Word-of-mouth testimonials have become a powerful and crucial part of B2B and B2C marketing strategies. As a result, more and more companies are investing in subscription-based online community apps and platforms to help them expand their reach and networks, increase engagement levels and sentiment, and establish trust among new potential buyers. Many companies have already seen a great deal of success from these types of strategies and how advocate or influencer marketing has helped brands build long-term relationships with individuals and other organizations.
So, how exactly is advocate marketing different from word-of-mouth advertising? Advocate or influencer marketing focuses more on building a community of individuals and organizations to increase collaboration, engagement, and conversation around a particular brand rather than focusing solely on the consumer.
In fact, according to an article published by Inc, approximately 84 percent of marketers have invested in similar strategies. Furthermore, according to statistics published by TapInfluence, influencer marketing can increase ROI up to 11 times higher than traditional marketing methods.
It’s no secret that the future of influencer marketing is expected to grow, and if your business doesn’t keep up, then you are missing out on key opportunities to build an online community and network that also helps expand your reach and further grow your brand. This is why now is a good time to consider investing in an online community application to help build your advocate marketing strategy.
The Top Online Community Apps: Head-to-Head Review
There are a number of software and applications available to help marketers recruit, manage, and communicate with individuals and organizations to build a community of influencers. However, in the sea of applications available, each with their own claim to fame, how do you know which application will best fit your company’s marketing strategy?
In this article, I’ve already done the work for you. I have reviewed the top online community applications as well as key strengths and weaknesses of each. Read on for complete reviews of three popular online marketing applications: Lithium, Influitive, and Higher Logic.
The Judging Process
Before I jump into the list, I will first describe my judging process and how I arrived at fair, truthful, and unbiased conclusions. I’ve used the following criteria to judge each:
- Time to get going. How hard is it to get started with the tool? Are there training tools, tips, videos or tutorials to help you accomplish what you are trying to do or find what you are looking for?
- Overall ease-of-use. How robust is the user interface (UI)? How easy is it to use? Is it intuitive? Is it easy to get up and running?
- Feature richness. Does the application provide features that make it stand out from the competitors?
- Design aesthetic. Is the application visually appealing? Is the content clean and well organized? Is it easy on the eyes?
At the end of this article, you will see the grading rubric complete with specific criteria weighting. The conclusion will also present the “winner” of the applications we have reviewed and reasons as to why.
Please take note: Any mentioned features or prices are accurate as of the time of writing this article and are subject to change.
Lithium is an application that offers various services, including social media management, customer service and support, and communities, all designed with built-in analytics to meet enterprise needs. It is immediately obvious that this company has invested a great deal in developing an application that does it all.
After setting up a Lithium account for the first time, users will see a knowledge and support area of the dashboard, which provides a wealth of training tools and resources to help users get up and running easily, which include notes, forums, online training and a FAQs section. There is also a separate knowledge and support area specifically for developers, plus a section for Lithium’s blogs, organized by topic (social media marketing, online communities, and so on), which is a great place to get some tips, tricks, and other information on getting started with the product.
Two additional features of Lithium, which help differentiate it from other community applications, are the Developer’s Network section and the Best Practice Center. The Dev Network has been created as a forum specifically empowering developers to communicate with each other asking and answering questions related to development of the platform. The Best Practices Center enables users to share their own learnings with others, with a specific focus on the goals they have set, whether they be organizational, departmental or more campaign level goals.
Lithium has clearly done a great job in providing users with the tools and information they need to get accustomed to the application as well as its unique features.
Lithium also provides a wealth of content features, such as the Discussions area, which provides users a snapshot of ongoing conversations as well as real-time notifications so that users can easily keep track of conversations as they happen.
Although the Lithium user interface is certainly attractive, designed with a multitude of content and content features, appealing icons, and beautiful color scheme, putting Lithium above some of the other applications on our list, I also found it slightly overwhelming. When logging in as a first-time user, it was difficult to determine what to do first, which knocks a few points of overall ease-of-use.
Overall Grade: 3.7 – B+
Influitive is an application for advocate marketing, which helps B2B companies build and sustain their brands through the power of their customers’ voices. Influitive also helps brands with referral management, helping to collect, track, and reward referrals submitted by customers to help accelerate the sales pipeline.
After setting up initial access in Influitive, users are pleasantly greeted with a bright and aesthetically pleasing dashboard, empowering the user to immediately jump in and get started. The content is also well organized and broken down into organized boxes, such as “Testimonials”, “Informative”, and “fun”.
There is also a separate sidebar for recent activity, and different pages for referrals, rewards, and challenges, making the user interface and experience a pleasant one. These features are definitely unique, and definitely help put Influitive above other competing applications. There is also sufficient white space, which helps reduce the “cluttered” feeling and avoid information overload for the user. Influitive’s user interface gets the maximum number of points!
I didn’t find too many weaknesses with this application. However, although Influitive provides the user with a highly interactive and easy-to-use user interface, it lacks training tools or a knowledge base to help users get up and running. Although Influitive is incredibly intuitive (hence its name?), having a training and support section to help users troubleshoot when needed would be helpful.
Overall Grade – 4.7 – A
Higher Logic is another online community application that enables brands to build and maintain their communities. Higher Logic specializes in providing a community where customers, members, and prospects can connect, interact, engage as well as build and leverage value, making it the most dynamic platform I’ve reviewed thus far.
Higher Logic Strengths:
The home page or dashboard of Higher Logic, also known as HUG for active users, is well-organized, easy to navigate, and provides the user with useful, informative content upon logging in.
As far as aesthetics, Higher Logic certainly isn’t the prettiest I’ve seen, but there is sufficient white space which makes it easy for the user to digest the content and features, providing a workable user interface and one that is easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for. The navigation bar at the top of the page also aids users in the navigation process.
Higher Logic also provides the users with a comprehensive support section with FAQs, “how-to” community blogs, and best practice tips and tricks to navigating and using Higher Logic to meet goals. Users can easily click the different sections, navigate the pages, and easily access the help section as needed. Higher Logic also offers a “Browse” area, which allows the user to easily browse the application’s features as well as the content.
Higher Logic Weaknesses:
Although Influitive provides the user with a workable and user-friendly user interface, it isn’t the prettiest to look at. It also lacks training tools and resources. All in all, Higher Logic gets the job done.
Overall Grade: 3.5 – B
Grading Criteria and Rubric
These products are all fabulous to use, and I honestly believe you will enjoy working with any of them. While I’m definitely leaning towards Influitive for its highly attractive and engaging user interface and experience, and how much I love its design aesthetics, each application offers its own unique features and value.
I took the time to test out each aspect of each tool and then put the numbers together to see how they compared with one another. The results make Influitive the winner as the best all-around online community application. I believe that Influitive is the best option for brands that need an easy-to-use, highly intuitive and attractive user interface to easily interact with their communities.
Who Should Use Influitive?
I would recommend Influitive for those brands who require a more beginner approach to managing their communities, referrals, and rewards. The best part about Influitive is that it is a well-rounded application that will fit brands of any size and skill level, making it truly a comprehensive advocate marketing solution.
Who Should Use Lithium?
Although Lithium offers a number of training tools and resources for beginners, we recommend Lithium for users who have a moderate level of experience using online community platforms. Upon initial setup, Lithium can be a bit overwhelming, and almost offers too much content. However, some users may not find this to be so, therefore, it is likely the better choice for more experienced users.
Who Should Use Higher Logic (HUG)?
Higher Logic is another great tool for beginner marketers who are just getting started with building their communities. Higher Logic offers a number of great features, particularly the “Browse” feature, which is perfect to get the hang of the software as well as get a quick snapshot of ongoing discussions and content. However, if you are a stickler for highly creative designs, then Higher Logic may not be the right solution for you. Design aesthetics for Higher Logic definitely aren’t as pretty as some of the other applications I’ve looked at.
The Right Online Community App for You
I understand that every marketer has his or her own needs for using an advocate marketing application. I also understand that some applications require a substantial investment, which can put a lot of pressure on marketers to make the best possible decision. I hope you found this article informative and helpful, providing you with the information you need to make a more informed decision about choosing the right online community application for you.