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


This article is routinely updated as new features are rolled out from Circle, Heartbeat, Mighty Networks, and Geneva. It was last updated October 25, 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 Vanilla, Twitter Communities, Discourse, and Discord. For the sake of this article, we chose to focus on the platforms that come up a lot in creator/maker/soloprenuer communities.


Just because it is listed here doesn't mean we recommend it. 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 either building communities on each of these platforms or thoroughly investigating/interviewing builders who do, this is our analysis.


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 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.


Heartbeat (this is an affiliate link) 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.


Mighty Networks has been around for several years and was effectively one of the first maker community platforms. They boast tons of communities and a LOT of features because they have been around a long time. Unfortunately, this platform is built on old tech and needs a complete overhaul to be effective. The navigation on this platform is awful and it is extremely difficult to tell where you are or how to find anything. It doesn't really matter how many fancy (+expensive) features you offer if no one can navigate your community. People tend to build in Mighty Networks for 3 things: 1) accessibility, 2) referral link built in, 3) custom app (more on this in the table). If one of those three things is make or break, go with them, but if not (or if you can even just wait for someone else to build it soon), please do not fall for their fabulous marketing because the product is truly subpar compared to the other ones mentioned in this post.


Geneva is an alternative to Whatsapp, Slack, Discord, or other chat-forward platforms. Threw this in here for kicks and giggles because it's target is very different from the other three. Geneva is synchronous and it’s free, which can be really tempting for small communities. Geneva is a good fit for 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.


Compare Circle.so, Heartbeat, and Mighty Networks




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 designed their community for community builders using the platform), 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. Whatever you do just don't do Mighty Networks.


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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