When starting a community, one of the first questions we often see in Community Chat is what platforms are best for building communities. While most communities gather on a platform, it's good to keep in mind that without the people you’re inviting to the table, you don’t have a community.
A good way to think about your community is thinking of a good dinner party (in pre-COVID times, of course). Oftentimes, you didn’t leave raving about the space the party was held, but rather the people you met and the topics discussed. The venue or food served can be additive or detracting from our experience, but it doesn’t make or break the group as a whole.
The same thing goes for your community and the platforms it’s used in, the platform can add or detract from your experience, but at the end of the day, doesn’t change you from owning the experience.
It’s important to find a platform for your community that fulfills the following needs:
- Easy for your community to use: Where one group of folks may be used to using discord, your grandmother’s knitting group, maybe vastly uncomfortable using it.
- Enhances the way your community interacts: An Instagram group DM may not be best for sharing links, while a slack channel isn’t as intuitive for those interested in live conversations
- Fits well with the number of users: Ever been in a group chat from hell? Some groups may be too large to be in a WhatsApp group, or Instagram DM effectively.
Now, without further adieu, here’s some of the most common social platforms we see communities building on and some pros/cons with each of them.
Slack is a chat messaging app often used in workplaces to have organized communications, replacing email for many internal teams. The app allows you to share files, and photos, as well as integrates with many other apps to enhance its features. Its familiarity in the professional space makes it easy to add another Slack channel and create a new community.
- Familiar: Most people in a professional setting are aware of/have used Slack
- Asynchronous: Members can check in when it’s convenient for them, not just when something is happening.
- Engaging: The barrier to entry is relatively low, and the platform allows for real-time interaction, encouraging members to check in more frequently.
- Free: there’s no cost to using Slack, but keep in mind there is a limit to the free version, including no private channel guests, and messages above a certain number will be deleted.
- Hard to search: If your community is posting resources, or referencing back content, it’s hard to search within the app.
- Can feel like work: The tool largely came within the professional world, it does have a slight connotation of feeling like work.
- No hierarchy of information: Messages can get missed or lost in the shuffle, especially in super-engaged communities, leading to a slight case of information paralysis.
Originating out of the gaming world, Discord has recently arose as a leader among community builders for its built-in tools for voice and video rooms. The app allows for more enhanced roles within its community, helping you segment out your community for those whom it helps.
- Invite only: If you’re looking to keep your community a little more secure, invite-only is more intuitive with Discord. While you can get invite links that never expire, options to have it within just a short period of time or a limited number of uses are a huge plus to this platform.
- Asynchronous and Synchronous: Discord natively has synchronous and asynchronous communication tools available, making it good for communities who host a blend of events.
- Security Features: Discord features more security features than Slack, including auto-encryption of chats, and blocking of IP addresses for voice calls.
- Free: Like Slack there’s no cost to use Discord.
- Roles: Using their role feature, you can better moderate the community or block off certain features to certain members, among other segmentation tools.
- Adoption: Not everyone is as familiar with Discord, making it harder for some community members to adopt and regularly check the platform.
- Information overload: With the use of bots, additional features, and active communities, some discord servers can be in a case of information overload, putting a damper on the community experience.
- Nookazon: A place for Animal Crossing Fans to trade in-game items.
- Notion Community - for those who are building on Notion
- On the Mic - a community hosting sporadic voice chats on those doing interesting things
WhatsApp / Telegram
For more intimate community gatherings, we see some groups gathering on WhatsApp or Telegram to connect with one another. Much like texting, these platforms are favorable for their ease of use and understanding but can be overwhelming depending on what content is sharing.
- Feels more intimate: Texting can provide us an intimate feeling of personal connection, and these conversations are more conversational.
- Easy to join: Being added to a community in WhatsApp or Telegram is easy to to join and often includes just clicking into a link.
- Easy for feedback: A popular use of WhatsApp or Telegram use is product feedback. A few product managers have adopted this for keeping a log for user testing groups for feedback.
- Member to Member connection: WhatsApp and Telegram are great for a general conversation, but member to member connection can be difficult or a little more nuanced.
- Overwhelming: In groups that are larger, WhatsApp and Telegram can be the equivalent of a bad group text, lots of notifications, and not enough context or time to go through them.
Clubhouse / Chalk App / SpaceChat
The latest new trendy communities are popping up in audio communications, but this type of audio communication happens
- Allows for more nuanced conversations: Compared to texting or typing, audio allows for more nuance and understanding within the conversation, which can lead to better communication and understanding.
- Synchronous: The conversation happens instantaneously, which admittedly can be a pro or a con, but we’re considering it a plus of these platforms. Groups are able to ask questions, learn, or listen in, all in real-time, making it feel less rehearsed.
- Exclusivity: These apps are all largely still in beta, meaning there’s an element of exclusivity within the app. Unless everyone in your community has an invite, then it will be hard to get everyone onboard the platform.
- Moderation: Audio is notoriously hard to moderate, especially real-time audio, so these platforms will be struggling with how to increase privacy, and moderation tactics as they grow.
LINKS TO PLATFORMS
The social network many of us use every day, and found Community Chat through has its own forms of community that built within it. While it may be a pretty open social platform, through the use of lists, we can start to create more niche communities in the larger world.
- Public: Everything that happens on Twitter is largely in the public, allowing anyone to grow and learn about the world around them.
- Speed: Twitter allows for you to consume a lot of different content from different people, relatively quickly. With each tweet being a maximum of 240 characters, it incentivizes brevity and clarity of content.
- Public: One of the strengths of the platform is also its weakness, the platform is largely public meaning that it’s harder to find those niche bonds within the platform as a whole. It lacks intimacy in its conversations.
- Content Sharing: Twitter can be harder to share and find content that is organized, what the platform excels at in speed and publicity, makes sharing and storing content harder for groups to manage.
TWITTER LISTS WORTH FOLLOWING
For many new to community building, or the online world of communications, you may be most familiar with this type of platform use -- the Facebook group. Facebook Groups allow you to connect with one another on the platform while maintaining the feed and functionality that many people enjoy.
- Familiar: For many on the platform, Facebook groups are familiar and second nature. Also, it doesn’t require anyone downloading new software or piece of content, everything is tied in with their existing Facebook Account.
- Moderation tools: Facebook Groups have built-in moderation tools, and help those new to community building write a set of guidelines for their group to be used.
- Facebook’s Use: While still widely used, many individuals expressed concerns, and we’ve seen a decline of use on the platform for many individuals, especially those in the business or startup sector.
- Content Sharing: While good for sharing photos or quick snippets, Facebook wasn’t designed for sharing long-form content or more synchronous style of communication, making it hard for individuals to find and sort content.
FACEBOOK GROUPS WORTH JOINING
- The Social Media Geek Out by Matt Navara
- The Femps
- Shitposts that look like Science Diagrams
- Instant Pot Community
Remember: Platforms are just the place your community hangs out in
Your platform, at the end of the day, won’t make or break your community, you will do that. The platform you use is just a tool for your community to use.
While we recognize that these are the larger players you may be more familiar with or have experienced in the past, there’s a ton of newcomers in the space we’re excited to see them grow and evolve. Platforms like Comradery, Playgroup, Circle, and Forem are among the people to watch in the coming months. Have you used one of these platforms? We’d love to hear your experience.
Choosing a good platform
Taking it back to our dinner party analogy, a good host wouldn’t just cook a meal and assume that their guests like what they cook. A good host would talk to their guests and determine dietary restrictions, preferences, and the like. The same rules apply to choosing a community platform -- talk to your community to determine what they like best. Those who are super active may have strong feelings about one platform over another. Your needs; synchronous communication, voice chat, documents and files, etc, may also determine you one way or another.
No matter what your platform, taking time to invest in your community, and truly connect with your members pays off in the long run.
Catch us in our Community Chat channel