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Compare Circle.so / Heartbeat / Mighty Networks: Which Community Platform is Right for You?


This article is routinely updated as new features are rolled out from Circle, Heartbeat, and Mighty Networks. It was last updated December 7, 2023.


Introduction

Whether you are creating a new community or you’ve outgrown your Facebook group or Slack channel, every community manager will at some point wonder which community platform is a good fit for you. I’ve found this process to be daunting with tons of overpriced options and few resources to help compare and contrast. The purpose of this article is not to declare a winner between these three platforms, but rather is to help you put the pieces together more easily to understand the best fit for your community.


In this article, we chose to focus on non-Enterprise, all-in-one platforms with templated structures and customizable features.



Comparison Chart


Circle (this is an affiliate link) is an asynchronous community platform that has a simple and sleek layout that can easily be customized and white-labeled. This platform is ideal for communities that use the freemium community model (parts of the community available for free and parts only privately accessible to paying members) - though I personally would not recommend this model of community design. While Circle heavily targets creators looking to turn their audience into a paid community, brands are increasingly using the platform to host their own customer communities as well. Find examples of communities in their showcase.


Heartbeat (this is an affiliate link) is a synchronous community platform that shines when hosting communities that need both public and private events. Heartbeat offers a broad range of thoughtful features for your community. Heartbeat is leveraged by a variety of different communities, but we’ve noticed it’s especially popular with cohort-based communities, courses or solopreneur communities.


Mighty Networks has been around for several years and was effectively one of the first community platforms available to non-enterprise communities. While the product was originally designed as more of a learning platform to host courses, they quickly adapted to incorporate a strong community experience. I've been pleasantly surprised to see this platform get a major overhaul in their design (they copied a lot of Circle's features). That being said, I still find navigation and the user experience for members and admin to be confusing and disincentivizing. I recommend approaching this platform with caution and not getting dazzled by the long list of features.


Acknowledging my bias:

You will probably be able to tell my bias for Circle and Heartbeat over Mighty Networks right away. I include Mighty Networks because they are an industry giant, but I truly believe their product (though vastly improved over the last year) is inferior to the other two. It's easier for me to keep a close beat on Circle and Heartbeat updates, but it usually takes me more time to update Mighty Networks features because I'm not usually actively building communities for my clients on that platform.


How to decide which community platform is right for you?

At the end of the day, the platform you choose matters less than how you design and implement your community. That being said, certain platforms can create way more barriers than necessary depending on the programming of your community. While it's important to plan ahead, try to make the majority of your decision on where your community is today, not where you suppose it will be in five years.


For a really practical approach, for each row in the table, rate how that platform’s features stack up based on what you need. Total each column up and make a quantitative decision. But we highly encourage you to get in and test each platform yourself (each has a free trial) to play around and get a feeling for it yourself.


Compare Core Features of Community Platforms: Circle, Heartbeat, and Mighty Networks


🏅This feature is best for communities that...

🔔 This feature is unique to this platform ✅ This is a feature the platform has ❌ This is not a feature the platform has

Feature

Circle

Heartbeat

Mighty Networks

Navigation

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Circle's navigation is fairly simple. There is a left-hand menu that shows all of the spaces available and each space title, emoji, layout, and permissions can be customized. A space could be used to host post-style conversation, a chat, events, courses, or member directory.

​⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Heartbeat's navigation features two left-hand menus. The far left contains the "apps" which consists of options like threads, events, docs, courses, directory, or matchups. Once you select the app, you may see an additional sub-menu pop-up (for example, the threads app opens to a menu of channels).

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Finally, Mighty Networks has simple left-hand menu where you can access to global features like the feed, members, and events, or add a collections and spaces in that collection. Spaces can be a course, event, page, link, channel, or chat, or layer a combination of these in the same space. While navigation is drastically improved compared to past versions, I still find the layout and structure confusing at times.

Conversation

Circle's conversation can be hosted in post-style spaces or in a chat space.

The post-style spaces can be formatted as a feed of posts, a list of posts, or card-style giving each post it's own large card.

Posts can be sorted in the space by time, alphabetically, or popularity.

Posts can be pinned at the top or to the right hand side bar.

Conversation in Heartbeat can be hosted in a post-style channel, chat channel, or voice room.

Posts can only be sorted sequentially (like Slack).

Posts can be pinned to the top so they are featured first.

​Conversation in Mighty Networks can be short and long form articles as well as questions and polls (with a limit on storage). Mighty Networks relies on your home and discovery feed to bring content and posts your way, but it is really unclear where that content lives, how to find more like it, and where to post. They have thread-style posts where you can react and comment.

Courses

​⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This feature is only available with the Business Plan and up

Content / Resources / Knowledge Base

​⭐️⭐️⭐️

The best way we have seen members create a resources or knowledge base in Circle is to use the “Cards” layout to create a page of cards so that your eye can more easily catalog the information. It can be difficult to catalog content well in Circle. Circle’s search function is great, so members can find content that way, but when you think about turning conversations into evergreen content, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to sort this.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Content and resources are most often stored in the "Docs" app in Heartbeat. Docs can be viewed in a card-style layout to quickly draw your eye and help sort large amounts of information. Docs are a notion-style database (however they currently lack the ability to tag or @mention).

⭐️⭐️⭐️

In Mighty Networks, you can create a "resource" or "page" type of space to show your content. The Resource type of space is like a library of different section headers and text underneath.

The page type of space is like a real dumbed down version of the resource space with a single page and basic editing functionality.

Events

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Users can RSVP to events directly in the platform and add the event to their calendar. You can host calls directly in Circle, or provide a zoom link.

❌ Cannot host public events in a private community without the member joining your community.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Events is where Heartbeat shines. Host private or public events on the platform directly, or users can start a voice or video room themselves (if you give them permission).

🔔 A zoom integration automatically schedules the zoom call and uploads the recording to the event page when finished.

🔔 At the time of the event, a little live notification will appear at the top for any active users (so they can easily see what’s happening live and join in).

Feedback for the event is also posted after the event for the admin to review easily.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Members can RSVP to events directly in the platform and add the event to their calendar. Integrates with Zoom. The number of hours, speakers, and viewers are limited.

Video / Livestream / Broadcasting

✅ Broadcasting video (one or multiple speakers broadcasting to an audience like FB Live) on Professional and Enterprise Plan. ✅ Live rooms (like zoom)

🔔 Automated transcriptions

❌ No broadcasting

✅ Live rooms (can have just a voice room or a video room) on all plans Heartbeat has a video conferencing tool. (Multiple people on a video call)

✅ Yes, has native video

✅ Yes, has livestream (broadcasting) available

Member Segmentation

​⭐️⭐️⭐️ You may segment members of your community in three ways, though frankly these features have been layered over each other without thoughtful planning for member segmentation: member tags, profile fields, and through invite links.

Tags: Tag members with a title and emoji that can be private or public on their profile.

Profile fields: Identify different types of members with a dropdown field for member type (available with Pro and above).

Invite link: Create a new invite link with access to only specific spaces.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Heartbeat's member segmentation was a core consideration in the design of the platform and it shows.

Members can be segmented both by the "groups" function.

Groups: Segment your community into groups and give different groups different access to conversation, events, courses, and content. Groups can be set to joinable if, for example, you want members to find interest groups they want to opt-into.


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Members can be segmented by categories and sub-groups.

🔔 Members can use the categories to quickly find members like them who have the same overlap in categories.

Public vs. Private

​Each space in Circle can be:

✅ Open: Anyone in my community can see and join this space.

✅ Private: Invited members only.Non-members will see a locked page, which you can customize in space settings.

✅ Secret: Invited members only.Non-members will not see this space.


🏅 Best for communities that want to have a combination of public and private conversation and use SEO to draw people into the paid part of the community.

​✅ Threads can be made private to segment of members or open to all members.

✅ Members can opt-in to spaces or be added by default. You can also customize threads making them only accessible to certain groups.

✅ 🔔Events can be public or private just for members. Public events can collect RSVPs without the member joining the community.

🏅 Best for communities that want to use public events to draw people into a paid and private community.

You can make your entire community and each space:

✅ Public: Anyone can sign up and join your MN.

✅ Private: Members can sign up and join once approved by a Host, or if they receive an invitation. Anyone who doesn't meet these requirements will be asked to fill out a form and await Host approval.

✅ Secret: Only members with an invite are allowed to sign up and join. Your Mighty Network will not appear in search results on the Mighty Network homepage.

Email Notifications

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In Circle, you can customize email notifications for each space and members can also toggle emails on and off.

There is a weekly digest available to send to members as well.

⭐️⭐️⭐️In Heartbeat, you can customize email notifications for events, but not for channels.

There is a weekly digest available to sent to members as well.

⭐️⭐️Very limited customizability for email notifications from the admin. In Mighty Networks, members can set their own email notification preference between getting an email every time something happens and a daily digest.

Member Directory

⭐️⭐️⭐️Circle communities have a directory with profile information and the option to enable direct messaging to connect with other members.

⭐️⭐️Heartbeat has a member directory, though the features and usability is not robust and only shows the groups that member is tagged in. You can message members 1:1, but not from the directory.

​⭐️⭐️ Mighty Networks has a member directory with profile information and the ability to message members 1:1

🔔 members can see who lives near them

Matching or Meetup Feature

❌ no matchups

✅ Heartbeat has a meetups app directly in the platform where you can allow members to opt-in to be matched with other members (either in a common subgroup or in general) once or on a recurring basis.

❌ no matchups

Pricing + Plans

​Pricing

Basic: $49/month

Professional: $99/ month

Business: $219/month

Enterprise: $399/ month

Pricing

Starter: $49/ month

Growth: $129/ month

Business: $399/month

Pricing

Community Plan: $39

Business Plan: $119

Pro: A LOT

Compare the Member Experience and Onboarding in Circle, Heartbeat, and Mighty Networks

Member Onboarding Features

Circle

Heartbeat

Mighty Networks

Community Marketing Page

✅ 🔔 Available with the Business Plan and up - a freeform marketing or information page.

Onboarding Emails

​Circle allows you to customize the onboarding email that is sent with the invitation to join Circle.

Heartbeat allows you to customize the onboarding email and you can customize different onboarding experiences based on the group they are tagged in.

Mighty Networks allows you to customize onboarding emails and 🔔 has a great custom onboarding checklist that you can set up for your members to complete when they first join.

Application to Join

​❌ Circle does not have a custom application - you have to do this separately and use integrations to connect with the platform.

They do have custom profile fields available with the business plan.

❌ Heartbeat does not have a custom application - you have to do this separately and use integrations to connect with the platform.


​​✅ 🔔 Mighty Networks allows you to ask up to five questions in the Community plan and up.

Paywalls

✅ Circle allows you to collect payments in your community through Stripe.

✅ Heartbeat allows you to collect payments in your community through Stripe.

✅ Mighty Networks allows you to collect payments in your community. You can also do a sliding scale and there's tons of customizability for charging for different programs in the Business and above plans.

Conversion Tracking

✅ Conversion tracking in the professional plan and up

✅ Conversion Tracking for FB and Google available with Growth plan and up

✅ FB Pixel with the Business plan and up

Referral/Affiliate Program

✅ Circle has an affiliate program feature where you can reward members in a % or flat rate for referring new members.

✅ Heartbeat has a referral feature where members can refer other members to your community directly in their platform.

✅ There is a built-in member referral program to encourage existing members to invite new ones.

Accessibility

​Circle is finally working to ensure they adhere to the WCAG2 (not quite there yet, but making strides in their latest updates).

Heartbeat doesn't have any information on their WCAG rating.

Mighty Networks has been known for their friendliness to making their platform accessible. I couldn't find anything about the WCAG rating, but they have this resources available.

Compare Customization Abilities in Circle, Heartbeat, and Mighty Networks

Customization Feature

Circle

Heartbeat

Mighty Networks

Custom logo and brand colors

✅ In all plans

White-label Platform

✅ Professional and Enterprise Plan

​✅ All Plans

✅ All Plans

Custom App

Circle Plus offers a custom, white-label community app

Mighty Pro offers a custom, white-label community app

Custom Sub-domain

Email White-labeling

✅ with the pro plan and above you can white-label emails

✅ with the growth plan and above you can white-label emails

✅ with a pro plan and above you can white-label emails

Custom Profile Fields

✅ Circle has customizable profile fields when a member fills out their profile. This feature is an add-on price

✅ Heartbeat does have custom profile questions, though ❌ these are not reflected in their profile in the member directory only in their intro.

❌ Mighty Networks does not have custom profile fields, but ✅ the profile fields do show up in the member directory

Custom Emojis

Custom Code Snippets (CSS)

✅ In all plans

Compare Additional Tech Features in Circle, Heartbeat, and Mighty Networks

Other Features

Circle

Heartbeat

Mighty Networks

Integrations

✅ Open API for Pro and above

✅ Tons of Zapier + Integrately Integrations available in the Pro and above accounts

✅ Limited API access for starter and growth, full for business

✅ Tons of integrations: zapier, zoom, stripe, outlook, google calendar, notion, slack, circle, and peerboard import

✅ Only the zoom integration with community plan

✅ API and Zapier integrations with business plan and up

Native Automations/ Workflows

✅ Circle offers a workflow feature directly in the platform with the business plan and above.

✅ Heartbeat offers workflows and automations natively with all of their packages (this is awesome). You can use these automations for bulk actions or to create an action based on community activity.

AI

✅ Circle has an AI features available for the Business Plan

✅ Mighty Networks leverages AI to help you set up your community quickly and to provide tips. For ongoing access to AI (Mighty Co-Host) you must purchase the Business Plan

Gamification

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Circle's member tags can be used to create a gamification experience, but usually you'll need to manually tag members for accomplishments or build through an external automation platform.

​⭐️⭐️⭐️ Heartbeat’s groups can be assigned to members and used as badges, but these badges must be assigned manually or through an external automation platform.

​⭐️⭐️⭐️ Mighty Networks has gamification baked into their referral program, but no other tagging or badge system.

Moderation

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ In Circle, you have access to admin and moderator roles. You cannot customize the moderator permissions and the number of spots is limited depending on the plan.

​⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

🔔 In Heartbeat you can segment your community into different roles in the community and give each role different permissions of management in the community. You can create several roles and customize the titles. 🏅 This is great for team collaboration and customizing the role of your moderators.

​⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Mighty Networks has host, moderator, and member roles. They list that you get an unlimited number of these.

Warnings, profanity filters, and reporting content

✅ In Circle you can set up profanity filters. If a post includes them, it must be approved by a moderator first.

✅ In Mighty Networks, members and content can be flagged by other members.

SEO

✅ Each Circle space has the option to be made public, private, or secret. For public spaces, you can customize SEO features and the space can even be embedded in a page on your website.

​❌ Heartbeat does not have functionality for optimizing SEO and all channels are private to the community (you can customize who sees what, but logged-out members cannot view).

​✅ Mighty Networks has the ability to turn on and off search indexing.

Analytics

✅ Analytics are available for professional and enterprise plans. Professional analytics include:Member analytics: daily active members, 30 day active members, top members, active commenters, post starters, most appreciated (likes received).Posts: # posts per day, # comments per day, top posts + comments in likes.Messages: # direct messages sent, # new direct messages, group chats, new group chats.

✅ Analytics are available for growth + custom plans. Growth analytics include:Overview: feature views broken into % over threads, DMs, docs, voice calls, and the directory, time before first view, emoji, and comment, and platform usage for website vs mobile app vs desktop appActivity: best times people are lurking or engaging, public vs private conversations, top active users (threads, comments, messages, and reacts), top threads, top channels, top docsEngagement: logins over time, and see increase over last month for threads growth, DM growth, logins, doc views, voice rooms

✅ Analytics and member data are listed as available for the business plan.

SSO

✅ Available in Business Plan

​Mobile

✅ iOs App

✅Android App

✅ iOs App

✅ Android App

✅ Desktop App

✅ iOs App

✅ Android App

​Polls in Posts

​✅

​Search

✅ Search bar

✅ Filters in search bar

✅ Search bar

✅ Filters in search bar

✅ Search bar

✅ Filters in search bar

Resources for Community Building

The Circle Community (for people who are building communities on Circle) has a plethora of knowledge and experts willing to jump in to answer questions. The content tends to be difficult to sort through in a linear fashion (something we know they are working on).

The Hearth (for people who are building communities in Heartbeat) has an excellent crowd of community builders to share knowledge and events to guide your community building process. The team also provides a lot of tech support directly in the community.

Mighty Community is for their community builders where members can connect with other Mighty Networks customers. They host events, have free and paid courses, and much more.








 


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