Still using Slack or Facebook to run your community?
All kinds of exciting things are happening in the world of community platforms right now. So it’s surprising to see that, even in 2022, some legacy platforms remain very popular with community managers. According to the CMX 2022 Report, close to half of the community managers still use either Slack or Facebook Groups! This is despite a number of challenges within each of the two platforms - and some impressive advantages offered by many of the new options. In this article, we take a look at the pros and cons of some of today’s top community platforms, comparing the legacy players with some of the most notable newcomers.
1. Slack: Not so slack on charging
With dedicated channels to support focused communication, and high familiarity within the business audience, Slack is still a favourite for managers of professional communities. But let’s not forget its biggest flaw - a business model in which it charges per user. That means the more popular you make your community, the more you have to pay! Plus, all those notifications pinging throughout the day can prove distracting. It can also be also time-consuming to trawl through so many different channels and threads to find what you are looking for - Slack messages are ordered chronologically, rather than by relevance or popularity. And while Slack is popular with some professional demographics, it’s far from universal adoption - which has the potential to put off some potential community members.
Cost: Free, but limited. The full version costs £11.7 per user per month
2. Facebook Groups: A big player with big limits on monetisation and control
Facebook Groups is well known, well-used and puts the power of one of the world’s biggest social media platforms behind your community. For example, Facebook prioritises posts from your group in your users’ newsfeeds (well, right after ads), keeping your community top of mind. But let’s not forget - Facebook is falling in popularity with some demographics, which might deter your target audience. Plus, this is Facebook. So it’s in control - not you. That goes for your data, your branding, your scalability… Don’t ignore another big problem: monetisation options are limited too - for example, you cannot charge subscription fees!
3. Mighty Networks: Mighty on usability, not so mighty on functionality
A relative newcomer, Mighty Networks is a platform which helps brands and creators to start and build their own online communities through member subscriptions. It provides three functions: a website builder, a membership tool, and an online course platform. Mighty Networks is very easy-to-use for anyone who had experience with social media before. That’s also true for getting started with the platform and for anyone who is struggling there are templates and tutorials. However, the more advanced community managers and creators might find Mighty Networks' functionality limiting. While Mighty Networks lets you set up your own site and personalise and customise it, it does lack the ability to let you customise different groups and chats. The platform lacks native support for live video, and its course builder lacks basic features like quizzes and certificates. Finally, Mighty Networks charge a transaction fee in all the plans, but on the hand support an unlimited number of community members.
Cost: $33/month for a community plan, and $99 if you are also looking to produce and sell online courses; all include an unlimited number of members
4. Discourse: Open-source innovation with some issues
This “100% open-source discussion platform” aims to reinvent what an internet discussion forum should be. But how does that translate into performance for community peeps? Pretty well, actually. Discourse is really useful if you’re looking to establish public conversations which will be indexed by Google. It’s easy to use. You’re in control of how you invite your users and which information is public, but users who aren’t members can also view conversations. On the cons side, set-up may be tricky for those of your users who aren’t super-techy. Plus, private messages between members can be accessed by administrators.
Cost: $100 to $300 depending on usage volumes, supporting an unlimited number of members
5. Circle: High flexibility at a comparatively high cost
As the name suggests, Circle aims to bring everything together in one place, focused on your content. You can create many kinds of online communities and set up discussions in public or private space groups. This platform is easy to use and integrates well with external websites, platforms and tools. But all that comes at a price. Circle is relatively expensive in comparison with the alternatives for larger communities, as it charges by the number of members. Plus, for a platform which claims to offer everything, it lacks functionality in some areas, like online course capabilities and even an Android mobile app. There’s also a limit on community member numbers, spaces and content storage.
Cost: $39 to $399, primarily driven by the number of members
Whichever platform you choose, engagement is everything
As we’ve seen, relying on familiar platforms can leave you out of control (Facebook) and out of pocket (Slack). While newer platforms have their issues, they also offer fresh opportunities for an ambitious community manager. Of course, ultimately, your choice isn’t only about the right platform - user engagement requires good content, good moderation, and of course, the right type of technology. Stay laser-focused on making sure your users engage compellingly with your community, whatever your choice of platform, and you’ll see greater success.
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