Circle.so / Heartbeat / MeltingSpot / 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 December 5, 2022.
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.
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 with a strong emphasis on private events. 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 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.
MeltingSpot focuses their community experience around live events, offering both broadcasting (one to many) and rooms (many collaborating on a video call). One feature that stands apart on this platform is the home page, which functions as a landing page for the community, and the ability to capture and approve applications directly in the platform.
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 before), 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.
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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 decision about where to host your community based on where it is today and will be in a year, not what you anticipate it will look like 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.
If you want to fast-track the process and get on a call together, you can share what you need your platform to do for you and I can share what I know of each platform, things to watch out for, and where their strengths will help you shine.
About the Authors
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
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.
Special thanks to Karaminder Ghuman and Danielle Maveal who contributed their experience and feedback to this article.