Payment integration
  • Additional Plug-ins can include: can redirect links from WP

Pricing

  • BASIC
    • $119/mo
    • Billed annually
    • Start for free
    • 3 Products
    • 3 Pipelines
    • Unlimited Landing Pages
    • Unlimited Marketing Emails
    • 10,000 Contacts
    • 1,000 Active Members
    • 1 Website
    • 1 Admin User
    • Kajabi University
    • 0% Transaction Fee
    • Webinars & Events
    • Ready to Use Templates
    • Assessments (Quizzes & Surveys)
    • Chat Support
    • Automations
  • GROWTH
    • $159/mo
    • Billed annually
    • Start for free
    • 15 Products
    • 15 Pipelines
    • Unlimited Landing Pages
    • Unlimited Marketing Emails
    • 25,000 Contacts
    • 10,000 Active Members
    • 1 Website
    • 10 Admin Users
    • Kajabi University
    • 0% Transaction Fee
    • Webinars & Events
    • Ready to Use Templates
    • Assessments (Quizzes & Surveys)
    • 24/7 Chat Support
    • Advanced Automations
    • Ability to Remove Kajabi Branding
    • Affiliate Program
  • PRO
    • $319/mo
    • Billed annually
    • Start for free
    • 100 Products
    • 100 Pipelines
    • Unlimited Landing Pages
    • 2,000,000 Marketing Emails
    • 100,000 Contacts
    • 20,000 Active Members
    • 3 Websites
    • 25 Admin Users
    • Kajabi University
    • 0% Transaction Fee
    • Webinars & Events
    • Ready to Use Templates
    • Assessments (Quizzes & Surveys)
    • 24/7 Chat Support
    • Advanced Automations
    • Ability to Remove Kajabi Branding
    • Affiliate Program
    • Code Editor

Doesn’t do it all

These plugins are linked to a system you already have running. You can use them to sell memberships, courses and build communities but you can’t build websites.

Buddyboss

buddy boss - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: Sell memberships, courses, and build online communities.

BuddyBoss makes it easy for you to build on WordPress, the world’s #1 open-source platform, giving you the flexibility, control, and freedom you need, to create a successful online platform.

Overview: This is a mid-range option, out of the 3 plug-ins. It has an annual site license feature for either 1, 5, or 10 sites.

Type: Plug-in (WordPress)

Top 3 Benefits

  • Has a directory for Members
  • Peer to Peer comms
  • Availability for tiers within membership

Features

  • You have the flexibility to extend the feature set using existing free and premium plugins, or even build your own should you come across a unique scenario that is important for your project
  • You have complete control over your website. Their software is open-source, which means you can modify, add to, and make any changes to it.
  • You have the freedom and options to host your site anywhere, to break free from them. Being on WordPress gives you lots of options.
  • As you grow, the software grows with you. You have the freedom to implement new tactics as you learn, iterate, and improve.
  • Customisable member profiles
  • Public, private, or hidden social groups
  • Forum discussions (bulletin board-type style)
  • Private messaging
  • Albums and media
  • Events using Events Calendar Pro plug-in (site-wide or group only events for members)

Pricing

Price starts at $228 for 1 site (annual license) 

5 sites for $288/year

10 sites for $328

All of these include priority support and a year of updates, as well as the BuddyBoss Theme and BuddyBoss Platform Pro.

Memberpress

memberpress - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: The “All-In-One” Membership Plugin for WordPress,

MemberPress will help you build astounding WordPress membership sites, accept credit cards securely, sell online courses, control who sees your content, and sell digital downloads… all without the difficult setup.

Overview: Out of the 3 Plug-ins, this is the cheapest (the other two are BuddyBoss and Learndash). It currently offers a 3-month free OptinMonster trial and OptinMonster University access plus 3-month free TrustPulse trial.

Type: Plug-In (WordPress)

Top 3 Benefits

  • Membership Directory
  • Peer to Peer comms
  • Membership Tiers

Features

  • Will help you confidently create, manage and track membership subscriptions and sell digital download products.
  • Memberpress integrates with many third-party solutions (ActiveCampaign, ConverKit, HelpScout, MailChimp, PayPal, and Stripe) for processing payments, running an affiliate programme, email, and more.
  • Allows you to manage your members by granting and revoking their access to posts, pages, videos, categories, tags, feeds, communities, digital files, and more, based on membership type.
  • Easy setup
  • Easily build and sell courses
  • Coupons so you can run promotions and giveaways
  • Passwords-protected community forums
  • Works with any WordPress theme
  • Timed release of content (content-dripping)
  • Clear, relevant reporting
  • Zapier integration
  • Subscription management

Pricing

Price starts at $149 for one site.

  • BASIC
    • $ 149 /Year
    • $100 savings *
    • Use on 1 Site
    • Unlimited Members & Content
    • Works with PayPal & Stripe
    • Create & Sell Online Courses
    • 1 Year of Support and Updates
    • More than 10 Add-Ons & Integrations
    • 3-Month Free OptinMonster Trial and OptinMonster University Access
    • 3-Month Free TrustPulse Trial
    • Coupons make it easy to run promotions and giveaways, so they’re a critical component to any online business. MemberPress allows you to generate as many coupons as you want, control when they expire and their number of uses, and even customise your coupon codes.
  • PLUS
    • $ 249/Year
    • $150 savings *
    • Includes Basic features
    • Use on up to 2 Sites
    • Works with Authorize.net
    • Sell Corporate Accounts
    • 10 Additional Add-Ons & Integrations
    • 1000s of custom integrations with Zapier
  • PRO
    • $ 349/Year
    • $200 savings *
    • Includes Plus features
    • Use on up to 5 Sites
    • Includes Affiliate Programme
    • Exclusive Pro Add-Ons*

Learndash

Learn dash logo

Short description: The Most Trusted WordPress LMS

The #1 choice of Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organisations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses.

Overview: Out of the 3 Plug-ins, this is the most expensive.

Type: Plug-in

Top 3 Benefits

  • Businesses, training organisations and universities opt for LearnDash because you can create a course that meets your standards.
  • A  lot of options for student engagement, too, like forums, awards and certificates.
  • Easy to use, so programmes can be set up quickly

Features

  • Automated notifications
  • Discussion forums
  • Course points
  • Leaderboards
  • One-time purchases
  • Integrations with popular apps
  • Monetise

(OTP, Subscriptions, Shopping Cart, Membership, Course Bundles, Course License)

  • Administration (group management, detailed reporting, assignment management, gradebook)

Pricing

  • BASIC
    • normally $199
    • now $159
    • 1 Site License
    • Unlimited Courses
    • Unlimited Users
    • Course Content Protection
    • Drip-Feed Lessons
    • Advanced Quizzing
    • Certificates & Badges
    • Course Forums
    • Email Notifications
    • Free Integrations
    • 1-Year Support & Updates
    • BONUS: Demo Site Template
  • PLUS PACKAGE
    • normally $229
    • now $189
    • Up to 10 Site Licenses
    • Includes ProPanel
    • Unlimited Courses
    • Unlimited Users
    • Course Content Protection
    • Drip-Feed Lessons
    • Advanced Quizzing
    • Certificates & Badges
    • Course Forums
    • Email Notifications
    • Free Integrations
    • 1-Year Support & Updates
    • BONUS: Demo Site Template
  • PRO PACKAGE
    • normally $369
    • now $329
    • Up to 25 Site Licenses
    • Includes ProPanel
    • Unlimited Courses
    • Unlimited Users
    • Course Content Protection
    • Drip-Feed Lessons
    • Advanced Quizzing
    • Certificates & Badges
    • Course Forums
    • Email Notifications
    • Free Integrations
    • 1-Year Support & Updates
    • BONUS: Demo Site Template

Fun for community (but not course-friendly):

This next one is pretty cool if you want to meet new people and be part of a community, but you won’t be able to sell your course here.

Minds

Minds - The 10 Best Community Platforms For Course Creators If You're Done With Facebook

Short description: Take back control of your social media

Overview: A place to have open conversations and bring people together. Free your mind and get paid for creating content, driving traffic, and referring friends.

Type: Stand-alone

Top 3 Benefits

  • Has free version, but to upgrade to Minds+ ($5/month) 
  • Access premium videos, blogs, and photos from independent creators;  
  • Submit content to Minds+ and earn a share of revenue; 
  • Protect your content from censorship and demonetisation.

Features

  • Post videos, blogs, images, and statuses. Message and video chat securely with groups or directly with friends. Discover great content through trending feeds and hashtags.
  • Earn tokens for your daily contributions and use them to upgrade your channel, boost your content for more reach and support other creators.
  • You can also receive direct payments in USD, Bitcoin, and Ether from your fans or upgrade your account to launch your own website and get paid for the traffic you drive.

Pricing

  • Minds+
    Ideal for all Minds Users
    • $5/mo
    • Access premium videos, blog, and photos from independent creators; 
    • Submit content to Minds+ and earn a share of revenue;
    • Protect your content from censorship and demonetisation
  • Pro
    For independent content creators
    • $40/mo
    • Get paid for your work
    • Build your own custom website
    • Professional media tools
    • Custom support
  • Node
    For next-level content creators
    • Contact us for pricing
    • White-labeled mobile app
    • Use a custom domain and branding
    • Independent from Minds
    • Priority support

Our FAVE Sites

That is a lot of information to process. It’s worth spending a bit of time figuring out which of these would work before for you, keeping in mind the community you want to be part of.

I’d definitely read the fine print. Some of the plugins need more plugins to work with to make them fully functional and do what you really need. The sad fact is, there is still not ONE all-in-one platform that does it all. I don’t think that’s asking too much, but apparently, it still is!

My virtual assistant and digital business manager did their own investigations from all this research into the 10 best community platforms for course creators and together we’ve come up with our top three:

MightyNetworks

This one has been around longer than the others, and it has tons of features. But it’s also not just a platform for bringing together your courses and communities. Creators can use the underlying dynamics to create a network that is for the very people who built your business. So basically each creator is in control of their own Mighty Network – your website, content, courses and community all in one place.

The down side?

Maybe you don’t need all those features. And maybe you don’t want to move everything over to one platform. It’s also not the most intuitive platform and some people find it a little tough to navigate.

Circle

This one isn’t trying to do it all. It focuses on the community aspect, but it integrates with everything else. You can choose your brand colours, and also experience White-labeling. It’s highly customisable and integrates well with other platforms.

It also has a clean and simple interface.

The down side?

Maybe you need more features. Maybe you want a tool that collects payments. Maybe you want a platform where you have everything under one roof. If so, this might not be the one for you.

BuddyBoss

If you already have a WordPress website and you don’t want to migrate to a stand-alone platform, then this is the BUSINESS. It turns your website into a social  networking engine – and it looks great too! It’s user-friendly and customisable, and has loads of built-in integrations. So, you have all the tools you need to manage your site members and sell online courses. What a win.

The down side?

Setting it all up may take a while. The settings are a little scattered and the styling options are kind of all over the place. Some of the features are a bit limited (like your content’s display options).

If this is your first look into the world of alternative memberships for course creators, please don’t be overwhelmed.

Remember what I said at the beginning of this post: 

Make sure you have a strategy and you know how you want to interact with your community.

And think about how your peeps want to interact with you. 

Good luck with your community search, course-creator!

Oh and if you’re like, heck Natalie I just want to learn how to launch my damn course, not become a platform pro, then I’ve got you covered.

Get your FREE copy of The Ultimate Online Course Creation Starter Kit right here.

Download the Ultimate Online Course Creation Starter Kit!

the-ultimate-online-courses-creation-starter-kit

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