Review Summary

Newcomer Looking to Make An Impact
Tiered with Free Option
Cost Info: 
Free option is feature and admin limited. Several important features only available with paid plan. More expensive than most competition.
Dedicated and Innovated Development Team, Interesting Features
Weaker overall feature set than top competition, Pricing , Lack of Premium Support with Premium Plans
Editor Rating: 

Hoop.la is late to the game, but has burst out of the gate. Driven by the founders, the synergetic O'Neills, they hope to catch up and surpass the competition. Their “marketing speak” is optimistic, boasting that Hoop.la is “ the most rich and powerful (yet turnkey) social content platform in existence.” At this writing, that appears to be more of a goal to strive for than a statement of fact. Hoop.la does show the potential to live up to the claim in the future. Some of their individual features show the innovation and vision it will take to win people over. One shining example is their handling of quotes in forums and comments. In addition to quoting someone's post with one click, you can also quote multiple posts in your own reply simply by clicking an icon next to each post. This allows you to quickly and easily structure a reply to multiple points in the discussion.

At this stage of the game, Hoop.la's features on the whole lag behind the competition in significant ways. The most significant omission is the inability to create subgroups. The closest you can come is to create a Forum that is only accessible by people with specific permissions. This requires a significant amount of work however, as you would have to create the permission level and then assign it to any individual wanting to be a part of that group. Tack on multiple groups and you have an administrative headache. Further, this would not provide the “group space” that other competitors offer where groups have their own calendar, wall, photo area, etc.

Still, some of the features of Hoop.la leave me thinking they will grow into a serious contender. From the well developed content search tool to the granular control over user permissions, the development team shows that they have knowledge of what users want and need. Their innovation is further highlighted by features like “Dialogs” which allow you to have a private discussion with targeted members of your group. Unfortunately, you cannot add new members to such a conversation once it is started, but this is still a standout feature. It's innovation and attention to detail like this that gives Hoop.la a fighting chance.

One barrier to Hoop.la's potential growth is the pricing. Their premium packages are priced significantly higher than their competition. Further, in order to have features like events, chat and additional administrators past the first one, you have to bump up to a paid account. When doing a strict comparison of features you get for your dollar, Hoop.la is low on the ROI scale. They will need to provide exemplary customer service and continue to develop and innovate in order to become a major player in the social community market.

Monetization - Ability to display two ads. Ability to not display ads for members who purchase a permission level. You can charge members for a "premium membership" which allows you to mark any piece of site content as "premium access only". Hoopla programmatically handles people purchasing/canceling premium memberships and keeps 30% of the revenue.

Resources - Support only through an online forum, even with premium accounts. Forums combines support for three different products though you can sort topics by product.

Pricing - Free plan available, but there's a good chance you'll need at least one of the features in one of the premium plans, which are expensive compared to other sites. One bonus = no extra charge for custom domain.

General Use - Standard UI with a content stream, and top menu. Have to manually create custom URLs if you want the site to be SEO friendly. Counting on users to do this, may be problematic.Granular settings for notifications (i.e. turn it on or off for individual types of posts) although digest settings only allowed for forum posts. Nice search mechanism that allows you to search specific content types.

Admin - Only one administrator with free account (5 with upgrade). Facebook sign in if you create an app.(OpenID only with upgrade). Good granularity of screening new members (choose from: approval, CAPTCHA, require email verification, minimum age, even close the group). Allow for "grace period" edits. Ban IP and email addresses from registering. Add custom member profile fields (public or private). Censor list (manually add words you want to restrict). Nice granular member search that allows you to ban, remove,email or create an email list from a select group of members based on search criteria. Manage content through search/filter but only "blog" and "topic". Can enable moderation for individual content types. Can limit moderation to items by a certain person or contain attachments. Granular permission groups. Google analytics integration.

Layout - Free basic themes with standard three column layout. Upgrade required for custom themes. Ability to customize Menu (items and order) and create custom pages. Themes are all identical in overall layout; they simply change colors and thematic background image. Individual content blocks can be re-arranged on layout grid. Upload custom header image or code.

Forums - Can create forum categories. Can assign different themes to different forums. Can create specific permissions groups to limit forum access.

Events – Requires upgrade. iCal subscriptions to calendar. No recurring events. Only timed on the hour and half hour. Can do all day events, add pictures and tags. No way to restrict events to subsets of members. Does allow for RSVPs, including "Maybe". No way to send reminders, email invites, etc.

Groups – Not available.

Blog - Can restrict to only approved members. Can attach photos and utilize Tags. Can "watch" and allow or disallow comments.

Files – Requires upgrade.

Chat – Requires upgrade. Must create 'chat event' which can allow for “featured speaker” and moderator(s).

Photos - Can organize into "clip sets" (i.e. photo albums), however it could be a bit more intuitive. No apparent way to upload multiple photos at a time, for example.

Polls – Only within a forum post.

Videos – Only with highest level of upgrade.


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