Circle.so has been making waves in the online community space for a few years. So naturally, it’s one of your first choices if you are looking for a platform to launch and grow your online community.
But is it the best option? What features does the platform offer, and how do they compare to the competitors?
To answer these questions, we’ve created an in-depth Circle.so review. Here we’ll cover all the platform features and discuss what’s good and bad about them.
By the end of this review, you’ll have a clear idea of whether Circle is the right choice for you.
Let’s get started.
Circle Review Summary
Circle is the best all-around community platform, offering comprehensive features for building your community and engaging members. Its intuitive design makes it easy to use, while features like Workflows and APIs enable it to grow alongside your community.
Pros of Circle
- Clean, intuitive design
- Flexible Spaces feature
- Native online course builder
- Events and live streaming
- Has free mobile apps
- Inbuilt monetization tools
- Automation workflows and bulk actions
- Single sign-on and APIs
Cons of Circle
- No polls and quizzes
- Limited entry-level plan
- Charges a transaction fee
What Is Circle?
Circle is an online community software platform that enables creators and brands to build and grow an engaged community on their own websites.
The idea is to provide you with all the necessary tools to create a space where your audience can connect and interact with each other.
So, the platform offers a range of community-building tools, including posts and articles, online courses, events, live streaming, member directories, messaging, personalized notifications, and moderation tools.
On top of this, you get design customization features, built-in monetization tools, and the ability to integrate with your existing tech stack.
Now, Circle is cloud-based, so you don’t need to install any software or go through any technical setups. You just need to create a Circle account, set up your community, and point your domain to it. You don’t need to worry about the techy stuff, so you can focus on growing your community.
Finally, Circle is quite different from Facebook Groups since you can create a white-label community and run it on your own terms. You own the community audience and can connect with them however and whenever you want.
Now that you have an overview of the Circle community platform, let’s dive into the details.
Ease of Use
The last thing you want is a community software that’s complicated to learn and use.
Fortunately, Circle is one of the simplest community-building platforms, and it doesn’t require any special skills to use.
The admin interface is intuitive and well-organized. All your spaces are listed on the left side of the screen, along with an option to create a new one. You can navigate to a space from here and access the discussions and the space settings as well.
Plus, essential actions like creating a new post or starting a live stream are strategically positioned, so they are always visible and easily accessible.
Besides that, all the tools and settings are neatly categorized into intuitive categories, like Posts, Members, PayWalls, Settings, etc., so you won’t have to do much digging to find what you need.
When it comes to end-users, the interface that they see is similar to the one you see, with the exception of the admin settings.
It’s clean and intuitive, and all the important features are easily accessible from the left sidebar, so members can quickly get around and find what they need.
And they can always use the search bar in the left panel to quickly find posts, comments, and people.
Overall, Circle is super user-friendly and easy to manage, so you can get your community up and running in no time. Not just that, the experience is great for end-users and they’ll actually enjoy using the software.
Online Community Builder
The primary job of a community software platform is to help you build an online community and keep it active. In this section, we’ll take a look at how Circle fares in this aspect.
Let’s start by discussing the most essential community options you get here:
- Custom domain: You can use your own domain name for your community. By default, your community is on a circle.so subdomain.
- Public vs private community: Circle allows you to create a community that’s either open to the public or limited to members only.
- Branding options: With Circle, you can easily customize the look and feel of your community to match your branding. This includes the ability to change colors and add your logo.
Now, let’s get into the specific features.
Circle offers two features called Spaces and Space Groups to help you organize your community.
While Spaces are where you add the posts and other content, Space Groups are for grouping similar spaces together.
Let’s talk about Spaces first because they’re the building blocks of your Circle community.
To start with, there are five types of spaces you can create:
- Posts: To create discussion posts and articles
- Events: To create online and offline events
- Chat: To host group chats in your community
- Courses: To create structured online courses
- Members: To create a private member directory
Plus, you have many customization options for spaces. You can easily customize basic features, like adding a cover image and adjusting SEO settings.
Regarding privacy and access settings, you can keep your space open, private, or secret. Plus, you can put it behind a paywall and even show a custom landing page to non-members.
Additionally, it provides the flexibility to control the permissions of community members within a space. You can choose to allow or restrict member actions, such as adding others, creating posts, and sorting them.
Circle also has some layout customization options for the Posts space. You can choose between feed, list, or card layouts and customize the display further with options like showing the right sidebar.
The options offered here let you use a Posts space for different needs. For instance, you can utilize the card layout to display a library of blog posts, or you can use the list layout to create a Q&A space.
Space Groups, on the other hand, are purely an organizational element. Unlike spaces, groups don’t contain any actual content but are solely used for grouping related spaces.
So, whether you want to organize spaces by theme or attributes, like access level (free or paid), Space Groups will help you with that.
Overall, Circle does an excellent job of helping you organize your community as you see fit. From different space types to customizable layouts, you have a lot of flexibility.
Content and Posts
Content is the fuel that runs an online community. Therefore, it’s essential that you have the right tools and features to create engaging content and encourage conversations.
As we mentioned above, Circle has a dedicated Posts space for creating discussion posts, articles, and more.
For creating posts, you have a fully featured editor. It allows you to add text, images, videos, downloadable files, and even embeds. Plus, it offers basic formatting options like bold, italic, headings, and lists.
You can also add a cover image, which is useful if you’re creating a full article.
Additionally, Circle lets you perform various actions on posts:
- Publishing options, like publishing immediately, or scheduling or saving a draft.
- Moderation options, such as closing comments, hiding likes, and pinning the post to the top.
- SEO settings, like setting a meta title, description, and URL slug.
The only thing that’s missing here is the ability to add polls and quizzes. Otherwise, the feature set for creating posts is quite powerful.
Events and Live Streaming
Creating an event in Circle is quick and easy—simply provide basic information, such as date and time, one-time vs recurring event, and location, and you’re good to go.
If you want to host an online event, you have a few delivery options. You can use the platform’s native live-streaming features or another meeting solution, like Zoom, to deliver your event.
Your members will be able to RSVP for the event, and Circle will send them a confirmation email. There’s also an option to automatically send a reminder to the attendees before the event.
When it comes to live streaming, Circle’s capabilities are quite impressive.
Apart from using it for scheduled events, you can also go live in your community anytime. You get two options here:
- Start a Live Room: This is ideal for small group meetings where you can go live with up to 30 members and have a conversation.
- Start a Live Stream: This is more of a broadcast format, where only the hosts can talk and present, and is ideal for delivering webinars and Q&A sessions.
During live sessions, you can present your screen and use the built-in chat to engage with your members. You can also record the session and share it with the attendees.
Overall, Circle provides all the necessary features for hosting events and live streams, and these are excellent for driving engagement in your community.
Circle also offers course-building tools that allow you to create engaging video, audio, and text-based lessons for your students and organize them into sections.
Creating a course in Circle is simple with the drag-and-drop builder. You can use it to add sections and lessons and reorder them as you wish.
Plus, adding content to your lessons is a breeze with Circle’s simple lesson editor. You can easily add a video or audio or embed external media, as well as attaching downloadable files. And with unlimited video hosting included, you don’t have to worry about video storage or delivery.
However, it’s worth noting that the platform lacks some essential features, such as content dripping, quizzes, and certificates.
The course player itself is very well designed from a user experience point of view. You have a big content area on the left, and the navigation sidebar is on the right. Your members can also hide the navigation and switch to full-screen mode.
While Circle Courses may not be as feature-rich as standalone course platforms, it’s very effective for creating courses to engage with your community. You can also combine the course functionality with features like spaces and live streaming to run cohort programs.
Messaging and Notifications
Circle supports direct messaging between members, and you can enable or disable it in your community according to your needs.
You also get an option to disable direct messaging for specific members, giving you more control.
Apart from one-on-one messaging, Circle also lets you set up group chats. You can create a Chat space, and members can chat with each other, just like the chat rooms in the early days of the internet.
The chat interface is quite simple and looks similar to other messaging apps. It supports features like mentions and chat threads, which make it a powerful engagement tool.
Now, let’s talk about member notifications.
By default, your members will receive notifications when someone posts in a space they’re part of, likes or comments on a post they’re following, or sends them a direct message.
However, the members can completely customize the notification preferences. They can choose the activities and also the spaces for which they want to be notified.
Moreover, they can choose to receive notifications via email or in-app, as well as push notifications on mobile devices.
As an admin, you get a similar level of control over the notifications you receive, and you can also choose the channels through which to receive these notifications.
Lastly, you can send a weekly digest to your members with a personalized summary of the activities in your communities. With a single click, you can enable this feature, and it’s a great way to keep your members updated.
While your Circle community can be accessed in a browser from any device, Circle also offers free apps for iOS and Android.
The app’s interface is optimized for mobile devices and allows users to create new discussions or engage with existing ones on the go. They can also watch courses and attend livestreams through the app.
Plus, mobile apps support push notifications, which allow members to receive updates on the go and help bring them back into the community.
At this point, Circle doesn’t let you create branded apps for your community, but they’re working on it.
Community Builder – The Bottom Line
Overall, Circle has excellent features for building an engaged community. From flexible organization tools to engagement features like rich posts, live events, group chats, and online courses, it has all the important bases covered.
Despite its many capabilities, Circle remains intuitive and straightforward to use. Plus, the mobile apps add to the overall user experience.
Sales and Marketing
Circle’s sales and marketing tools focus on helping you monetize your online community. These include the ability to create simple landing pages and charge for access.
Circle has a feature called Lock Screen that lets you build simple landing pages for your private spaces. This page only appears to the non-members of the space, and you can use it to encourage them to request an invite or redirect to a checkout page to buy a plan.
The page builder is very simple and supports just four page sections. You can show a Banner section, Space description, course lessons, and a call-to-action (CTA) section.
All the page sections have a predetermined layout, and you only have a few design options as well. For example, in the Banner and CTA sections, you can just add a background image, change the text, and add a button.
To organize page blocks, you can drag and drop a block to rearrange the block order. You can also hide any of the page blocks.
Even though the Lock Screen feature isn’t suitable for building proper sales pages, you can use it to create simple landing pages and redirect them to either your sales page or the checkout page.
Payments and Checkouts
Circle’s Paywalls feature lets you create pricing plans and lock access to your spaces and space groups based on them.
With PayWalls, you can create multiple plans and choose specific spaces or groups to include in this plan, so you can easily create multiple membership tiers.
There are two ways of charging for these plans:
- One-time fee: Members only need to pay once.
- Recurring fee: Members are charged daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc. You can also offer a free trial.
For each plan, you can set multiple pricing options. For instance, you can have monthly, annual, and one-time payment options for the same plan.
As far as payment gateways go, Circle only connects to Stripe (there’s no PayPal integration). The Stripe integration also supports tax collection, so you can handle sales taxes natively.
For checkout, Circle offers a one-step checkout process where members create an account and complete the payment through a single page.
The checkout page has a clean design and only asks for the minimum information.
However, there are a few things about the checkout that could be improved:
- There’s no option to add conversion elements (e.g., testimonials, money-back guarantee badge, etc.).
- You can’t add order bumps and upsells.
Lastly, Circle allows you to create coupons, which can be percentage based or a fixed amount.
However, you don’t get built-in features for affiliate marketing in Circle. For that, you’ll need to rely on a third-party app.
Overall, Circle’s pricing features and checkout process are fine, but there’s room for improvement, especially when it comes to payment methods and conversion tools.
Reporting and Administration
In this section, we’ll discuss the features Circle offers for managing your community and tracking its performance. Let’s start with the community management tools.
Community Management Tools
Circle offers two admin roles to manage your community: Moderators and Admins.
Admins have access to the entire feature set and can manage all aspects of the community, including creating new spaces, managing member billing, and even adding moderators.
Moderators, on the other hand, are assigned to specific spaces and groups and can manage space/group settings, add/remove members, remove posts and comments, etc.
In addition to user roles, Circle offers several features to make moderation easier:
- You can set profanity filters to flag inappropriate content automatically.
- Members can report posts, and moderators can review these reports and remove the content if needed.
- Moderators can also flag members, which requires all their content to be approved before it is visible in the community.
Circle also lets you perform essential member management actions, such as inviting members, managing their profiles, messaging them, or removing them from the community.
In addition to these features, Circle has a couple of features that make member management even easier:
- Custom profile fields help you collect additional information from your members, which can be used to personalize their experience in the community.
- Member tags let you add custom labels to your members based on their interests or activity, which helps you segment your members and personalize their experience.
Finally, Circle has a powerful Workflows feature that takes community management to the next level.
With Workflows, you can automate actions based on certain events in your community. For example, you can use it to send a welcome message to new members or congratulate members when they complete a course.
Workflows can also be used to perform bulk actions, like sending a broadcast message to all members with specific tags.
By combining all of these features together, including Workflows, tags, and user roles, Circle provides a powerful suite of community-management tools.
Reporting and Analytics
Circle provides detailed analytics to track your community’s growth and performance.
The Analytics page is divided into five tabs: Overview, Members, Posts & Comments, Messages, and Spaces.
The Overview tab provides a snapshot of important metrics, such as the number of new, active, and inactive members in your community. You can see your most active members, community spaces, and posts.
For deeper insights, you can explore the individual tabs:
- The Members tab has detailed member-engagement analytics, including graphs for daily and monthly active members and leaderboards of the most active contributors and most appreciated members.
- The Posts & Comments section helps you understand how regularly your members are posting and commenting in the community and the engagement their content is generating.
- The Messages tab provides insights into group chats and one-on-one messages exchanged between members.
- The Spaces tab shows you the most engaged spaces and lets you see the number of posts and comments in each space.
However, the analytics feature has a few limitations.
First, there is no analytics available for your online courses or live streams.
Second, the dashboards don’t have any filters. For example, it would be nice to filter the member analytics based on tags, user roles, or profile fields.
Overall, Circle’s reporting and analytics tools are good for a performance overview of your community, but with the above improvements, it would be much better.
One of Circle’s biggest strengths is its flexibility in integrating with third-party apps.
To start with, it supports the essential options:
- Zapier: Circle’s Zapier integration lets you connect your community with thousands of external apps, such as your email provider or your shopping cart.
Apart from this, Circle supports a few advanced integration options.
The first one is single sign-on (SSO). Circle has SSO integrations with several membership platforms, including Thinkific, Teachable, and WordPress. There’s even a custom SSO option.
As a result, you can easily connect Circle to your existing membership platforms, allowing your members to access their accounts with one set of credentials.
The second one is Circle’s public API. The API lets you access data from your Circle account or perform certain actions inside your community.
With this, you can create custom apps to extend the functionality or connect your community to other services, like Slack and more.
Finally, it supports embed widgets, allowing you to embed your Circle community on another website. It has options for embedding the entire community, a specific space, or comments from a specific post.
Circle has a dedicated support team to help with any questions or issues you may encounter. You can reach them via email and expect a prompt response during US hours.
While there is no live chat support available, there’s a support widget located in the bottom-right corner of the admin area. You can use it to send a message to the support team, and you’ll get a response directly in your inbox.
You can also use the widget to search through the extensive knowledge base of articles and quickly find what you need, making it a great self-help option.
Finally, Circle also has an active community of its users, and it’s an excellent source of support and inspiration. You can connect with other community owners, share your ideas, and get feedback and advice from the Circle team as well as other users.
Moreover, the community is built using Circle itself, which means that you’ll get a chance to see the platform in action and get a sense of how others are using it.
Regarding Circle’s pricing, you can choose from four plans:
- Basic Plan: $39/month
- Professional Plan: $99/month
- Business Plan: $249/month
- Enterprise Plan: $399/month
Apart from the monthly cost, there’s a transaction fee on all plans—it’s 4% for the Basic Plan, 2% for the Professional Plan, 1% for the Business Plan, and 0.5% for the Enterprise Plan.
Starting with the Basic Plan, you can only have 100 members, 10 spaces, and a total storage of 10 GB. This limit is a bit too low, and if you need more, you’ll need to switch to the Professional Plan, which supports unlimited members, 20 spaces, and 100 GB of storage.
Additionally, the Professional plan comes with several important features, like live streaming, online courses, and white labeling, making it the best value-for-money plan for creators.
However, if you need even higher limits on spaces and storage or want advanced features like automation workflows and APIs, you’ll need to switch to the Business or Enterprise plan.
The takeaway here is that Circle has plans to fit everyone’s needs. Whether you’re just starting out to those with larger communities.
The takeaway here is that Circle has plans to fit everyone’s needs. Whether you’re just starting out or have a large community, there’s a plan for you. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a 14-day free trial (no credit card needed), during which you can test the platform and its features.
Circle vs the Competition
Before we give our verdict on the Circle platform, let’s have a look at where it stands against its competitors.
One of Circle’s main competitors is Mighty Networks. While both platforms offer similar functionalities, Circle emerges as a winner in several areas:
- It’s easier to use and offers a better user experience.
- It has better community management tools, such as automation workflows, custom profile fields, member tags, etc.
- Unlike Circle, Mighty Networks doesn’t support SSO or API functionalities.
The only significant advantage that Mighty Networks has is its branded mobile apps feature. Apart from free apps, you have the option to get white-label apps for your community by paying an additional fee.
Another Circle competitor is BuddyBoss, which is a WordPress plugin. Since BuddyBoss is built on WordPress, you can leverage the huge library of plugins to extend functionality limitlessly.
However, BuddyBoss is more limited than Circle in terms of features. It doesn’t support online courses, live streaming, or automation workflows natively.
Most importantly, it doesn’t offer an out-of-the-box solution, so you’ll need to spend much more time learning how to set up and use the platform. And most users will find the whole process too complicated.
Circle.so Review – The Final Verdict
Circle is, without a doubt, one of the top community platforms.
The platform is user-friendly, with a clean and intuitive interface. It also features a great mix of community-building and engagement tools, including support for online courses and live streaming.
What’s more, it offers advanced features—automation workflows, SSO integrations, and public API, which are all great for scaling online communities.
Lastly, the platform has affordable pricing plans with a 14-day free trial (no credit card required).
If you’re looking for a well-rounded and modern community platform that’s easy to use and can grow with your community, then Circle is worth considering. It’s our pick for the best online community platform.
We hope you found this Circle.so review helpful! Feel free to reach out to us with any questions. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!