The Community Club

Jason Fisher
Jason Fisher

Posted on

Building Community...what platform to use??

Hey guys. I'm just getting started launching a new community and could use your advice. Should I start with:
A. A blog, newsletter, Facebook Group, Slack Channel
B. Something like Circle, Hivebrite or Tribe? If you recommend this route, what's the best platform?

My community is a professional industry network that will bring people together to discuss business opportunities, networking events, job listings, etc.

Appreciate the help!

Jason

Discussion (6)

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mp profile image
Mindaugas

Hey Jason, great question!

If you haven't already created a space for your community, I would spend some time talking to your target audience and understanding where the majority currently spend their time. You could launch a survey, 1:1 interview or a mix of both.

This way you can identify a number of things that can help inform what platform to pick. Let's say for example most of your target audience already use Slack in their daily workflow - that could be a good indicator that new members onboarding will cause less friction compared to something they haven't used before. At the same time would be worth asking if they are already part of a few similar communities living on similar platforms - then you might struggle for attention.

That's all to say that investing time in research and asking a lot of questions upfront will for sure help you choose the right space for your community. From your findings, you can then trial or demo a bunch of these to find which one matches what you need.

Hope this helps!

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alex profile image
Alex Angel

I think Mindaugas and Peter have some great insights, and I figured I'd add a brief recommendation as well.

Honestly, the platform itself doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, and each community has its own needs so there's no "right" or "best" solution. Which I know sounds like a non-answer to your question, but ultimately you should first think about the goals of your community. What purpose does it serve? How do you want people interacting with each other? How do YOU want to interact with them? What does success look like? Who is your ideal community member and where are they hanging out online already? Is one platform enough, or do you need multiple to accomplish your goals? This is not an exhaustive list of questions you should think about, but hopefully it'll get you started.

Once you get a better feeling of the above, then you can start doing pro/con lists for platforms. For example, if you want people to be able to chat in real-time, a forum is probably not the right choice for launch (though it may eventually make the most sense for your community, and you can always add on a forum or switch over... which is what we did!). Even though it may seem daunting, you can (almost) always change platforms at a later time and bring your community members along with you.

My one piece of advice is to NOT use Facebook as a community platform. I won't rant about it here, but I'm happy to chat with you offline about my reasoning :D

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Susan Zhang

Hi there - would you mind sharing with me why you would advise against Facebook? My company already has a Facebook group for our user community, and I'm currently digging into whether we should stay, or migrate to another platform. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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alex profile image
Alex Angel

There are a lot of reasons, but here are a few:

  • The frame of mind the users are in can cause issues you wouldn't have to deal with if you were on a different platform. When everything is jumbled together in one big feed, there's no defined boundaries for how someone should behave. People who may be perfectly amicable and rule-following on a different platform may end up being combative or disruptive on Facebook just because that's the state of mind they're in when they're on that particular platform.
  • Moderation can be incredibly frustrating to create a sustainable and healthy community. There are minimal tools available to group admins and moderators.
  • On a personal level, I think Facebook has some morally reprehensible policies and practices and we as community builders need to stand up for what we believe in and support companies who reflect our ideals. This one may not resonate for everyone, but it's one of the reasons why I caution against it.
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cesar

It depends on the needs and identity of your community. If you have ambassadors or super users, I'd leverage their input for insights into what would make the community experience even better. I'm a big fan of Tribe and Mighty Networks because of their similar feel to Facebook Groups and people love similar and better experiences. One thing I'm absolutely sure is this: if you can avoid FB groups, then avoid FB groups. The problem with FB is that you are not in control of the overall member experience and are constantly distracted by ADs. Ultimately, connections are powerful. If you can build your community in a platform that fosters relationship building between members, then your community will get more valuable as more people join and leverage it to build relationships.

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Peter Fayle

Hey Jason. Many people here who've thought this through far more than I have and I've not used all the tools you mention, but I'll share my thoughts as I've been mulling this over recently.

Based on your description I'm guessing that the main community activities would be discussions with fast responses - around a specific event or opportunity - more than gradually building up a knowledge base. At the same time, with an industry network you might anticipate having many members who would log into a specific platform less frequently but wouldn't want to feel they were missing out because of the fast pace of activity.

If that's accurate then a mix of a curated newsletter and a chat system like Facebook or Slack sounds like it'll get your early community quite far. Depending on the number of active members, the free Slack limits may be more than you need to keep recent conversations available. If many of your users already like using a shared platform like Facebook then hooking into that may be better than going for something with more bells and whistles.

My needs have been more around building community knowledge, so I've been looking at solutions like Forem (this community's platform) and Twist, where the chat is designed to be less ephemeral.

If you've got particular goals for the community (I've focused here on giving different types of member a user-friendly experience) or you'd benefit from certain types of user-tracking then that could also inform your choice.

Hope that helps 🙂