• Tom Norman

6 Best Alternatives to Facebook Groups For Your Community In 2021

Updated: Mar 9

When building an online community, Facebook is often the place we start. It's familiar, it's free, a lot of our members are already there every day. It's a convenient way to get started and experiment with your community.


But as your community matures there comes a time when its "home" needs to mature with it. And not without reason...


Some of Facebook's shortcomings are:

  • Our community members are bombarded with ads and other distractions whenever they're engaging with us.

  • We're investing time and building relationships with our members but Facebook essentially keeps all your member data and most member insights to itself.

  • Organising and categorising posts is difficult and separating your community into smaller sub-communities and interest groups is almost impossible.

  • Perhaps most frightening of all, we rely almost entirely on the Facebook platform and its algorithms for the health and success of our community.


Here I explore some of the best Facebook alternatives available right now explained by community managers who are using them. Where applicable, they also included tips from their own experience of migrating from Facebook to their new platform.


Discourse:


  • Free option available: ❌ (Discourse is Open Source and can be self-hosted for free but a free version isn't available as standard)

  • Price starts: $100 a month

  • Example community: Chatterbug managed by Megan Ponce de Leon.


Describe the community you run and who its members are.

Our company is called Chatterbug, and we are an online language learning platform. This is a community forum for all of our users to connect, talk about language and ask our tutors questions. It's also an opportunity to discover about events and product updates, give us feedback and suggestions on our product, and get to know our tutors a little better.


What do you like about this platform? What are your favourite features?

I like that you can really personalise and design it to how you want. It also provides a considerable amount of data such as:

  • Daily Active Users/Monthly Active Users (DAU/MAU)

  • Daily engaged users

  • Trending Search terms

  • New contributors/ per day

  • New posts/ per day


What do you dislike? What would you improve if you could?

In order to implement new tools and features on discourse, you really need a software developer or someone that has some coding skills. Unfortunately I am not able to do a lot of things on my own, which sometimes slows us down quite a bit.


Any other tips or suggestions for others planning to use this platform?

Check out all of the features/tools that Discourse can provide before making a decision on which platform to use. If you are going to use Discourse, I suggest that you have a software developer on hand that can help with implementation and bugs/issues that may arise.




I recently chatted with Jeff Atwood, Co-Founder of Discourse, at the CMX Monthly AMA I host. He talks about what makes a healthy community and why he decided to start Discourse in the first place.


Tribe

  • Free option available ✅ (up to 500 members)

  • Prices start at $85 a month

  • Example community: Mindvalley managed by Cesar Romero.


Describe the community you run and who its members are.

Mindvalley is a learning experience company that publishes ideas and lessons by the best authors in personal growth, wellbeing, spirituality, productivity, mindfulness and more.


As a community manager I get to create engaging online learning experiences for Mindvalley students by facilitating conversations, gathering student feedback and recruiting brand ambassadors.


This video explains how we are leveraging the power of Tribe to serve our Mindvalley community.


What do you like about this platform? What are your favourite features?

The platform is incredibly user friendly and highly customisable.


I think my favourite feature is the Reputation Score, which encourages members to actively participate in discussions to receive points.


They also have a fantastic support community who were very useful throughout the migration itself.


Did you migrate from Facebook? Any advice for making the switch as smooth as possible and how the move was communicated with members?

We finalised the migration out of Facebook during Fall 2020. The most important thing to consider is communicating with your community members early on and involve them in the process. We started communicating the transition 5 months before by doing a mix of live calls, training, and beta testing.


"There will be members who will resist change no matter what. And that’s ok."


Mighty Networks:


  • Free option available: ✅ (Unlimited members)

  • Price starts: $23 a month

  • Example community: Find Calm Here managed by Deb Schell


Describe the community you run and who its members are.

I bring together entrepreneurs who want to find calm in creating, building, and growing a business. Inside the Find Calm Here Community, I offer members a safe space to continue the conversations after hosting live calls to support them in “mastermind style” cohorts.


What do you like about this platform? What are your favourite features?

It is pretty simple to use and I like the visual design of the platform. I chose to launch my community on this platform because it removes the distractions and puts more focus on the topics of our community.


"The biggest reason for launching here and not Facebook is the ability to charge different pricing for different services including digital courses and groups. It offers the flexibility of offering one-time payments or recurring membership dues on a monthly or annual basis for continued revenue."

What do you like about this platform? What are your favourite features?

The events feature is great because it allows me to see how many people have responded to the scheduled call. It lets me communicate with attendees and those who have RSVP'd.


The poll feature also allows members to contribute without feeling like they have to create a post. It's a simple and easy way to identify if you are meeting needs/desires of the community.


What do you dislike? What would you improve if you could?

From Host Perspective: Free trial on premium features should be longer than two weeks to allow for them to see what is possible and if this platform makes sense for their specific needs. There’s also a lack of support for people trying to launch fast, and there's a need for more connection with tools that help them.


The Community Design Masterclass is really helpful for people who are just starting out, but I feel there should be a course just on the tech, that is shorter, and simpler, for people who know their members, but need to know how to launch fast.


Integrations: While the Mighty Network does try to offer many tools for integrating, there’s a lot of room for improvement including offering a live streaming video option and doing better with email notifications.


Platform Scale: There are communities that have hundreds of thousands of members, so that is a great feature. However the communities that have thousands also have full-time community managers, and these are the minority. Most communities I’ve seen are between 50-200 members and have about 10-20 percent of these people actively using the platform.


Community Cohesively: To build community only (products wanting to connect customers) the mighty network isn’t a good fit. The Mighty Network is more focused on creators/connectors who are making a “transformation” of sorts. Wellness, health, mindfulness, creative coaching and business networking are best for the Mighty Networks.


Member experience: It’s still a bit bumpy to invite members into a community. Emails can go into spam folders and members can be confused if the host isn’t clear on where to go and what to do.


Did you migrate from Facebook? Any advice for making the switch as smooth as possible and how the move was communicated with members?

I didn’t migrate a group from Facebook but I know many hosts who have. They have found it really challenging unless you are offering a course, group, cohort, mastermind, or some structured networking events to create a habit of using the platform. Make sure you have a some way to make a habit out of visiting your platform from day 1.


Any other tips or suggestions for others planning to use this platform?

I work with Mighty Hosts as a consultant and have built Mighty Networks for hosts and my biggest advice if you want to offer a great user experience, keep it as simple as possible in the beginning. Ask and interview ideal members, find out what they are willing and able to do, with time commitment and financial investments to make sure that your time and energy are spent building something that brings transformation for your members and income for you to continue to build what you want to offer.


Panion



Describe the community you run and who its members are.

Impact Shakers is an impact ecosystem tackling complex societal challenges through inclusive entrepreneurship. One of our pillars is our community. Together, we’re working to bridge the gap between profit and scaling ventures that cause meaningful impact. Our members are value-driven entrepreneurs looking to find allies, expand their knowledge and grow together.

What do you like about Panion? What are your favorite features?

I love that Panion has prioritised the mobile experience. A large majority of our members are busy entrepreneurs who engage with our community from their phones.


"Panion’s geo-localization feature and the ability to filter by interests allows members to form deeper connections with others that match their personality."

This helps facilitate partnerships and collaborations within a community, which is everything our community is about.


Allowing members to connect on a deeper level instills a greater sense of accountability and empathy within the community. As a result, there is less conflict and less need to enforce rules as a moderator, which lessens the burden on us as community managers.


For me, Panion has a really beautiful user interface and is simple to use, even for those who are less tech savvy. I really like how customisable everything is; essentially we are given all the building blocks to put together our own analytics dashboard or turn on or off permissions for each feature. I also really appreciate their Gatherings feature which allows members to organize their own activities without the need for community managers to host more formal events.


I am also excited about Panion’s matchmaking feature that they’ve recently announced is coming soon. We have always wanted a tool that facilitates our mentorship matchmaking process and we are really excited that this will be built directly into the platform.


What do you dislike? What would you improve if you could?

Panion still has a lot of features that are in development, like courses. We are fine with offering our courses on a separate platform for now, yet we are also eager to have it all integrated into one dashboard. The Panion team is very transparent, however, about their roadmap so it’s nice to know that our feedback about features we would want is being heard and to see what’s coming next.


Did you migrate from Facebook? Do you have any advice for making the switch as smooth as possible and communicating the move to members?

Out of principle, we never worked on FaceBook with Impact Shakers. We are not supportive of platforms that make their customers the product and where misinformation and clickbait drive their business model. We are currently in the process of migrating fully to Panion from a different platform.


We don’t know yet how all our members will take it, but we intend to communicate openly with our community members and make them feel like they are part of the process. Members have strong feelings of ownership over their communities, so making them part of it by critically discussing the pros and cons of switching platforms is definitely something important to consider. Your core members have to see the benefits of this change and be as excited as you are.

"Having an incentive for the first members who sign up on the new platform and some rituals in place for them to get used to checking-in there is another thing we’ve found helpful."

If it was your decision, why did you decide to use this platform?

We felt we needed a more personalised solution for our community and one that focused more on connecting members in a meaningful way. The Panion team seemed very open to our input in the sense that it felt like we were helping co-create the platform. This approach to building a customised experience made us feel that this was the right choice for our members. Having ownership over our data was a key driver as well as features that drive member engagement and access to a ton of analytics, all rolled into a more intimate and private platform made Panion stand out for us. I think it has the potential to impact our community in a positive way.

Any other tips or suggestions for others planning to use this platform?

Decide why and what you’ll need from a new platform and what would make the best sense for your community members before considering a migration. Contemplate whether the new platform can help you nurture your community and better support your mission. We liked the fact that we could hop on a video call with Panion’s team and really get a customised set up experience and I advise you do the same. I also love that they have their own community for community managers to share tips and tricks called The Neighborhood that you get invited to when you become a customer.


Disciple:


Describe the community you run and who its members are.

Alongside the Head of Community & Brand at Disciple, we run The Collective, a community for Disciple customers (aka hosts), prospects and community enthusiasts to connect and learn from each other during their community building journeys.


You can also get access in our iOS or Android apps.


What do you like about this platform? What are your favourite features?

Where do I start? As a Facebook user for a long time, it was so refreshing not to be around all the noise of other groups, ads, everything else Facebook throws at you when you log in.


Some of my favourite features are being able to send custom push notifications to members and the ability to make parts or all of your community premium where members pay a subscription to enter or see more. I also like being able to create multiple groups for different topics all within the same community.


What do you dislike? What would you improve if you could?

I’m looking forward to having more ways to connect with our members, such as email push notifications or two way video streaming functionalities… but these are all nice to haves. We’ll just have to see what our Product and Tech Teams have up their sleeves this year.


Did you migrate from Facebook? Any advice for making the switch as smooth as possible and how the move was communicated with members?

There was no migration involved as this community started from scratch using the Disciple platform. Prior to The Collective, we kept in touch with our customers via newsletters and socials. However I do have some suggestions on how you can make the migration as smooth as possible:

  • Migrate members over in groups so you can properly welcome them and introduce them to the new platform starting with your top contributors who can help you shape the community from the beginning.

  • Make an announcement in your existing community explaining what is happening and why it is happening, members love to be kept informed about changes.

  • Run a competition or giveaway to the first XX amount of members who join. If your community has premium options you could also give them a trial access for a certain period of time.


If it was your decision, why did you decide to use this platform?

For us, it just makes sense to host a community on the platform that helps build other communities and as a way of promotion of what the platform can do to show prospective customers. We also follow the “dogfooding” concept whereby we use our own product to truly understand it. And what better way to show your interest and affiliation to your customers and product than by using it yourself!


Any other tips or suggestions for others planning to use this platform?

Take the community building course which we launched in November to understand how to get started and use the Console (backend of the community).


Get involved in The Collective, we share so much great content on a daily basis to help you build thriving communities as well as host livestream events with experts and networking events to meet other hosts also building on the platform.


Check out our public Product Roadmap to keep up to date with all new releases and functionalities we’re working on!

Geneva



Describe the community you run and who its members are.

Growing up in Kansas I didn't feel like I had a voice and didn't feel like I fit in anywhere. I wanted to make an impact on the world but didn't know how or where I could even start. The Conversationalist is a space where Gen Z can go to have meaningful conversations and have their voices heard.


What do you like about this platform? What are your favourite features?

It kinda replicates a clubhouse. There are different rooms for different interests or different kinds of people. There are video rooms, audio rooms and chat-based rooms. It’s very customisable. As community leaders we can use Geneva's framework to bring our platforms to life.


What do you dislike? What would you improve if you could?

Right now, there’s no way to collect data on our users - we can't get their emails/phone numbers etc. So we’re using our own external survey software to overcome that, but we’re hoping that eventually that can be incorporated into part of the experience with Geneva. But there are a lot features that are still to come - it’s still a very new platform.


Did you migrate from Facebook? Any advice for making the switch as smooth as possible and how the move was communicated with members?

We started with email and Facebook. But that quickly failed as Gen Z isn’t even on Facebook anymore. Most of our community was really housed on Instagram and from there we migrated members over to Geneva. It was very much door-to-door marketing. If you send around a mass message, it’s very unlikely anyone’s going to read it. But if you send personal, individual messages it works very well.


If it was your decision, why did you decide to use this platform?

We did a lot of searching but it was the Geneva team that really eventually led to us working with them. I sat down with Sam (their community and product guy) multiple times and he walked me through it again and again. I wanted to take a chance on their new platform and have my project's growth become part of their growth too.


Any other tips or suggestions for others planning to use this platform?

If your members are getting value from you, they will follow you wherever you decide to host your community. So when switching to a new platform it’s important to showcase they value they're going to get. Ultimately though, the decision to join has to be one they make for themselves. You’re not trying to herd cattle or sheep, but instead you want to demonstrate that by making the move they’re going to get value in their lives.









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