Thinkific is arguably THE best hosted course platform for creators in 2023 and beyond. In this Thinkific Communities review, we’ll look at the community platform that’s native to Thinkific to see if it can offer the same quality to creators who need community for their students.
There are a lot of great community platforms with lots of great features available but their integrated course builders can be a pain to work with. Some of these community platforms claim to be all-in-one solutions, yet leave so much to be desired when it comes to their course creation offers.
Many course platforms also offer community, whether it’s a message board, commenting features, or an integrated community offering where students can interact. Some of these just come out of the need to offer community and aren’t really that great.
Now that Thinkific offers native community for course creators, we’re going to see just how good their offering is and how it compares to other community platforms. If you’re planning on trying out Thinkific Communities, read this review all the way to the end so you’ll know if it’s all worth your while.
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What is Thinkific?
Thinkific is a course platform where creators can build, launch and sell courses, memberships, and now, communities.
Big brands, YouTube creators, entrepreneurs, and bloggers already use Thinkific to create million-dollar businesses selling courses.
The platform is so good for course creation that here on TrialBear, it is ranked as the #1 course creation platform among others that I’ve tried.
The user interface is easy to navigate and creators have lots of apps and integrations that they can add to their website to extend functionality. The course builder is also very easy to use and rich with the necessary features.
Adding communities was the next logical step so that creators can offer support to their students, allow them to interact with each other and create a learning atmosphere where they can help each other grow.
On Thinkific, communities can be add-ons to courses but they can also be standalone products. So if you would like to start a community and then add courses after, a model known as community-first learning, then you can definitely do that.
Thinkific communities are set up differently from other community platforms as you will still need a Thinkific plan to get started. You can create a community on any plan including the free plan. All you need to get started is a free Thinkific account or free trial access.
To find out more about Thinkific communities, you may want to check out this free webinar they’re offering.
How To Start a Thinkific Community
To get started setting up a Thinkific community, you need to first sign up for Thinkific. You can get started with a free account or with a 30-day free trial. I suggest going with the free trial since you’ll be able to try a paid plan and then get the free account after the trial expires.
After you’ve signed up and gotten familiar with your account, you can start a Thinkific community, even before you’ve built and launched any courses.
Communities are available on all plans including the free plan. Free plan communities have some limitations (only two spaces etc) and you can only create 1 community on all plans until the Grow Plan where you can create up to 3 communities.
The process of starting a community is easy. You’ll find the link in your dashboard under the “manage learning products” tab in your side menu.
The page to start your community should open and you can find more information on what’s offered. You can click on any of the buttons that allow you to “start a new community”.
Here are the steps you’ll find to set up your community.
1. Name your community and set up access
The first step is to name your community and then set up how you would like members to get access.
There are two options for this:
- You can set up your community as a standalone learning product, and/or include it in a bundle or membership. Members will get access to your community after they checkout.
- Or you can set it up so that members get access based on a course, site, or group.
You will be able to change your community name or access it later in settings if you would like to do so.
After making your choices, you can click the “Create Community” button to create your community.
2. Customize your community
At this point, Thinkific will generate the framework for your community. You’ll just need to customize and launch it.
A launch checklist is available on the right side for you to follow. Complete these tasks and you should have a properly set up community, ready for members to get together.
- Set up your profile
- Publish a welcome post
- Customize community
- Set your community access.
After setting up everything according to the list here, your community should be ready to accept your first members. Mines is pictured below.
From here, I can do some admin activities such as creating new spaces, creating events, creating more discussions, and seeing trending posts. I can also access settings to further customize the community and do things like add a linked course to the sidebar.
I found setting up a community on Thinkific very easy to do. The clean interface and instructions made the process a breeze and the settings were clear and well laid out for you to complete everything needed to completely set up your community.
Thinkific Community Features
If you’re looking to replace Facebook as your go-to community platform, you need similar community features in order for the switch to be worthwhile. Thinkific Communities has some very good features, some of which aren’t present in many competing platforms.
Here are some of the best Thinkific Community features available on the platform.
1. Connecting Courses
Course creation is an essential feature for all community platforms. Luckily, Thinkific is a course platform and has all of the best features to offer for creators to take advantage of and provide a great learning experience for their students.
If you create your community first, you can seamlessly connect your courses, giving your students an all-in-one experience. Thinkific communities and courses share one dashboard where both learning products can be found under the same menu item.
Creating courses in Thinkific is easy as the platform is primarily geared toward creating courses. Just click on any “New course” button and follow the simple prompts to get your course up and running.
Then, when you’ve created your community, you can connect both products to offer a seamless experience for your students whether they’re using the Thinkific desktop site or the app.
To link a course, just go to your community and enter any space. On the right-hand side, you should see a card titled “Link a course”.
Clicking on the “link a course” button will give you a popup listing all of your published courses. From here you can select a course to be shown to members in your community.
Linked courses will show a message to “join the conversation” in your community.
2. Profiles and @ mentions
User profiles are pretty standard for communities. Thinkific goes a step further and adds @ mentions as a feature of their community platform.
Members can interact and connect using these features which makes their learning experience even more engaging.
3. Threads and reactions
Thinkific community posts have reactions. Some community platforms have this feature and some don’t. When members view a discussion, they can “heart” a post. This is great if you’re looking for an alternative to Facebook Groups. Discussion creators can get feedback on their posts.
Also, discussions are threaded so that you can easily see the context and follow along with responses.
4. Push Notifications
On mobile, members can receive notifications to comments, @ mentions, or when someone responds to their posts. This is a great way of keeping members connected especially when they’re not at their desks.
Push notifications are only available when you’ve set up the Thinkific mobile app. This is only available to creators on a paid plan where they could have the branded mobile add-on.
Spaces are the main discussion areas of a community. You can add courses to spaces and customize the feature image but that is about it when it comes to how flexible spaces can be.
Other community platforms allow you to restrict a space to a particular subset of your membership or even charge for membership.
Still, spaces in Thinkific Communities allow you to keep your community organized and categorize your discussions.
Free members have an allowance of 2 spaces and this number increases with higher tier plans. Expand plans and up can create unlimited spaces within their communities.
Events are another standard feature for most communities. You will need a third-party video conferencing tool to use this feature. Personally, I think since Thinkific has native video for courses, it should try to somehow integrate this into its event creation tool as other community platforms with native video have.
You can use events to create:
- live lessons, workshops, or cohort courses
- live lectures
- weekly check-ins
- interactive Q&As
- coaching calls
In the events tab, you can start the event creation process by clicking on the “create event” button at the top of the page. All of the fields are on one page so that you can see what information is required.
To create an event, add the required info which includes:
- Event title
- Choose whether the event will be online or in-person
- an event link (Zoom, YouTube Live, etc.)
- a banner image to visually display your event in your community
- Event date, time, and timezone for scheduling.
You can notify your members with email invites and track RSVPs once you’re on a paid plan.
After creating your event, it will be displayed in the events tab under upcoming events and in the community feed.
Thinkific Communities Help & Support
There are a lot of ways to get help and support while building your community on Thinkific. Available channels for help and support include:
All the channels creators have for help and support with courses are available for help with communities. Like courses, Thinkific communities are products available in your account.
You can learn more about Thinkific help and support from my Thinkific review here.
Thinkific Communities Pricing & Plans
Thinkific plans give you access to everything that they have to offer including course creation and community. There are about 5 different plans including the free plan. You can build a stand-alone community on any plan as well as courses (1 course on the free plan).
Almost everything on the Free plan is limited. You’ll have one community with 2 spaces and you can only connect 1 course. Unlike other platforms, the free plan still gives you unlimited students and no transaction fees, a rarity for free plans.
The Basic plan ($49/month) gives you 5 spaces for your community but now you can create and connect unlimited courses.
It gets a lot better on the Start plan ($99/month) as you now get 10 spaces for your community and also you and your students can have the Thinkific mobile app experience. From the Start plan and above, you’ll be able to present your community and courses through the Thinkific iOS and Android apps with features such as push notifications or comments, replies, and @mentions.
The Grow plan ($199/month) is where you can really start to scale as you can now create up to 3 communities with 20 spaces in each community. You can now also have up to 2 administrators.
If you prefer to have unlimited spaces or want more than 3 communities, you’ll need to use the Expand plan. This plan allows you to create up to 10 communities, each with unlimited spaces. The Plus plan is the only plan which gives you an unlimited number of communities with unlimited spaces.
Prices range from $49/month to custom pricing for bigger organizations. You can also get a discount for choosing annual billing.
You can try out communities for free by either signing up for the free plan or even better, starting a free trial which will be created on the Start plan.
Pros and Cons of Thinkific Communities
The Thinkific communities platform is definitely one of the best for creators. However, like most platforms, it has its strengths and its weaknesses.
In this section, you’ll find the pros and cons of Thinkific Communities so that you can decide, based on your needs, if this platform is worth it for you.
My main gripe about Thinkific communities is that I expected native video to be used for online events since it is available for courses. Instead, you have to use an external conferencing application like Zoom or GoToMeeting.
Some features that work on desktop do not work in mobile apps as yet. For example, live events aren’t yet supported on mobile. Since Thinkific mobile is relatively new, I guess that this is something that they’re working on.
Having a community where your course participants can gather and support one another is a plus for any course platform. Most people, even when they’re finished with the course they’re enrolled in will continue to pay their membership just because they’re part of a group of people with similar interests.
Thinkific Communities Alternatives
With all the other community platforms available, you may want to compare them to Thinkific Communities to see if there are better alternatives. Some platforms are built with community-first businesses in mind and have more robust features.
Here are some of the top alternatives to Thinkific Communities that you can try. They all have free trials to get started.
Mighty Networks is a community and course platform built for businesses that have a community-first approach in mind.
There are some rather powerful features available to creators who want both communities and courses for their audience. I was so impressed that I put Mighty Networks at #1 on my list of best community platforms here on TrialBear.
In comparison, Thinkific Communities is a bit more affordable than Mighty Networks. While Mighty Networks’ entry plan starts at $39/month, you can have a community on Thinkific’s free plan. The Basic plan on Thinkific is just $10 more at $49 but it also has courses. In order to have courses included with communites on Mighty Networks, you’d have to sign up for the Business Plan which costs $119/month.
The other major difference when it comes to pricing is that Mighty Networks has transaction fees up up to 3% while there are no transaction fees on Thinkific, even on the free plan.
Mighty Networks has native video that is used to host course content and also, as a true Facebook groups alternative, to run live streaming content right inside the platform. This is one of the biggest advantages of using Mighty Networks over Thinkific Communities but that may change in the future.
You can also create unlimited events inside Mighty Networks with their robust event creation system and automatically send notifications to users who RSVP.
Mighty Networks also gives you a 14-day free trial so that you can sign up and experience their platform without commitment and without even entering any credit card details.
If you need more advanced features such as native video and advanced community features then this is a good alternative to Thinkific Communities.
Circle is another community platform that also lets you create courses. It is one of the most popular community platforms and even integrates with existing course platforms like Teachable and there’s even an SSO integration for Thinkific users.
Circle does not have a free plan and their entry plan is the same as Thinkific’s Basic plan at $49/month. However, you do not get courses with this Basic plan. If you want courses then you’ll have to upgrade to the Professional plan at $99/month.
Circle lets you organize your community with spaces that include templates for posts, chats, events, and courses. Course spaces are very powerful and you can gate it how you like and charge for courses separate from access to your community.
Circle has some very powerful community features which include live streaming experiences, group chats, private messaging, engaging discussions with inline images, and more.
And, if you would like a fully branded community, you can use Circle Plus which gets you an app using the Circle platform, on both Android and iOS apps.
Circle also lets you try their platform with a 14-day free trial before you commit and no credit card is necessary to begin.
GroupApp is mainly a community platform but lets you create courses as well which makes it another good alternative to Thinkific Communities.
The platform is much simpler but does have some very sturdy features. You can add courses but you’ll need to embed video content as there is no native video.
GroupApp does not have a free account but the entry plan is only $39/month, compared to Thinkific’s $49/month. However, you can still create a community on Thinkific’s free forever plan.
The real catch is that while Thinkific allows you to have unlimited members, GroupApp limits members depending on the pricing plan you’re subscribed to. If you’re on the $39/month plan, you can only have up to 1000 members, while the $99/month plan allows up to 10,000 members.
GroupApp makes it easy for you to try their platform. You can sign up for free or you can go the suggested way and use their 14-day free trial to sign up for one of their paid plans.
Skool is another good community platform that you can use to start your own community. The platform also lets you create courses and has a lot of in-development features since it’s one of the latest community platforms to join the dozens already available.
Compared to Thinkific though it is different in a number of ways. First, Skool only has one pricing – $99/month. With this you get unlimited everything since there is no higher plan to upgrade to. However, if you would like to add more communities, you’ll have to pay $99 for each additional community you create.
Skool also has a free trial which lasts for 14 days. You’ll get to try all the features and also join their very active community hosted on the platform, demonstrating everything Skool can do.
If you’re looking for a community platform with a great course infrastructure, Thinkific communities is one of the best available that combines both. With great top features that rival that will make your members stick around and enjoy communicating with fellow members, Thinkific is a solid choice for any creator or brand.
It’s also easy to get started. Take the 30-day Thinkific free trial and experience both course and community building for yourself.
Keen to know more about how community works on Thinkific? Check out the community page on Thinkific and start building your own today.