How do you choose a community platform?

I got asked this question twice in one day, one on Twitter, one in my emails.

So I thought I’d put the question here for others to contribute to.

Of course, in these kind of situations, context always matters. I have my experience and requirements. Other people have theirs.

How do you go about choosing a community platform?
What questions do you ask?
What even is a community platform?

Here’s some things off the top of my head:

  • will people use it?
  • is it what my people are familiar with it?
  • is it a stepping stone towards our community, or too much of a leap?
  • what is the simplest next step?
  • can we build an email or social strategy first?
  • what’s our budget?
  • how will it help our business goals?
  • will it solve any problems?
  • do we have staff and budget to support it?
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You raise great considerations, Rosie. I also consider a few others:

  • How easily can I host / manage the platform?
  • Can I “own” the data on the platform, or does a third-party own it?
  • Will I be able to “future-proof” this platform, and its community?

My community has existed for over 33 years, both online and offline, across various platforms and through numerous incarnations. So for me, longevity and control are key features that ensure that I can help guide, support, and nurture the community to my vision.


A few from me:

  • Is the platform still in active development?
  • What’s their roadmap for the next year?
  • What does their release schedule and the release notes from the last year or two look like?

Asking these should help you work out if the platform is still a going concern for a vendor, if it’s just in maintenance mode or even if it’s being neglected entirely.


Top of mind:

  • What does success look like? Defining a set of goals.
  • Who are the members going to be? Profiling the users.
  • Why are they going to care about this? Identifying motivations.
  • Where are they now? What are they already used to? Context + friction.
  • Who’s involved from our side? Naming the stakeholders.
  • Who’s responsible for running this thing? Knowing who’s accountable. DACI.
  • What factors do they all care about? Weave their concerns into the pitch/proposal.
  • Who has final sign off? Usually the one paying for it.

It’s a discovery + scoping exercise, basically. Everything else flows from there.

Zooming out, it’s step one of three:

  1. What do you need? Discovery + scope for requirements.
  2. What’s available? Shortlist platforms that fit the requirements.
  3. What do you recommend? Narrow it down to a few options.

Make a decision and allons-y.

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