This Circle.so review will help you decide whether or not it is the right community platform for you and your brand.
I took the 14-day free trial that Circle offers to try it out as both a community and a course platform. I looked at all the great features and saw stuff that I liked and stuff that I didn’t like.
Circle is one of the most popular solutions for building community around your brand or for bringing together your online following. It’s a great alternative to Facebook groups and other third party platforms where you cannot control some things like the various distractions and algorithms.
With Circle and other community solutions, you truly own your following and can make the rules instead of having to play by them. Circle has all the great features that you love about Facebook groups like messaging, live streams, events and more.
So is Circle the best community platform for you and your brand?
Read on to find out about what Circle offers, how it can benefit you, pricing, alternatives, pros and cons and more.
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What Is Circle.so?
Circle is a community platform that creators and brands can use to bring together their followers so that they can connect about a shared interest.
The platform also doubles as a course platform. There is no better way to boost completion rates and engagement than to have a community attached to your courses. A community-first approach to selling courses is a great way to ensure that you already have an audience who wants the knowledge that you’re sharing.
Circle, which launched in 2020, bills itself as an all-in-one solution. It has all the tools and features to enable you to run a thriving community free of distractions and noise.
Features like rich member profiles, discussions, group chats, direct messaging and events along with live streaming and courses make Circle one of the top community platforms online. It is also being integrated into some course platforms like Teachable and even Thinkific.
With Circle, you can make money by adding a pay-wall for memberships as well as sell courses. You can make your community publicly available where anyone can join or make it private where interested users would need a link to join.
Circle is a top choice for many internet brands, entrepreneurs, YouTube creators and bloggers who want to add community to their business.
Who Is Circle For?
Founded by ex-employees of Teachable, Circle’s biggest use case is for creators in the e-learning industry. Courses and community complement each other very well. Students are more likely to complete their courses and stick around long after to help and connect with others who share the same learning interests.
Teachable integrates with Circle as a third party community platform, allowing users to login with single sign-on.
Who is Circle for? Well, you may be the perfect user for a platform like Circle if you have:
- a course and want your students to connect and learn together
- a YouTube channel and want your subscribers to have closer connections over your topic of interest
- an existing Facebook group and want to lessen the distractions of a social media platform you have little control over
- a brand or product and want to create loyalty in your customers and fan-base by having them connect create discussions with each other.
According to their website, some of Circle’s most visible users include:
- Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income (SPI Pro)
- Building a Second Brain (B.A.S.B.)
- Ship 30 for 30
However, a lot of smaller brands and creators use Circle to build thriving communities. You can see over a dozen examples in the Circle Community Showcase space in the Circle Community.
In the showcase, you’ll see how all these creators and brands are using community and what they have to offer.
Circle Dashboard Interface
The Circle dashboard is the first thing you’ll see when you log in and is where you’ll spend most of your time as an admin.
It is important that this interface doesn’t overwhelm and that you can find settings and important areas easily. Circle’s interface easily wins because it is very clean, minimal, and intuitive.
This interface also represents the design of your community and is what members will see as well. You can access direct messages, notifications, spaces and more in the left side bar and there is also an admin menu hidden in the drop-down at the top when you click on your brand name.
A personal member menu is visible when you click on your profile picture in the bottom left corner.
In the bottom right, there is a help button that opens up a help screen. You can send a message to support and expect a response in a few hours. There is no live chat available. If you click on “Answers” at the top, you can view knowledge-base articles right in the help screen.
Perhaps the best thing about the dashboard is the “Getting Started” checklist which takes the place of your home feed if you’re a new Circle user who is still setting up their community.
The checklist gives you step-by-step tasks to complete so that you can set up your community the right way.
You can get rid of the checklist and it’s menu by clicking on the ‘x’ next to the Getting Started menu item. You wouldn’t be able to get back the checklist so it’s recommended that you only do that after you’ve completed all the tasks.
All the checklist tasks can be done in the settings but it’s nice to have a step-by-step structure with examples and knowledge-base links to learn more.
Your home feed is the default admin page and where you could start new posts and engage your community. Members will also be able to see this page as well when they log in.
The Post Editor
I love the post editor in Circle. You can create rich discussions with lots of formatting options, media and settings.
The editor lets you add a cover image and then your formatted text with headings, bullet lists quotes, embeds and more.
Native video is also supported and you can add beautiful images from Unsplash or embed video from YouTube, Vimeo and other sources.
In the settings, you can hide or close comments, hide likes, hide from featured areas and more. When you’re done writing your post, you can choose to publish it immediately, schedule it or save it as a draft for later.
Circle presents a very good user experience for both admins and members of your community. You and your members can even access your community via mobile devices anywhere with the native iOS app. Unfortunately for Android users, no app is available for those devices as yet but they’re working on this most requested feature.
Circle has a lot of great features that make for a great user experience for both members and community owners. These features help keep users highly engaged and committed to their shared interest.
In this section, I’m going to review some of the most important features on Circle. Some of these features really impressed me especially when compared to other community platforms I’ve tried. Some features also didn’t live up to the expectations that I had for them while I couldn’t find some features I expected to find in a top rated community platform.
Here’s a look at some of the best Circle features.
The most important feature of Circle is probably spaces. Spaces are the building blocks of your community. They give your community structure and and can be customized in many different ways in terms of design, access, visibility and desired use.
During the sign-up, you’re asked to pick a template for your community depending on your goals. This installs a default set of spaces that you can customize later on. The different templates include – basic, course, coaching, podcast and product.
Also, one of the first things they ask you to do in the checklist after setting up the basics is to set up your spaces.
In the task section of the checklist they give you a few links that can help you set up your space structure and also use the Circle community for creators as inspiration. There is also an entire space in the Circle community to show you best practices for designing spaces.
On Circle, when setting up spaces, you’re encouraged to start with a handful of spaces and then grow from there. Spaces also have usage limitations depending on the plan you’re on. Basic plan users have 10 spaces and Professional plan users can create up to 20.
To start adding spaces, you can use the sidebar menu item to create your spaces. This lets you add both space groups and spaces. Space groups are collections of related spaces. For example, if I have different resources like videos, audio and pdfs, I can add a space group called “Resources” and then add three spaces labeled “Video”, “Audio” and “PDFs”.
Space groups have their settings which you can apply to the group while creating it. You can then add the spaces to the space group after group creation.
When you click “create space”, you’ll have a choice of 4 space types:
Each of these features can be created through spaces. For instance, if you’re planning on setting up a course, you’ll need to create a course space.
The space settings let you do a number of things including set an emoji or icon for your space navigation label, add the space name, the group it belongs to, whether the access is open, private or secret, and how new members will receive notifications.
Spaces as Landing Pages
Circle doesn’t have landing pages for your community website. The page your visitors first see is the logged out home page with the feed.
They’ll be able to see your spaces (if the access settings allow). They will also see the feed for your default space.
Many creators use an existing website to link to their space so the landing page will be one from that website.
In the settings, Circle lets you choose a page for logged out visitors to see when they first visit the community. This can be found in the “Home” settings. If you link to a space, you can design the cover image to be welcoming and add a discussion with all the right media and formatting to create a landing page.
Spaces are great and I had a fun time learning about this important community building feature.
2. Community Features
Circle has a number of community features that make interaction between you and your members as well as member-to-member, very exciting and engaging. These community features are must haves for any community platform.
Here’s a look at some of the features available on Circle.
- Rich profiles – when members fill out their profile info, you can see a short bio, their photo, websites and other social media links, their contact info if they choose to show it, where they’re from, if they’re online and their activity (posts, comments and spaces they belong to).
- Discussions – In spaces that allow members to create discussions, they can make very engaging posts with embedded video, images, attachments and formatting. Members can post comments.
- Events – You can create an events space where you can post unlimited events with RSVP and notifications. Location options include – in person, Circle live stream or live room or you can post a url to your Zoom or YouTube Live.
- Live streams – This feature is not available on Basic plans. You can live stream to your community or limit to just specific space. For example, if you want to create a cohort course, then you can live stream inside a course space. Plans have limits on how many attendees can join and how many hours you can stream in a month.
- Live rooms – Live rooms are a live streaming experience that is great for 2-15 people to get together all at once in a Zoom like setting. This can be a great replacement to Zoom where everyone can speak unlike live streaming to attendees where only hosts can have their mics on.
- Group chats/private messaging – group chats and private messaging are essential features for any community and let members communicate with each other. They’re available in Circle an accessible to everyone. You can create a chat space that will be accessible to everyone or secret space where members need to be invited.
Circle is constantly adding new community features that will make them a true all-in-one community provider.
3. Course Builder
No need to have Circle as your preferred community platform for your online course students. The platform recently added courses which makes it a course platform itself.
To get started adding courses to Circle, you’ll need to create a course space which is different from a regular post space. With course spaces, you can add sections and lessons like other course platforms and also add customization like banners, course descriptions and more for unenrolled users.
When you create a course space, you’ll get the course manager view where you can edit lessons. Courses are always in draft mode until you finish adding content and publish the course.
You can click on “Edit lessons” to continue to the course editor where you will add your content, price your course, see enrolled members and add SEO details if necessary.
In the lesson editor, you can add native video in 720p, 1080p and 4K resolution. Circle uses Mux for video encoding and content delivery. You can also add embedded video from YouTube, Wistia and Vimeo.
You can add text to the lesson and format your content using headings, bulleted lists and more. Downloadable files like pdfs that support your lesson can also be added to each lesson page. Enable comments so that students can interact with the lesson.
Creators can track students progress with the students dashboard. Engagement stats also show up on the course space homepage. You can set up flexible pricing using paywalls just like any other paid space. For this you’ll need to have Stripe connected to your account.
A member directory also lets you find other students that are doing the same course. You’ll be able to see their rich profile and connect with them.
Two missing features that will soon be added to courses are video analytics and a sales page editor. These are very important and will make Circle just as powerful as other course platforms.
Integrations are necessary with any platform to provide additional features and functionality. This is true of Circle which has a number of integrations that let you use external apps. I couldn’t find an official list of integrations used by Circle but you can find some through the knowledge-base in the Integrations space group.
There are many services that provide integration for single sign-on (SSO) so that your members can log into Circle via SSO instead of a Circle account. These include Teachable, Memberstack, Memberspace, Bubble, WordPress and more.
Another very useful integration is Rewardful. Since Circle hasn’t yet created any affiliate marketing management feature so creators can reward affiliates for referring paying members, they have set up integrations for you to use Rewardful to do just this.
Last but never least, there’s Zapier. Zapier lets you connect Circle with thousands of external apps. You’ll need to have a Zapier account and then you can use your favorite external tool to do whatever you need to do in your community.
Naturally, for a growing two year old company, there are some features that aren’t quite available yet. Still Circle has become one of the best within it’s space.
Noticeably there is only an iOS app which means iPhone and iPad users get to have all the fun on mobile. Android users can still use their laptops to view the desktop/web version with the absence of a mobile app.
Circle has announce though that an app will soon be available for Android users and are already beta-testing with creators.
There is also a lack of proper landing page building tools for your community. Presently the most you can do is set a page in your community to act as a landing page for logged in and logged out users.
You can design one of these spaces with featured images to act as a landing page or use other work-arounds.
Most creators and brands I’ve seen are just using their regular websites and creating a landing page on their site to add sales copy and pricing details for their community offering.
For the most part, Circle is doing a great job with the features they provide and working on providing even more features that may be currently missing. That’s an A1 company in my book.
Circle Help and Support
Getting help and support within Circle is very easy if you get stuck. There are several places you can turn to when you need to figure something out or get yourself out of a jam.
The help button in the dashboard takes you to either email support where you can ask a question and receive an answer within a few hours or you can directly search the knowledge-base.
The knowledge-base is extensive and has the answers to everything you can do with Circle. I love the layout as it is set up as a separate read-only community with space groups and spaces that work as help categories and topics.
By far, the best help you’ll get on Circle is not from waiting on an email response or checking the knowledge-base. It’s from joining Circle’s own community.
In the community, you can browse various spaces that present themselves as helpful spaces that you can use to learn more about Circle, gather inspiration and educate yourself about community aspects.
Some example spaces are:
- Circle Product space group which has spaces like:
- What’s new – has updates about new features added to Circle.
- Product tutorials – you can see how to do a lot of stuff in Circle.
- Community Showcase – see how people are using Circle with example communities and how they are set up.
- Ask the Community – a space where you can ask for guidance on any topic related to building a community business or Circle
- Learn with Circle space group – You’ll find a video library and playbooks (step by step guides on how to build a successful community).
- Best practices – For spaces, events and courses
The Circle customer community has inspired me and is doing the same for others. It is THE best way to get help while you’re building your community on Circle.
Circle Plans and Pricing
Circle has four pricing plans that community builders can choose from after they’ve completed the free 14-day trial. You can upgrade to a paid plan at anytime during your free trial.
The plans start at $49/month for the Basic plan ($39/month if you choose annual billing). The Basic plan offers the core features which include most of the community features like discussions, rich member profiles, events, private messaging, group chats, iOS and Android apps, and the ability to charge for memberships.
All the plans come with usage limits which means you’ll have to upgrade to the next plan when you’ve outgrown those limits.
On the Basic plan, you can have up to:
- 1 admin
- 1 moderator
- 100 members
- 10 spaces
The next plan is the Professional plan which you’ll need to upgrade to if you outgrow the Basic plan or need to unlock key features like courses and live streaming experiences.
The Professional plan costs $99/month ($89/month on annual billing) and also has usage limits. From this plan on though, you can have unlimited members in your community.
Usage limits on this plan include:
- 3 admin
- 10 moderators
- 20 spaces
- 100 live stream attendees
- 20 streaming hours
Next, you have the Business plan which was recently introduced to bridge the huge gap between the Professional and the Enterprise plans. This plan costs $249/month but has limited-time introductory pricing where you can get a discount for choosing that plan.
The Business plan introduces workflows and gives you API access which was previously only available on the Enterprise plan. You also get customizable fields and email white-labeling.
If you’re moving your courses over from another platform, you can get free migration but only when you choose the annual plan.
Usage limits for this plan includes:
- 5 admins
- 15 moderators
- 30 spaces
- 20 workflow automations
- 200 live stream attendees
- 30 streaming hours
The Enterprise plan is the high-end plan which is great for growing businesses and high volume customers. For $399/month ($360/month paid annually), you can get access to Circle’s most powerful plan which gives you all of the features from the Business plan plus a dedicated customer success manager, sandbox community, custom single sign on, priority email support and more.
While you have unlimited workflows and members, there are also usage limits on this plan with the option to purchase extras. On this plan, you get up to:
- 10 admins
- 100 moderators
- 100 spaces
- 1000+ live stream attendees
- 40 streaming hours
Each plan also comes with transaction fees which decrease as you go up the plan tiers. So Basic starts at 4% transaction fees, Professional plan subscribers pay 2%, Business plan subscribers pay 1%, and Enterprise plan subscribers pay 0.5% subscription fees.
You have to factor in the monthly cost, any extras you’ll be paying for and transaction fees to see the true cost you’ll need to pay Circle so that you can build your community.
Personally, I’m not a fan of pricing plans that have caps and limitations on resources. These plans force you to upgrade while other platforms offer unlimited usage. However, if your business is growing then it should be no problem paying higher subscriptions for the service provided.
Circle Pros & Cons
Circle has some great features which makes it one of the top community platforms. However, it is not perfect and has some flaws. Maybe they’re just things that I don’t like personally but I’m sure there are other people who will find fault as well.
Check out the things I liked about Circle and the things that I didn’t like too much (or thought could be improved).
Having an iOS app where creators and community members can get access anywhere on their Apple devices is great. An Android app was recently introduced as this was a highly requested feature.
I’m also not a fan of pricing plans with usage caps that force you to upgrade to the next plan as your business grows. To their credit though, you can always pay for additional resources instead of upgrading but only on the mid-level plan.
I absolutely loved the “Get Started” check-list that you get after you signup so that you can start building your community in the right way. The clean interface also gets some points from me.
Circle is definitely recommended for all these great features. The cons mean that there is room for improvement with this platform which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Whether Circle is the best community platform or not is debatable. Everyone has their own preferences about what they want out of the platform they choose for their business.
If Circle isn’t the platform for you, it may be worth it to check out these other community platform options. All of these options come with a free trial period where you can sign up and check out what’s available for a limited time.
Circle’s biggest competitor is probably Mighty Networks which also has both community and course features.
On Mighty Networks, your community can have live streaming (on all plans), member profiles, discussions, events, group chats, messaging and all of the other features available on Circle.
There are some differences though. With pricing, things like members, admin and moderators are unlimited and not capped on each plan. The pricing is slightly higher on Mighty Networks but not that much.
Both platforms provide native apps for iOS and Android. However, Mighty Networks goes a step further and offers a plan where you can get your own branded app for both mobile platforms.
Mighty Networks also has a 14-day free trial and you could get a 14-day extension if you like.
Thinkific is one of the top course platforms available on the internet in 2023. They certainly have a better course product than Circle but this is because that is their main focus as a platform.
Thinkific also has Thinkific communities which (along with courses) makes it a powerful alternative to Circle.
Features available include rich member profiles and @ mentions, live events that turn your community into a classroom with coaching, workshops, and more, reactions, threaded conversations, and lots more.
You can get started on Thinkific with either a free plan or a full 30-day free trial of one of their most popular paid plans.
With a primary focus on courses, Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that also allows you to build communities. You can offer access to customers of your courses or other Kajabi products or it can be a standalone, paid membership or subscription.
Communities on Kajabi aren’t as feature-rich as Circle and the pricing is about 4 times more expensive to get started. However, if you’re more focused on doing courses, podcasts or coaching then Kajabi might be an option to check out.
There is a 14-day free trial available to join Kajabi and check things out but no free account to fall back on when the trial is over.
Another option to Circle is Uuki, which creators and brands can use to build engaging communities around their products and offerings.
Uuki is a great alternative if you want a cheaper option as plans start at $19/month. Posts and discussions, member profiles with private messaging and group chat and paid membership are some of the core features available. It is not as feature-rich as Circle and you can’t do courses or live streams.
Uuki offers a 14-day free trial without credit card to get started.
If you’re looking to create a community for your brand followers or course students then Circle is one of your top options. The platform has everything you need to run a thriving community and has affordable pricing for what they offer.
Features like engaging discussions, group chats, events, courses and live streaming will keep your community engaged and devoted.
The only thing I don’t like about Circle is the usage caps on each pricing plan while other platforms have unlimited usage of the same resources.
Circle deserves a try as it’s easy to use and set up and there is plenty of help, support and inspiration in the Circle community.
They offer a 14-day free trial with no credit card necessary to get started. This means that there is nothing to lose in choosing what may be the best community platform for your business.