Circle.so vs. Heartbeat vs. Geneva: Which One Is Right for You?


This article is routinely updated as new features are rolled out from Circle, Heartbeat, and Geneva. It was last updated May 12, 2022.


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.


You might be surprised to see a few popular platforms missing from this resource like Mighty Networks, Vanilla, Twitter Communities, Discourse, and Discord. For the sake of this article, we chose to focus on three platforms that will be most effective for growing with your organization and making your life as a community manager easier, not harder: Circle, Heartbeat, and Geneva. As community builders ourselves, Sara and I look for platforms that are 1) comprehensive (multiple types of interactions available), 2) accessible and easy to use, 3) allow you to start small (they are not overpriced), with 4) the ability scale (lots of capacity for growth). After experience building communities on all three platforms, this is our comparison analysis.


Comparison Chart


Circle (full disclosure: 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. A fantastic and recommended alternative to Mighty Networks. This platform is ideal for communities that are more focused on great conversation than continuous chatter. Communities that use Circle might have a course on Teachable or started as a Newsletter that gained traction and expanded to a community. Find examples of communities in their showcase HERE.


Heartbeat is a synchronous community platform that’s a little more complex than their circular counterpart. It’s a little more complex to use, but if you’re looking for a cost-effective full ecosystem for your community, Heartbeat offers the highest number 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 for schools.


Geneva is an alternative to whatsapp, slack, or other chat-forward platforms. Geneva is synchronous and it’s free, which can be really tempting for small communities. Geneva is a good fit or interest groups, professional networks, and clubs, but it's not ideal for paid and growth-focused communities due to limited features and bugs. It might not be worth migrating to (unless maybe your community was on what'sapp), but it’s definitely worth starting a new community on if you need to test a minimum viable community. Find some examples of the types of communities being built in Geneva HERE.


View the table below or view in Notion HERE


Notice information that's ready to be updated? Reach out to Bri at bri@emberconsulting.co


How to decide which community platform is right for you?

At the end of the day, each platform has their own pluses and minuses. We each have our preference (which we include below), but if you want a practical approach, for each row, 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.


Bri’s Pick: Heartbeat.

While I have built the most communities on Circle, after partnering with Heartbeat (full disclosure: I am building the architecture for their community of community builders), their vision to create a community platform with an app ecosystem where you can pick and choose which apps to leverage in your community has won me over. Their platform design is focused on making the community manager’s life easier and you feel it when you use it. They are positioned to be the Shopify of community platforms where you can pick and choose the building blocks for your community as you need them.


Sara’s Pick: Circle.

Circle is my go to platform for a few reasons. I love an asynchronous community that is heavily focused on virtual events/meetups/calls vs online chat. In today’s online world where everything seems to be happening fast, I appreciate a slower more at your own pace community when it comes to chatting and focuses on building connection through virtual or in person events. With the option to create event-based spaces, forum style discussions, card structure resource posts, live video and new chat features coming soon, Circle was the easy choice for me when it came to choosing the right platform for my community, Helping Creatives.


About the Authors



Bri Leever

Community Architect, Ember

Bri helps purposeful product-led organizations become community-led by architecting a community for their superfan customers to become advocates for the organization.

Find me on LinkedIn or Twitter




Sara Saunders

Community Operations Consultant, SaraNoSocks and Circle Expert

Sara’s expertise is in community building, community operations and strategy. A creator, small business owner and community builder herself, she is experienced in helping creators structure their community for success both for the member and founder.

Website, Twitter



Special thanks to Karaminder Ghuman and Danielle Maveal who contributed their experience and feedback to this article.


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