If you’ve decided to set up an online community, one of your initial questions will be “which platform do I use?”
Over the last 6 years there’s been a mushrooming of viable platforms. Crowdicity, OI Engine, Dub, Chaordix, and QMarkets are just some of the options out there. We’ve used some of these to deliver projects for Ford, Swinton Insurance, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and the International Committee of the Red Cross among others.
When making your decision, one factor may be the stand out one for you: Budget.
They are all priced differently and use different criteria to fix the price for you. For example, the community member numbers you expect, the number of challenges you set, the duration of the community, and even the number of clicks can have a bearing on the price you are quoted.
One thing is for absolutely sure – selecting the right platform for your community does not always need a large budget. More expensive is not always better for your particular job.
Here are 5 top tips to help you make your decision:
Some platforms will angle themselves towards a particular niche – ideas platforms, insight and customer feedback platforms, internal organisation platforms; and some are multi-purpose. What specific need are you aiming to address with your project? Answer that, and then investigate the ones that sound like they are a good fit for your project.
Don’t go over your allotted budget for more functionality. The ‘more functionality’ may remain untouched as the basic functionality may be all you will need. Your community is generally participating alongside all the other things in their life – make it simple for them! So start by looking for clear navigation and the ability to capture conversation effectively – these two elements are the bedrock of any successful community.
Doncaster Talks crowdsourcing community (Dub platform example)
All platform providers will be able to demonstrate their platform to you, and this is good opportunity to make sure they have what you want. Is being able to tag other community members important to you? What about sending newsletters? Do you need to create sub-sections of people within your community? Will moderators be alerted to disreputable content? What do you want in the way of downloadable info from your community? Imagine how you’d like your project to proceed before that demo meeting and ask if your plan is possible with the platform you are looking at.
One way to enhance the experience for your community members is to build a brand around your project. How much can you do with the platform to make it look and feel like you want? Some platforms are easily customisable, but others will look like the out of the box version whatever you try to do with them. Ask to see some examples of the platform in different guises, preferably live versions with communities running.
Crowne Plaza Innovate Community (Crowdicity platform example)
Any platform can host a well or badly run community project – it’s important to recognise it’s not all about the tech. Think about your organisation’s capacity to create meaningful challenges, design a great online community space, and to spend time moderating / facilitating the community as it runs – if these seem like a pinch point you may need a fully serviced platform. The cost of your platform may be wasted without the right project team. At 100%Open we have a lot of experience in running online communities and have learned a trick or two over the years.
Whatever you decide, each platform has it’s own quirks and unique features. It will take you a few weeks to really understand everything it can do – so bear with it – they do all have something good to offer. Turning to an online community to help you with a particular issue or problem can require a leap of faith, but with the right kit and the right team, you’ll gather insight and find answers that will reward your risk. Let us know if we can help.