5 questions to ask when choosing a community platform

by Venessa Paech October 2, 2019

When you decide to launch an online community, choosing the right platform is one of the biggest (and possibly most expensive) decisions you’ll make.

Sure, a successful community is built on relationships and sense of belonging, but the platform you choose provides the technology to facilitate those connections. Or if you’re not careful, it doesn’t.

Your platform is the foundation for your community and it can hold you down, or help you soar.

With that in mind, here are five questions to consider when starting to think about  platform choice:

1. How large do you think your community will be?

Some communities can be set up quickly and cost-effectively but they may not scale well.

If you are anticipating strong growth or you have a goal of 10,000 members or more, you should plan for a large community from the start.

2. What type of features do you need?

What are your objectives and what actions do you want your community members to take?

Do you only need a discussion board, or will members want to upload pictures, follow each other and receive notifications? Will they need to use their real names or is it more appropriate for them to use avatars?

What about your moderators and community managers? They’ll need to hide and remove content and sometimes, users themselves. Do you need a digital audit trail of this work?

When building a community, less is often more. Start with an essential basic feature set for engagement and governance, then add more as needed.

3. What skills and resources do you have in-house?

Different community platforms offer different customisation options, from small tweaks all the way through to complete customisation.

On top of this, platforms need ongoing maintenance such as design and security updates.

It’s important to consider whether your organisation has the developer resources for this or if you will be relying on the platform vendor.

Read more: The risk of going it solo

4. Do you need an asynchronous or ‘real-time’ experience?

Social media have programmed us to be always on and available, but there are many benefits to asynchronous communication, such as in a forum, that users can access and engage with when it suits them.

Think about the purpose of your community and ask whether you need interaction to be fast-flowing and always on, or slowly and more considered.

What matters is how this relates to your goals – they each have benefits and risks. Whatever you decide, you’ll need a platform that allows your preferred option.

How can you tell if your community is healthy?

5. What is your budget?

Platform is just one part of your community budget, so it’s critical not to sink all of your funds into your tech without leaving adequate funds for ongoing. You’ll also need money for community professionals to run your community, member incentives or activities, and more.

Community platforms can range from free, open-source solutions to millions of dollars. Be aware that platforms that are cheap upfront may cost more in the long run when you factor in the costs of customisation or scaling.

There are many other considerations when choosing a community platform, but this should get you started thinking strategically before you make an investment.

Quiip can assist you with third party assessment of platform suitability against your community strategy and goals. Get in touch and let’s discuss your needs.