Why I Chose Circle.so for My Community Platform

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself spending less and less time on normal social media. Instead, I spend the time I used to give to social media in interest-based communities on Reddit, Slack, or Discord. And if I do go on Facebook, it’s usually just to check in on the groups I’m in.

And I’m not alone. People are still connecting online, but many are drawing smaller circles than we used to.

Gone are the days when your social media feeds were filled with posts from people you actually know. Social media has devolved into attention-sucking algorithms designed to hook you with entertainment or outrage rather than being a place to stay in touch with people you love or connect with like-minded individuals.

We crave community, but social media no longer promotes community. That’s why I believe we are seeing a shift toward interest-based communities.

And I expect this shift away from traditional social media will only accelerate, and that’s why I believe platforms like Circle will more and more become the norm for online interactions.

In this post, I’m going to share a bit about my journey of choosing a community platform for my membership program, Redeeming Productivity Academy, and why I ultimately landed on the platform Circle.

Starting a Community of My Own

I had to think a lot about these things when I went to design a community for Redeeming Productivity Academy.

I wanted to create a community that was:

  • Inviting
  • Fostered good conversation
  • Added value to member’s lives
  • And wasn’t a distraction

Circle far exceeded those requirements. Circle’s features, support, and roadmap have made me confident that they were the right choice for our community, even after nearly a year on the platform.

Why I Chose Circle

If you’re thinking of starting an online community for a church, an interest-based group, or a private membership like I did, hopefully, this article will give you some insight into whether Circle might be a good option for you.

“More Slack notifications are the last thing you need when you’re trying to be productive”

Async Communication

I’m a part of a lot of online communities, and I get the impression some of them did not think very carefully about the platform they chose. I think a lot of times someone gets the idea to start a community and they just jump to whatever platform is:

  1. Free
  2. Something they’re used to

But many community designers often skip over a very critical question when it comes to the platform. And that’s why the internet is littered with thousands of dead Discord servers and Facebook Groups.

The first important question I had to ask in choosing a community platform was whether I wanted it to be synchronous or asynchronous.

If you think of it in video game terms, a synchronous platform is in real-time, whereas an asynchronous platform is turn-based.

Do you want a real-time chat group or something more like a message board?

Synchronous Platforms
  • Telegram Group
  • Discord
  • Slack
Asynchronous Platforms
  • Forums
  • Blog Comments
  • Facebook

This was actually a rather easy decision for my use case.

My group is focused on personal productivity. So I didn’t want to use a chat-based platform that would promote interruptions. More Slack notifications are the last thing you need when you’re trying to be productive!

So that narrowed down my options to asynchronous platforms.

A Platform You Own

Now I could have gone with something free like Facebook Groups. That also would have had the advantage of people already having accounts, being familiar with how Facebook works, and already having the habit of checking of Facebook.

But I really don’t like Facebook. And, more importantly, I don’t trust them not to change their algorithm at the drop of a hat. Right now Facebook promotes groups pretty heavily (they even have TV commercials promoting groups). But tomorrow, they could flip a switch so that people never see my group posts in their feed ever again. I didn’t like that idea.

I didn’t want to build my community on someone else’s land.

So that meant paying for a solution. I considered using a more classic forum option, using something like Discourse. But then I stumbled across Pat Flynn talking about this new platform Circle. And that made me take a deeper look.

And boy am I glad I did! Because Circle has been an incredible community platform for RPA.

Here are a few reasons I’ve found Circle to be an excellent asynchronous community platform.

Intuitive Interface

It sounds simplistic, but the design was probably the main reason I went with Circle. It just looks so clean, so minimal, so inviting!

From the moment you look at a Circle community, you get it. The navigation makes sense, it just invites you to jump into the discussion.

The Redeeming Productivity Academy Circle community

Since I also include courses in my membership, I looked at some all-in-one solutions like Mighty Networks and Kajabi that combine community with courses. But while I liked some features, I always felt a little claustrophobic when using their community features. I know it’s a personal preference thing, but in terms of interface, Circle just made sense to me.

But Circle is more than just a pretty face. It also had all the features I needed to customize my community exactly how I wanted.

Robust Features

Circle has a number of features that just sealed the deal for me.

1. Customize the look to match your branding and colors

It was important to me that I could make my community visually seamless with the other aspects of my membership. Circle certainly delivered in the customization department.

2. Spaces management

Circle is organized around “Spaces” and “Spaces Groups.” Each of these has its own controls for how you view them, who is allowed to have access, and what features are enabled.

So, I can have a barebones space with FAQs where no one can post except me and comments are disabled; a discussion area where everyone can post freely, including images and embeds; and I can have a space to simply show all the courses available to members.

I love the granularity of control you have to make your Circle community your own.

Each space can be customized to your liking
3. Events engine with RSVPs

Between weekly offices hours, a book club, course reviews, and workshops, my community is pretty events heavy. That’s why I was so pleased when Circle upgraded their events engine. Now people can quickly RSVP to an event and be notified before it starts.

4. Live video baked right in

Circle recently released their live video feature and it’s awesome. We used to do our live calls over Zoom. But having the video right in the community is incredible, and you can even save and manage the recording of your live events right within Circle.

5. Great iOS app
Getting Started | Circle Community

The secret to building an online community is making engagement part of people’s daily habits. And since we spend so much time on our phones, an app was one of the essential features I was looking for in a platform.

Circle’s iOS app does not disappoint on the phone (though the iPad version has some bugs). One really cool feature is when you go live with video you can notify people directly on their phone app.

And Circle promises to have an Android app soon.

6. Monetization

If you want to create a paid community, Circle allows you to do that without any additional systems. They didn’t have this feature when I created my community, but I’ve tested it out and it’s really great.

It’s cool that you could go from 0 to a fully functioning paid community with just one platform using Circle. No technical expertise is required.

The Paywall feature makes Circle a truly all-in-one solution

If you’re interested in seeing more of how my community is setup on Circle, I gave a tour of it in this video:

Easy Integrations

Often a community is just one part of a larger business or operation. That was the case for me as well. So being able to integrate with other tools was essential.

While there are all-in-one community and course creation platforms. I really didn’t like the way any of their communities were setup. Plus, I was already using Teachable for my courses, and loathed trying to migrate everything to a new platform, just so I could add a community.

Circle works rather seamlessly with Teachable, my course platform, you can even utilize single sign-on (SSO), so members only need one login to access course material or the community.

I also leverage Zapier pretty heavily to connect Circle with some of my other systems. You can read more about their integrations and API here.

Exciting Roadmap

Choosing a platform to build on is an investment—not just monetarily but time-wise as well. You want to make sure you hitch yourself to a train that’s in it for the long haul.

Thankfully Circle seems to be going places. They are well-funded and they are constantly releasing excellent new features and upgrades.

I’m confident that building my community with Circle was the right choice.

Is Circle right for you?

Circle is an excellent choice for:

Businesses: If you are looking to build an online community for your business, Circle has you covered.

Coaches: If you do coaching or have a membership program as I do, Circle is a great way to build community.

Churches: Circle would make a great choice for churches looking to bring more online connections to their congregation, without having to rely on the whims of social media.

If you’re wanting to create a robust asynchronous community with very little fuss, Circle is a great choice.

Sign-up for a 14-day free trial of Circle. After that it costs $39 per month for the Basic plan, $99 per month for the Professional plan, and $399 per month for the Enterprise plan.

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