If you want to build a diverse and sustainable e-learning business that consists of online courses, memberships, and other digital products, you need a loyal community of like-minded people around your brand.
An engaged online community helps you create a more valuable e-learning experience for your students and drives business growth through word-of-mouth marketing.
But how do you create a consistent and cohesive community experience without investing in dozens of different tools and spending thousands of dollars?
This is where Circle.so comes in.
In this article, we’ll show how Circle can help you create a thriving online community for your e-learning business, discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and give you all the information you need to decide if it’s the right community platform for you.
Let’s get started.
Don’t have time to read the full Circle.so review? Here’s our quick verdict to help you decide.
Circle is the most powerful and feature-rich online community management tool we’ve seen. It is an all-in-one solution for creating, managing, and selling memberships, gated content, and online courses. Plus, it offers excellent video streaming and live event features to engage your audience without moving them to an external platform.
So, if you’re serious about growing an online community around your brand, Circle.so is an excellent choice.
What Is Circle.so?
Circle.so is a robust cloud-based online community management platform packed with eLearning and digital product marketing features.
It’s an all-in-one community management solution that allows you to build thriving online communities of thousands of members without using dozens of different tools. Think of it as a one-window solution for building, managing, and growing a community-driven e-learning business.
As an online course creator, knowledge entrepreneur, or digital product seller, you can use Circle to provide a seamless learning experience to your audience and sell a whole range of digital products, memberships, courses, and gated content in an integrated environment.
This is why Circle has quickly made a name for itself and is regarded as one of the best online community management tools used by 8500+ brands, creators, startups, and community managers
But before diving deeper into Circle’s features, let us tell you more what you can do with it.
You can use Circle in numerous ways to create knowledge-driven online communities and digital products. Here are some of its most common use cases.
With Circle, you can create highly engaged online communities where your members can exchange ideas, seek feedback, and interact with each other. It allows you to create public, private, secret, or hybrid communities and consists of spaces and space groups to help you organize your discussions.
Circle comes with online course creation and selling features using which you can create modular courses with video, audio, and text content.
Numerous entrepreneurs use Circle to host live workshops with hundreds of members from their communities. You can host one-time or recurring workshops and offer them for free or charge a fee.
If you provide online consultancy, Circle can be an excellent platform to help you generate leads and provide live consultancy sessions. You can generate demand from your community and schedule live video sessions to provide your services
Circle is an excellent platform for free and paid memberships or gated content. It gives you total control over your content access and allows you to add paywalls to any discussion thread/space.
Circle is also a great choice for building your company’s knowledge base. You can use its threads/Spaces to cover different topics and create posts with detailed content. Your members can navigate your knowledge base using its homepage, Circle’s search bar, or topical hashtags.
In short, Circle is a robust and multi-purpose platform where you can grow a community, engage with your audience, and make money selling different forms of digital products.
Before discussing Circle’s individual features, let me quickly show you how it is an excellent platform for building and growing a sustainable eLearning business.
Whether you want to sell online courses, memberships, consultancy services, or mastermind groups, you need to do the following to succeed.
- Establish yourself as an authority
- Publish authoritative content
- Convert your traffic into leads using branded landing pages
- Create customer success stories and earn testimonials
- Create a frictionless environment to sell multiple digital products
- Offer personalized help to your audience.
Circle provides you with tools and features to achieve all of those goals (and much more). Don’t think of it as just a community platform. Instead, it’s a platform where you can build a community and use it to launch and grow a sustainable eLearning business with multiple products.
Your influence grows with your community because your members look up to you as an expert, take your advice, and see you as a role model for success. They become your biggest assets by spreading positive word of mouth about your brand and attracting more members, leads, and customers.
So, unlike other community platforms or course-selling tools, Circle.so helps you build the complete ecosystem to run a successful eLearning business.
Let me now discuss its core features to help you understand how it works.
Circle.so is packed with features to help you start, manage, and grow thriving online communities, sell online courses and digital products, and build a loyal audience around your brand.
Let’s discuss some of its main features.
Circle Community AI
Community AI is a suite of AI features to help Circle community owners create more valuable, meaningful, and tailored content for their audiences faster than ever.
Thriving communities are built upon the willingness of their members to help each other by sharing personal experiences and creating actionable and high-quality content.
But most online community owners and users don’t actively create such content because:
- Content creation is time-consuming and requires in-depth research.
- They can’t think of the right words to express themselves.
- They don’t know enough about the problem to contribute meaningfully.
Community AI solves those problems by giving you content creation and audience insights tools.
It uses the latest advancements in AI technology to help you understand your audience’s behavior, needs, and how they interact with your community. Based on its insights, you can answer your members’ questions through text and visual content.
Your Circle community members can also access some of these features to create better content and add more value to the discussions.
In short, Community AI leverages artificial intelligence to help you and your Circle members build stronger relationships based on helpful, reliable, and engaging content.
You can read our detailed Circle Community AI review to learn how it enhances content creation, and to see it is worth using for your online course business.
In Circle, everything happens in spaces.
So, what are spaces?
Spaces are dedicated channels where you can offer different types of content to your audience. A space could be a forum containing threads, a public or private chat room, a live event, or an online course. Each space can be private, public, or secret, depending on your choice.
So when you create a new space, Circle gives you the following options:
You can use spaces to organize your content into broader categories. So, for example, if you have a Circle community about freelance writing, your spaces could be
- Freelance writing jobs
- Writing skills, tips, and strategies
- Client management
- Scaling your business
Let’s say these are “Post” spaces. In that case, each space has its dedicated discussion threads. So, in the “Freelance writing jobs” space, you could add new threads about job opportunities where you share the employer’s requirements and other details.
Here’s an example of spaces from Circle’s own community.
For better management, you can organize related spaces under a space group like you can see in the screenshot.
Let’s open the space, “What’s New?” to see it from inside.
As you can see, this space consists of threads about different product releases and updates. Each thread contains messages between members, like any other online discussion forum. You can use these threads to post long-form content with videos, images, attachments, and emojis.
Similarly, if you choose “Chat” as your space type, it sets up a Slack-style public or private chat room (your choice) where members can directly interact with each other, share files, and exchange ideas.
A “Course” space allows you to set up a dedicated online course. An “Event” space allows you to host live events with as many members of your community as you want.
Irrespective of the space type, you have complete control over who accesses your content and how they can access it (free, public, paid).
Let’s discuss the course and event space types in more detail because of their importance.
Circle allows you to create and sell modular online courses with video, audio, and text content. Simply choose the “Course” space type to create your course.
To get started, just name your course space and choose the space group under which it should be displayed in your community.
Inside the course space, you get a clean user interface where you can configure your course’s privacy settings, customize branding, set up paywalls, and create modules and lessons.
In Circle, course modules are called sections. To create course content, you first need to create your course’s main sections (modules). For example, the modules for an SEO course could be
- Course introduction and fundamentals
- Technical SEO
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
Each section (module) consists of multiple lessons. For example, the “On-Page SEO” module could contain lessons like:
- What is on-page SEO
- Keyword research
- Optimizing page titles
- Writing the perfect meta description
Here’s a screenshot of the list of modules and courses in a Circle course space.
A lesson is where the actual course content resides in the form of videos, audios, text content, or a mix of all content types.
Here’s an example of what Circle’s course lessons look like.
You can completely customize these pages, add your logo, and brand colors to give it a unique look.
In addition, you can also create landing pages for your course where you can allow people to sign up for free using their email addresses or buy your course for a one-time or monthly fee.
In short, Circle gives you everything to quickly create and manage a modern online course.
Video streaming is among Circle’s most impressive features. It allows you to reach and engage your community with live video in several ways.
Live events: One-time or recurring live video events ideal for online classes, workshops, masterclasses, seminars, and other event types.
Live streams: Ideal for large-scale events like Q&A and webinars
Live Rooms: Small video meetings where all the participants can show up on camera and exchange ideas live.
Depending on your business needs, you can use any of these live video types to engage your audience. But all of them offer some amazing engagement capabilities.
For example, you can add a paywall and hold a live class with a small or large group of students. You control the camera and can invite anyone on stage. Plus, you also have a co-host who manages the event with you, responds to chat questions, and ensures the event goes smoothly.
Once the event is over, you can have the video recording that you can share with your students in your community or as a downloadable file.
In short, Circle allows you to instantly create highly engaging video events in your online community and gives you complete control over how users can access them.
Circle is built for subscriptions, memberships, and gated content delivery. It provides you with simple but robust membership features that allow you to turn your community or any space into a members-only section.
Then, it’s up to you to offer free memberships that people can get by registering with their email addresses. Or charge a monthly or one-time membership to grant access.
Here’s how it works.
When creating a new space, you can make it private so that users need to sign up to access it.
If you choose “Secret”, your community will only be visible to a user when you invite them. Both settings can be used to offer memberships.
Plus, if you want to make an existing space or your entire community Private or Secret, you can do so from its settings.
You can also configure multiple membership tiers or offer free trials before charging your members.
So, effectively, your community can have free public spaces, free members-only spaces, and premium member-only spaces all at the same time.
To charge membership fees, you’ll need to configure a paywall. Let’s discuss it in the next section.
Circle allows you to monetize your content in several ways once you configure your payment gateway. To collect and process payments in Circle, you need to have a Stripe account so your customer can pay using their credit/debit cards.
Once you configure a paywall for a space or your entire community, you can use different payment modes.
- Paid memberships: Offer memberships for a one-time fee or installments.
- Online courses and digital products: Sell courses and digital products for a one-time payment or against multiple installments.
- Recurring subscriptions: Automatically charge a monthly subscription fee.
- Gate access: Charge for specific sections of your community without impacting any other spaces or content.
- Offer upsells: Setup upsell offers to maximize your revenue.
- Free trials: Offer limited-time free trials to give prospects an inside look at your community.
- Coupons & discounts: Create exclusive discount coupons for sales campaigns and to increase customer engagement.
You can also turn your event spaces, like live sessions or chat rooms, into premium products that members must pay to access.
In short, these flexible payment options allow you to sell any type of digital products, online courses, subscriptions, gated content, or consultancy services.
User management is a critical feature that allows community owners to know exactly who is a part of their community and how they’re interacting with the content.
Every Circle community comes with a members directory containing rich member profiles and filters like location, posts, and tags to search members.
Using these search filters, you can easily find posts from specific members, find members from a certain location, or shortlist posts with a particular tag.
This feature comes in handy for large communities with dozens of different private and public spaces and thousands of members worldwide.
Circle analytics shows you a comprehensive picture of your community engagement levels. You can see exactly which content is performing better and getting more engagement.
Similarly, you can get detailed member insights and identify trends to help you understand the topics or spaces that resonate more with your community.
We’ve discussed some of Circle’s main features. But it offers a lot more that we couldn’t cover. But let me share a few examples of live Circle communities to give you a better idea of what it offers.
You can find thousands of live public and private Circle communities in the Community Showcase. But let’s quickly explore some popular Circle communities.
Circle.so Example #1: Smart Passive Income (SPI) Circle Community
Smart Passive Income (SPI) is one of the most well-known brands in the “internet marketing” and “make money online” niches. Owned by Pat Flynn, SPI Media is a paid Circle community for entrepreneurs and growth marketers to network, discuss ideas, build partnerships, and grow together.
Circle.so Example #2: Code Meets No-Code
As the name suggests, Code Meets No-Code is a premium Circle community that helps no-coders learn how to code. With 100 premium members, it’s a closely knit community where the members help each other excel at coding and achieving their business goals.
Circle.so Example #3: Product-Led Marketing
ProductLed Marketing is a free Circle community for growth marketers, entrepreneurs, and product managers. Users can sign up by entering their email addresses on the community’s landing page.
How much does it cost to use all the cool Circle.so features? Let’s die into its pricing plans.
You can use Circle.so by signing up for any of its three subscription plans.
- Basic – $49/month
- Professional – $99/month (best value for digital product sellers, eLearning professionals, and community builders)
- Enterprise – $399/month
What’s the difference between these plans?
The Basic plan is for managing small communities of up to 100 members and comes with all the core Circle.so features except for live streaming and live events. You can create up to 10 spaces but have to pay a 4% transaction fee on your course or membership sales.
But if you want to experience Circle’s full force, the Professional plan is the way to go. It allows up to 20 spaces, 100GB attachments, live streaming, events, group chats, and lower transaction fees.
In addition, you get up to 50 hours of video recording from your events along with co-hosts and team members.
The Enterprise plan is designed for brands and organizations with thousands of community members and large teams.
Irrespective of your subscription, Circle.so comes with a 14-day free trial with no credit card required. You also get a discount on annual billing plans.
Overall, if you’re serious about using Circle, I’d recommend using the Professional plan to access its full feature range.
Let’s quickly discuss some of Circle’s main strengths and weaknesses.
Circle’s video conferencing features are comparable with any leading tool in the market. It offers world-class video-streaming features that allow you to easily host one-on-one sessions, closed masterminds, or large seminars. Plus, you get HD recordings of your events that you can later sell as a product or offer for free.
Circle integrates with every product under the sun. With over one thousand direct integrations with marketing, project management, and general business apps, Circle seamlessly fits into your processes and makes community management easier.
Circle’s user experience stands out from the moment you sign up. Its onboarding process walks you through each step of setting up your community and spaces, and provides you with all the information you need to launch. The tool’s UI is well-organized and self-explanatory for even a first-time user.
Circle comes with an in-depth knowledge base and detailed product tutorials to help you understand its features and how to use them to achieve your community goals. In addition, its weekly training sessions and networking groups allow you to learn from other community managers and grow your business.
Circle integrates with Unsplash, allowing you to access thousands of high-quality images for your course pages, community, landing pages, and content.
Like every product, Circle has some weaknesses as well.
Circle’s online course creation features are sufficient for beginners. But it lacks advanced eLearning features like quizzes, surveys, assignments, and several other functions experienced course sellers need.
Circle allows you to create landing pages for your gated content and quickly set up new spaces. But it doesn’t provide you with any templates or presets for different use cases. This means starting your landing pages, online course, and most other community sections from scratch.
If you’ve read this far, we’re sure you’re impressed with Circle’s features and capabilities (we know we are). It is perhaps the most potent community management tool we’ve seen, with excellent video streaming and live event hosting features. Plus, it gives you complete control over your content and how your audience consumes it, along with several other advanced content management features.
So, if you’re looking for a reliable platform to grow your community and e-learning business, you should seriously consider taking Circle for a spin.
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