Thinkific is one of the top solutions for creating and selling online courses, and it includes a feature called Communities to build an online group for your students.
But should you use Thinkific’s community feature? Does it offer the tools you need? How do you set it up?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through all the features of Thinkific Communities and teach you step-by-step how to get started with it.
Whether you’re an existing Thinkific user or you’re just evaluating the platform, we hope you’ll find this guide useful.
What Is Thinkific Communities?
Thinkific Communities is a native tool that the platform offers for building an online community. It’s designed to help course creators engage with their students, build relationships, and create a thriving community.
Within a community, you can create discussion spaces where you and your members can create posts and engage through liking, commenting, and following. This is also where you can create events to engage community members.
Thinkific also gives you flexibility in how you use the community features. For example, you can use it to create a learning community to support your online course or you can sell access to a standalone community.
Conveniently, the Communities feature is available on all pricing plans, including the free one. However, the number of communities you can create varies by plan.
Now that you have a basic understanding of Thinkific Communities, it’s time to look at all the features it offers.
A Closer Look at Thinkific Communities
In this section, we’ll check out the features, including pros and cons, of Thinkific Communities.
In Thinkific, your community is organized into Spaces. Spaces are like discussion rooms where you and your members can create posts and join conversations.
You can use Spaces in different ways. For example, if you have one support community for all your courses, you can create a separate Space for each course. Or you can create Spaces for different discussion topics.
You can even link a Space to a specific course, making it easy for your members to navigate between the course and the community.
While Spaces is a useful feature, it has a few limitations:
- You can’t group multiple spaces together.
- You can’t make a space private or secret.
- There’s only one standard feed layout (no list or card layouts).
As a result, you have limited options for structuring your community. For example, you can’t have a community where certain Spaces are public while others are accessible only to paying members.
Content and Engagement
The most important aspect of a community builder is the tools it offers for creating content and member/student engagement. With Thinkific Communities, you can only create posts. The post editor has the option to add a title and post text. You can attach an image, a YouTube/Vimeo video, or a downloadable file.
However, Thinkific misses out on a few critical elements:
- Members can’t upload videos directly into posts.
- The posts editor doesn’t have any formatting options.
- You can’t create articles or polls.
Apart from posts, Thinkific Communities lets you create events in your community. The events feature can be used for in-person or online events, and you can use a conferencing solution like Google Meet or Zoom for the latter.
However, it still doesn’t support recurring events or native livestreams.
Messaging and Notifications
When it comes to messaging, Thinkific Communities falls short.
Members can’t send private messages to each other, and the only way to communicate is through public posts. Plus, you can’t host group chats, another feature that many online communities need.
As for notifications, your members can receive notifications via email or the mobile app.
However, the members don’t have any real control over their notifications. They can choose to receive notifications for all communities or none. There’s no way to customize the notifications or select which communities or spaces they want to receive notifications from.
Even though the members can manually follow posts and receive notifications for those, the notification system still needs significant improvement.
Community management starts with adding members, and Thinkific has useful features for controlling access to your community. You can make the community accessible at various levels:
- All students registered at your Thinkific school
- Students enrolled in specific courses/bundles
- Students who are part of specific groups
- Students who buy a community membership
Additionally, you can manually add members to a community from your admin dashboard.
Inside a community, members have profiles where they can add their basic info, but there’s no member directory from where people can check the profiles. The only way to go through anyone’s profile is to click on the member’s name when it appears on a post or comment.
For managing community activities, you’ll need moderators and moderation tools. Note that only Thinkific admins can act as community moderators, and they can edit, delete, or pin a post. There’s no specialized moderator role, and there’s no way for members to report any post.
Overall, it’s easy to add and manage users to a Thinkific community. But other than that, the capabilities are limited.
Thinkific makes it easy for members to access their communities. All the communities a student joins appear in the communities section of the student dashboard. One click takes them to the community of their choice.
Additionally, when you link a course to a specific community space, the course player will contain a link to that space.
Most importantly, the UI inside a Thinkific community is pretty straightforward. There’s a sidebar that lists all the community spaces, and your students can open a particular space by clicking on it.
Inside a space, they will see an option to create a new post or like or comment on an existing one.
Another great thing about communities is that they’re accessible through Thinkific’s mobile apps. Apart from watching courses, your students can also engage with community activity and create posts on the go.
While the user experience within the community is good, there are still a couple of important things missing, such as the ability to search, filter, and sort posts.
Overall, Thinkific’s community-building tools are good for building a basic community. At this point, they can’t match the features offered by specialized community platforms (such as Circle) and are only good for creating course-support communities.
Thinkific Communities doesn’t let you create a member directory. However, there’s a Thinkific app called Community Box that lets you create a member directory page.
It integrates with Thinkific’s website builder, and you can use it to add a section on any webpage and list all the members. It also has the following features:
- Members can add their profiles to the directory.
- They can search, filter, and sort members.
- You can control which course students can access each page.
Keep in mind that it’s just a directory and doesn’t allow private or group messaging.
Steps to Creating a Thinkific Community
Creating a Thinkific community is pretty easy. All you need to do is log in to your admin dashboard and go to Manage Learning Products → Communities from the left sidebar.
Here you’ll see a list of all the existing communities in your school as well as an option to create a new one. Click the + New Community button in the top-right corner. That will open a modal where you can give a name to your community and set the access rules.
Unless you want to sell the community as a standalone product, select the second option. And you can change it later if needed. Click Create Community, and voilà!
You’ll now be taken to your brand-new community. Here, you can set up spaces, create new posts, create events, and more.
Thinkific creates a few spaces in your community out of the box. To create a new one, click Create Space in the sidebar.
In the next step, you can give a name to your space, include a description, add a banner image, and even link a course.
Now we’ll show you how to add a post to this new space. Click on the space name in the left sidebar and click Create Post. This will open the post editor, where you’ll add a title and description to your post.
You can create an event in a similar way. Go to the Events tab and click the Create Event button. Provide all the details, including the schedule and conference link, and your event is ready.
Now, let’s customize your community branding and other settings. You can access these settings by clicking the profile icon in the header and selecting Community Settings.
On this page, you’ll find the following options:
- Change the community’s name, description, thumbnail, and also landing page URL
- Change the primary color and font
- Control community access
- Add an SEO title, description, and keywords for your community
Use these settings according to your preferences and click Save.
If you want to sell this community as a standalone product, you first need to change the access setting. Go to the Access section and select the first option: Students that purchase this community via the checkout.
Now, go to the Pricing tab and select a pricing option. You can keep your community free, charge a one-time price, or sell a subscription.
Finally, there’s a dedicated landing page for your community. To customize it, click the Build Landing Page option, and it will take you to the landing page builder where you can customize the page.
Once you’re done, go to the Publish tab and change the status to Published. You can also copy your link and start inviting learners to your community.
That’s all! You can now grow your community and engage your members.
It’s clear that Thinkific’s community-building tools are basic compared to more dedicated community platforms. But if you want a simple community to support your students and online courses, it will work well for you.
To build a Thinkific community, just follow the steps listed above, and you’ll be ready to go in no time.
If you’re not on Thinkific already, start a free trial to start building your community.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.