Having an online community brings you what no other marketing effort will – authentic, genuine and valuable relationships with real people. We’re living in a time where people are craving connection more than ever before and if there was ever a perfect time to create an online community, this is it.

Consider your online community as a central space to bring people and content together. A space where your members can discover and engage with you and your exclusive content, bond over shared passions and build lasting relationships with likeminded people.

Why you should invest in building your community

How many times have you seen businesses and influencers shouting their messages at their audience? Unsurprisingly, this one-way approach of communication drives minimal engagement because it leaves no room for conversation. It looks spammy and doesn’t win trust or create the wow factor that people want.

On the flipside, creators and businesses that invest in creating an online community are seen to care about their followers. They’ve taken the time to understand their needs and provide the ultimate resource for them. They’ve gone above and beyond to create a space where people can easily find valuable content and answers to their most pressing questions. A space where people can feel accepted and geek out over shared interests. And it’s this space that makes businesses stand out from their competitors.

Nowadays, people have an abundance of options to choose from. Marketing is no longer a game of who shouts the loudest, it’s about who can educate, engage and create a thriving community that offers people real value.

Community Platforms

There are loads of different ways to create a community and maybe you’ve already started building yours. It could be via a Facebook Page, a Facebook Group, Slack or through your Email list or Website. It can be confusing to figure out which option will work best for your goals.

Maybe you want to drive deeper conversations or monetise your offering. Maybe you’re worried about data privacy, wondering how to create a private space for people to discuss sensitive topics away from trolls or you’re fed up of trying to cut through all of the noise and distractions on social media platforms.

Communities are versatile and we understand that you may want to achieve lots of different goals with yours. To make your decision less stressful, we’ve put together a handy list of pros and cons for each of the options available so you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve found the right fit for your community.

Facebook

Facebook needs no introduction. While it may be one of the most popular social media platforms around, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the most effective. Yes, it has its benefits – but it also has a lot of downsides. It’s great for advertisement, but not for community building which explains why so many people are choosing to drop the platform to host their online communities.

Facebook Page

Pros

  • Free
  • Familiar and easy-to-use
  • Good place to create a brand presence
  •  Has a space for people to leave reviews for potential customers to see

Cons

  • Open forum – anybody can see what’s posted on a page
  • Can attract online trolling
  • Limited reach means content isn’t seen by followers (only 1-3% of content is seen by your followers)
  • You can’t monetise your content or offering
  • It’s pay-to-play now so expect to pour money into ads or boosting posts for visibility
  • Waste endless hours figuring out constant algorithm updates
  • People are losing trust in the platform
  • Constant data and privacy scandals

Facebook Groups

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy-to-use and people are familiar with it
  • Lots of potential customers are on the platform
  • All activity can be seen in one place
  • Can share videos, photos & livestream

Cons

  • Facebook owns, controls and manages all content
  • Can be banned and Group can be shut down virtually overnight
  • Can’t control online trolling
  • Limited reach means members don’t always see content
  • No control over constant changes to algorithms
  • Content can get easily lost as there isn’t a central space to store everything
  • No option to monetise community or offering
  • People are losing trust in the platform due to constant data and privacy scandals
  • Lots of social noise on the platform

Email

Many of us are familiar with email. We receive a bunch of them every single day and while it may be a quick way to get a message across to a large group of people, it’s often limited to ‘broadcasting’ a message rather than sparking a conversation.

Pros

  • Can organise groups of people into separate lists
  • Can send mass communication in one go
  • Can schedule emails in advance

Cons

  • Limited control of whether emails will get read or fall into spam folders.
  • One way communication
  • Difficult for content to remain relevant to every individual
  • Need to ensure you’re constantly following GDPR best practices (if in Europe).

Website

A website is a great place to share information about yourself and your products or services. It isn’t the most effective place to build a community, store content or monetise your offering.

Pros

  • Good way to educate people on offering
  • Quick to set up
  • Good for organic traffic and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Cons

  • Static option with limited flexibility to customise
  • Not very mobile friendly
  • Mostly one-way communication
  • Limited engagement (members can’t share photos, videos or Livestreams)
  • Can be costly paying for web designers, hosting or additional plugins
  • Can be invaded by online hackers

Slack

Slack is a great platform for collaboration and team communication – that’s the purpose it’s intended to serve. It’s not so great if you’re wanting to connect with people who don’t know each other, who want to take an online course or create a community around a mutual passion or interest.

Pros

  • Has a mobile app
  • Content can be organised by channels
  • Chat is in real-time
  • People who use it for work may already be familiar with using it

Cons

  • No central Activity Feed, making it difficult to get visibility or recent updates or information
  • No place to easily store content
  • No functionality for Livestreams
  • Light profiles means members can’t share much about themselves or show their personality to truly connect with others
  • No events to engage a community
  • Not intuitive or user-friendly which means it’s difficult to find other members
  • No options to monetise content

The best option? Disciple

Fortunately for you, a new breed of communication tool has arrived, a community platform.

Community platform providers such as Disciple have quickly become the ideal replacement for Facebook, Slack, Email and Websites.

We deliver features comparable to all of the options previously listed, but with compelling differences.

Top Features

  • Available on Web, iOS and Android
  • Customise your community space with your colours and logos
  • Segment and engage your audience by interest, location and demographic with unlimited Groups and content Feeds
  • Grow revenue by charging subscriptions to join your community or a particular group
  • Promote your physical and online events
  • Structure your content and other resources with an easy-to-use content library
  • Schedule content in advance
  • Members can create their own profiles, find, friend and message each other
  • Members can use @mentions and topic hashtags to find relevant content and conversations
  • Get access to powerful analytics to make the most of your community platform
  • No ads, no trolls, no algorithms

Who should use it?

Disciple has powered hundreds of niche communities. We work with a range of creators across health and wellness, life and business coaching, hobby and publishing communities. Read some of our success stories here.