Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
In this article, I’m sharing the tech stack of the Soapbox Project community, where busy people gather to make a meaningful difference in protecting our planet and its people!
Choosing community platforms can be confusing. I’ve written a few articles on this subject before; if you haven’t read them yet, it’s valuable context and can help you navigate your own journey. I thought it would be helpful to combine this generalized approach with my own.
Here are the past articles I’m referencing:
Before we go any further, I want to emphasize for the 298203th time: your community/tech stack is important, BUT IT IS NOT YOUR COMMUNITY.
Your people are your community.
This is a work in progress for me, but every time I decide what tool(s) to depend on, I ask: if this tool stopped existing tomorrow, what would I do?
With that context in mind, here’s a tour of everything it takes to make Soapbox Project run!
Also, I’m not including any social media tools on here, but I’ll provide a brief reference at the end of the post.
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Soapbox Project’s tech stack
The overall categories are: email, payments, integrations, community, gathering, and ops. This is a super arbitrary categorization but it works for me.
- Email — Mailchimp Let’s start by saying that I honestly hate Mailchimp. In fact, I’ve disliked every email automation platform I’ve used so far. I’ve switched from Mailchimp to Substack to Mailerlite back to Mailchimp. I’m thinking of switching to Convertkit next. Here’s the absolute headache I’m dealing with: I GET SO MUCH SPAM FROM BOTS! Our list has grown and shrunk from 5-digits to 4, time after time, and our deliverability tends to swing wildly sometimes, because of sooooooo much bot spam. Anyway, I use Mailchimp because it’s easy enough to figure out, segment, and run automations on. Substack and Mailerlite, at the time I was using them, couldn’t be segmented/automated in the same way. So here I am, fighting again with da chimp.
- Email — GSuite / Google Workspace I try to send as many emails as manually as I can. When people sign up for the Soapbox membership community, they’re automatically added through Zapier (more on that later) into Google contacts. I still haven’t figured out how to tag them automatically, but this makes it easy to “manually” write emails and bcc people. It’s a bit primitive but the deliverability is way higher and it is so much more personal. Since our community is between 100 and 150 members at the time of writing this post, I also use Google Calendar for everything. We have a Soapbox Project Events Calendar I encourage all our members to add in our onboarding sequence (run through my nemesis Mailchimp) but I also, for now, send everyone the direct calendar invites. I also track actions that members take in Google Forms. I need to figure out how to automate this to sync with our leaderboard — TBD.
- Payments — Outseta I use Outseta as our payment gateway. I had a little bit of regret not using Circle’s paywall feature which had launched months after I started with Outseta, but I’ve had some experiences with Circle’s beta launches that make me happy to not have all my community eggs in one basket. Outseta has given me my fair share of challenges but I’m sticking with it because the customer support is 💯, it’s geared towards independent entrepreneurs, the founder Geoff has always been so kind and helpful in responding to my questions, and the pricing is fair. It’s really easy to spin up a new subscription type with Outseta and although I have a lot to figure out with the Zapier/Circle integration, it’s been really simple to get set up and started.
- Integrations — Zapier I use Zapier for a few things right now. First, when someone signs up for our membership community, I magically beam them into Circle after they’ve processed their payment in Outseta. I also add members to our email newsletter on Mailchimp if they’ve not already signed up for it. Most recently, I’m using Zapier to add people to our cohort-based courses... still a work in progress. Zapier has been pricier than I’d hoped, so I’m thinking of switching to Integromat, but for now, it’s a necessary tool to switch all my cobblestones together.
- Integrations (or maybe Ops?) — Burb Burb is fairly new, and I’m really excited to see them grow. I joined their beta recently to schedule DMs and posts on Circle. There’s a lot to learn and test with this product, but it may solve many of my email and post-related headaches. I sure hope so!!
- Community (online forum) — Circle I really love the Circle product as a tool for a tight-knit, asynchronous membership community, and there’s a lot I can do with it. If you read my post on why I chose Circle, you’ll see that an enormous amount of the value has come from the Circle customer community, not just from the product itself! Since it is so early-stage, I’ve made some discouraging observations on a team trying to do too much too fast, which is why I ask myself the painful question, if Circle stops working tomorrow, what happens to my community? I would be very disappointed, but it’s necessary to consider. Right now, our whole community basically depends on Circle, so it’s up to me to create tighter bonds between people so that we can continue reaching out to each other and supporting our mutual growth no matter what.
- Community (events) — Zoom I’m not going to explain this further y’all know the deal
- Community (events) — Mixily Mixily is an interesting one. I love the look and feel way more than Zoom. Basically, Mixily enables us to embed a video lounge within our Circle community. It’s super fun! It’s great for virtual community gatherings, but the free plan that I’m currently on doesn’t have live transcripts or recording — both are critical to accessibility. It’s worth a spin, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make it as big a part of our community as I would have liked. If they develop the technical performance such that I can eliminate Zoom, I totally would. I also use Mixily instead of Eventbrite for handling one-off event payments. Events are included at no extra cost for Soapbox members, but they’re generally paid to the public.
- Ops — Airtable I have a leaderboard and donations trackers set up on Airtable! These are both embedded as spaces within our Circle community, and I love how easy it is to create these directories. I’m currently on the free plan since I don’t do much else with Airtable. I also track our 1:1 member matches on Airtable since I’ve asked members to submit their interests (e.g. plastic, food, transportation, racial equity) via a matching form. I use that to fairly manually match people together, and when they 1) successfully meet with their Soap Buds and 2) post about their Soap Buds chat, I can add those points to our leaderboard and recognize people for their efforts to build more resilient community.
- Ops — Luma I don’t really use Luma for a lot and I’m just testing it out now, but I figured I’d include it. I only use it to send people who are signed up for our cohort-based course an event series invite so they have the Zoom links on their calendar. I think I’d like to use an existing tool in my stack for this — for example, maybe I’ll create another event space in Circle, since it also allows people to do a similar thing. Luma has been a good shortcut to get people updated on their calendar invites and I don’t mind it, but I think it’s better for people who aren’t already using such a robust digital community forum. I’ve also used Commsor in the past for sending event info before I had a digital home.
- Ops — Notion My whole life is on Notion at this point, so yes, if Notion stopped existing tomorrow, I would be fully screwed. I use it as a CRM, a word processor, a brainstorm arena, and so much more. ALL our project management is done on Notion. We also create worksheets, templates, and more. (I’m currently writing this post on Notion as we speak.)
- Ops — Loom Loom is great for video tours. I usually take a video with Loom, download it to my computer, upload it to YouTube, and share the link, since YouTube videos are generally easier to embed and preview. A bit convoluted, yes, but it’s working for now. Whenever a member has issues with their account, if they’re not willing to live chat with me, I can also give them asynchronous tech support over Loom.
Other than these tools, I use Webflow for our Soapbox Project website. (For this site, I’m using Super.) I also use Figma to design graphics (well, Malena, our design lead does) and we’ve recently started moodboarding on there too. Finally, I used Stripe Atlas to set up our business and have been very happy with Mercury bank for my business bank account and Bench for accounting. Bench, so far, has been an absolute pleasure.
In the future, I may pick a new values-aligned business bank through Mighty Deposits, but so far, Mercury has been an easy peasy starting point.
For social media, we’re active on Twitter, Instagram, and sorta TikTok. Instagram is currently our best place, and we schedule posts through Later. We were using Hootsuite but switched due to their contract with ICE, which they’ve since dropped, but we don’t trust them to execute on their B Corp principles now.
Here’s a video tour of many of the things I mentioned! Yes, it’s Loom → YouTube. Sorry about the subpar audio quality — I can’t figure out what’s going on with my headphone mic, alas!