Why Circle is Better Than Mighty Networks
This article is routinely updated as new features are rolled out. Last updated 4/11/2023.
The most common question I get from clients as a platform-agnostic brand community strategist is which all-in-one community platform is best? The only right answer at the moment is, "it depends." This comparison chart has continued to be my most viewed piece, so I figured I would break it down further into some of the nuances between two platforms at a time.
Which All-in-one Platforms are we talking about?
Let's get on the same page here. First, I define an all-in-one community platform as one place to host the three pillars of community programming: events, conversation, and content. This is important because many community tools like to call themselves platforms (please stop doing that!), but really they only offer one element of community programming. They might only offer you additional analytics, or events management, or a way to do matchups in your community. These are great tools, but they are designed to layer over existing communities and they are not a great place to to host your community if what you want is one centralized location).
There are a host of enterprise-level community platforms that afford you tons of customization for almost any type of community you want to build. These are platforms like Vanilla by Higher Logic, Khoros, and Insided. Generally, if you are taking the first step to become community-led as a brand, or this is your first time creating a community from your audience, you probably don't want to fork over the tens of thousands of dollars required to get set up in one of these platforms.
Like most of my clients, you are looking for a slightly more templated and dramatically less expensive community platform that can help you launch quickly but still provide room for you to grow. For this type of all-in-one community platform I recommend platforms such as Circle, Heartbeat, Mighty Networks, or MeltingSpot (see the full comparison here). So let's dive into the differences between the two most common platforms I build on: Circle and Mighty Networks!
Circle.so versus Mighty Networks
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 long-form written conversation and long-standing content. Circle has certainly gone after the the Creator Communities. These are communities that usually begin with an audience attained through a course, newsletter, or an event like masterminds. While they are clearly in hot pursuit of Creators implementing features like Courses and live video broadcasting, brands have started to pick up the platform for customer communities of all shapes and sizes. Find examples of communities in their showcase.
Mighty Networks has been around for several years and was effectively one of the first creator 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, mayyybe go with them, but if not (or if you can even just wait for someone else to build it soon). They have really phenomenal marketing and while their customers will rave about how awesome it is to have everything all in one platform, you can get this and much better navigation in other platforms.
Community Platform Comparison Chart
Simplicity or Complexity
➡️Most Simple with Great Features From the very beginning we have been huge fans of Circle’s simple and sleek design. The spaces are intuitive and it’s hard to get too lost. Accessible for low-tech communities or an older demographic.
➡️ Difficult to Navigate with Good Features Where Circle and Heartbeat’s navigation is intuitive, Mighty Networks is confusing. They are working hard to build good features, but they are all built on a fundamentally flawed layout.
Each Circle space can take on four different layouts: events, feed view, list view, or card style (and chat coming soon!). The feed view is a thread-style view that works great for long-form posts (their text editor allows you to embed and basic formatting for your post).
Mighty Networks has a left-hand toolbar where you can (in theory) navigate throughout the platform. However, navigation is confusing and it is impossible to tell at any point in time where you are in the platform.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
Circle’s Courses feature has launched! We are still testing it out, but really excited for this new upgrade.
Mighty Networks has a course feature directly in the platform and this seems to be a core reason why builders choose mighty networks. But you only get courses when you have the business plan.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
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. Bummer The privacy settings for events are set in the events space itself, not for each individual event. To have some public and some private events (just for community members), you need to have two separate spaces for events with the differing settings in those spaces. “Public” events also require the user to create an account and belong to the community, so there’s no real way to actually execute public events.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Members can RSVP to event directly in the platform and add the event to their calendar. Integrates with Zoom. They also have a livestretam feature where you can broadcast in the platform and have members comment but not need to show their screens. 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)
✅ Yes, has native video and livestream available
Posts / Threads
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Asynchronous Posts + Chat Circle’s post format lends itself to asynchronous conversation. You’ll find thoughtful, long form responses. This means you’ll likely see less chatter, but the quality of engagement is much higher in these communities. If chatter in Discord is on one side of the spectrum, Circle’s posts are way on the other side. Circle recently released a chat-style space as an option, so now you can still have the chitter-chatter if that’s what your community wants.
Asynchronous Feed Posts Mighty networks allows you to post 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.
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.
There is no clear way to turn conversation into content in a knowledge base unless you turn content into a course. Their “topics” feature helps you sort conversation by topic, but there doesn’t seem to be a good way to sort content like you would want to in a knowledge base.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Within Circle you have the ability to tag members with badges that essentially puts them into a subgroup. These badges show up in their profile, can be automated with Zapier, and are spectacular for recognition. They cannot, however, be used to filter who has access to which spaces. In order to set up spaces for specific subgroups, you either need to allow for an open space where members may self-select in, or you must create an automation where some other database triggers that the member should be added to a secret group just for that subset of the community.
People can opt-in to a category or they can also
Called member categories - based more on an affinity or interest. Select a category in their profile. Can customize the sub-groups.
Circle’s badges include a title and emoji and may be assigned to members for gamification. There are automation triggers and actions for badges.
Mighty Network appears to be able to segment the audience using identities, but the experience is really confusing and not gamified.
Privacy Settings + 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.
❌ One hiccup here is that even “public events” cannot be RSVPed to by non-members unless they join the community with their email first. Very difficult to host public events in the circle platform.
✅ Mighty Networks has the ability to turn on and off search indexing.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
In Circle, you have access to admin and moderator roles.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Mighty Networks has host, moderator, and member roles. They list that you get an unlimited number of these like that’s a big perk lol.
Pricing + Plans
Basic: $49/ month (this went )
Professional: $99/ month
Business: $249/ month
Enterprise: $399/ month
Ease of Setup
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Circle’s setup process is super simple and straightforward with a checklist to get you started.
Mighty Networks makes it easy to set up and has a little onboarding checklist to help you get started.
✅ Circle communities have a directory and the option to enable direct messaging to connect with other members.
✅ Mighty Networks has a member directory and the ability to message members 1:1
Matching or Meetup Feature
❌ no matchups
❌ no matchups
✅ Direct messaging
✅ Group messaging
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).
Mighty Networks has a community for their community builders where they host workshops and lots of content.
Circle does allow you to customize the onboarding email that is sent with the invitation to join Circle.
Mighty Networks 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.
✅ Circle DOES now have customizable profile fields now to be able to control what information is requested in a user’s profile. This feature is an add-on price
✅ Open API
✅ Tons of Zapier + Integrately Integrations
✅ API with business account (doesn’t come with community)
✅ Zapier integrations (only get with business account)
✅ 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.
❌ No analytics listed for community plan
✅ Analytics and member data are listed as available for the business plan.
✅ Circle 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.
✅ Circle allows for customization by allowing you to set a custom brand color, favicon and logo. In the Professional and Enterprise plan you can further customize your community by adding custom css.
✅ Mighty networks allows custom url, branding, and logo.
✅ Professional and Enterprise Plan
✅ Custom Domain for all levels
✅ Custom app for mighty pro
✅ Has SSO
✅ iOs App
✅ iOs App
✅ Android App
Public, private, and secret spaces
✅ 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.
You can make your entire community:
✅ 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.
❌Coming soon, but not yet
Polls in Posts
✅ Search bar
✅ Filters in search bar
✅ Search bar
✅ Filters provided in search bar
Referral / Affiliate Link
❌ Circle doesn’t have a referral program where members can refer other members to my community on their platform.
✅ There is a built-in member referral program to encourage existing members to invite new ones.
Notice information that's ready to be updated? Reach out to Bri at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.