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11 July 2021

How to Start an Online Community Platform?

Such online community platforms as Vanilla Forums, eXo, Khoros Communities, Tribe, or Hivebrite allow creating safe online spaces, where people can interact with each other and companies, share knowledge, help each other, and achieve common goals. In this article, we will tell you how to launch an online community platform.

Step 1: choose a type of online communities


An online community is a generalized name of online platforms, where users gather to have fun, search for answers to particular questions, share scientific knowledge, search for jobs, or just talk to neighbors. The most prominent examples are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Nextdoor, Dribbble, Bitcointalk, GitHub, Yelp, Quora, Rotten Tomatoes, Fiverr, Nature.com, Cochrane.org. The online community platform is a solution for the simple and quick launch of such communities.

If you intend to start your own online community platform, then the first thing to do is choose what communities this platform will enable to create: forums, social networks, blogs, file repositories, websites with reviews, and the like. It’s important because this choice will influence the design, functionality, tech stack, development team, and other aspects of software creation.

Step 2: define the target audience



A pattern of choice of the target audience for an online community platform. Source


At the next stage of the creation of the online community platform, you need to decide what niche you’ll focus on. The niche can be e-commerce, video games, politics, marketing, science, movies, and series, IT, home improvement, repair of apartments, furniture, tourism, sports, jobs, charity, cars, or any other theme, which will be interesting to many users.

Then you have to define the target audience. For instance, if you want to launch an online community platform to create tourism communities, you have to decide who is going to use it and how:

If we take the niche of video games as an example, there can be even more possible options: gamers, developers (programmers, animators, artists, sound designers, game designers, testers, PR experts), bloggers-reviewers, mass media, marketers, or sellers. The design, functionality, and capabilities of an online community platform depend on the audience, which you’re creating it for.

Step 3: choose the monetization model of the platform



Monetization model of the Tribe online community platform


Subscription. It may be one of the most common methods to obtain payment for software and IT services. At the stage of client attraction, you offer them a free trial period (from two weeks to one month) for them to rate the pros and cons of the platform. After the free period, the clients can either give it up or get a subscription for one month or longer. The company offers discounts for packages for three, six, and twelve months to motivate people to get subscriptions for long periods.

Freemium model. This model became popular in the period of venture investment when investors’ support at the initial stage of startup development allowed them not to charge for access to the service, therefore, expanding a user base. They will be able to monetize it later. Now this model is used by almost all popular projects. Though online community platforms prefer earning money through subscriptions. Only Tribe is using the Freemium model.

One-time payment. A license for the perpetual usage of the software is considered an outdated model, but it still exists. It’s common for CMS (WordPress for instance) and their themes and plugins, which help to make your own websites. In this case, a license for a theme or plugin is bought for good and payment is made one time. If extra payment is needed, it’s usually a payment for updates and enhancement of the already bought software.

Pay-as-you-go. Such a monetization model ties the service cost to its actual use in the current period: the more visits (load) there are, the bigger the price is. It’s most likely that you will pay for hosting services on this exact principle (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud. or Azure) and you’ll offer your clients this monetization model.

Step 4: determine the platform functionality



Comparison of capabilities of the most popular online community platforms. Source


Features for end users (community members):

Features to manage communities (admin panel):

Step 5: start the platform development


Search for the development company. An online community platform is pretty sophisticated software, which in most cases is working on the basis of SaaS solutions. It cannot be created with the help of WordPress or website builders. You can create such a product only through custom development, which you should entrust to an outsourced technical partner. This article will tell you where to look for him and how to choose him: «Choose a custom erp software development company».

Choice of a tech stack. It’s a combination of programming languages, libraries, frameworks, development tools, and special software to develop desktop programs, web apps, or mobile apps. Here is the list of tools that you can use to create your own online community platform:


Development process
. Once you determine the concept of your online community platform (type, niche, business model, features), choose the development company and a tech stack, you can start the development. This process usually consists of the following stages:
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