You already have a small following on social media platforms and now you want to convert your audience into a community. How do you go about doing it?

With the myriad of options out there, it has become confusing for beginners to choose a community platform. Should you prioritize engagement and familiarity and go with Slack? Or should you go with a similar platform (Discord) that has a more external focus? Or what if prioritizing a forum-like platform such as Discourse is the way to go?

In this post, we'll take a look at the pros and cons with each of these platforms, so you can make an informed decision.

Slack

Slack is the universally accepted messaging platform for internal teams. Its powerful and extremely engaging interface is great for getting people to share, comment, and react to teammates' messages. Moreover, Slack has become a very familiar product especially after COVID-19 and employees all over the world are very familiar with the platform.

As a result, you may conclude that its game-like interface that increases engagement and familiarity are extremely important in growing your community and keep your community engaged. Not so fast!

Slack has a few drawbacks as well, especially the fact that it includes only 10k messages on the free plan!

Here's a list of the pros and cons of using Slack:Pros:
  • Slack is already used widely in companies around the world, so your community members will use a platform they are familiar with and love.
  • Slack is extremely engaging and as engagement is one of the biggest problems with online communities, Slack could help you solve for this.
  • Slack has a vibrant ecosystem with a ton of integrations in its app marketplace. You can pick and choose any integration that works for your members.

Cons:
  • Slack's free plan includes only 10,000 recent messages. Thus, only the most recent 10k messages can be searched and viewed. This ends up being a big hassle when the community takes off. However, while creating your community at the start, this shouldn't be much of an issue.
  • Slack starts feeling disorganized when the workspace gets big and includes 1000s of members. So if you have a mid-sized community with over 5000 members, Slack may start feeling quite disorganized.
  • It is easy to lose track of the big picture while using Slack, so again if you have a community that is mid-sized, Slack may begin to feel shallow.

Discord

Discord is similar to Slack but has some superpowers for communities, and as a result is growing in popularity as a community platform.

Here's a list of the pros and cons of using Discord:

Pros:
  • Discord has voice channels as well, so your members can view who's in a space and join if they like.
  • Discord has powerful moderation and custom access tools, which can be very helpful for a community.
  • Discord has unlimited messages in the free plan.
  • Discord scales well for mid-sized communities especially because it allows custom access and moderation

Cons:
  • Discord's interface can feel a bit confusing for non-gamers
  • Moreover, multiple Discord communities can be joined with one account and it may be distracting especially if multiple communities joined by the member are highly active
  • Discord doesn't scale for large communities

Discourse

Discourse is a forum-based platform used to host large communities. When communities get large and members need help for their questions, discourse works really well.

Here's a list of the pros and cons of using Discourse:

Pros:
  • Discourse is great for maintaining a list of topics and previous discussions for immediate reference.
  • Discourse helps teams maintain a knowledge base so customer service inquiries can be reduced.
  • Discourse has strong moderation and access roles which works really well for large communities.

Cons:
  • Discourse lacks the real-time engagement benefits that both Slack and Discord possess, which could impact engagement of your members
  • Discourse interface can feel a bit slow and clunky


If you're a startup, here are a few points to consider before choosing a community platform:

Size of the community

How large do you expect your community to become over the next few years? If it will be a small to medium sized community, you can go with Slack or Discord, else Discourse might be a better option.

Moderation requirements

Do you need moderation of the community? How fine-grained should the moderation be? If yes, go with Discourse, else feel free to consider Discord.

Unlimited messaging

Is unlimited messaging a big concern for you? If so, go with either Discord or Discourse as Slack has a 10k messaging limit.

If you're looking for the perfect platform to create your community, Casa helps startups build communities. Do check us out and please give us feedback :)