Yuval Yarden
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Yuval Yarden

Picking Your Community Platform

One of the big questions I get from my clients and friends starting communities is, “What platform should I use?” As each social media tool begins to develop features designed for communities and groups, we’ve got more options than ever. Here’s a quick set of questions you can ask yourself to get a better sense of the platform that will best suit your community.

  1. What platforms are your members (or future members) already using? Strongly consider starting there since it’s where they are most comfortable. Also consider why your members are NOT on other platforms (i.e. — I wouldn’t build a community of healthcare professionals on Slack since it’s not a tool commonly used in their industry).
  2. What sort of content is being shared among your community? Is it more on the personal or professional side? Is it longer form or shorter form? Do posts require detailed replies, or is it more of a quick back and forth?
  3. Are you going to be capturing the knowledge shared in the group? Will members want to search for it in future?
  4. How important is tracking your engagement metrics? Which metrics do you want to be tracking? Who will you need to report them to and how will they impact your growth?
  5. Look ahead and consider the future of your group. What are your goals? Do you aspire to grow much larger and break into sub-groups?

Knowing your members is the most important step in building a thriving community, so if you don’t have answers to the questions above, take a moment to find them by engaging with your current or future members. Once you’ve got a sense of the answers, you’re ready to dive in!

Here are some pros and cons of each tool to help you pick the right one:

LinkedIn

You’re probably already familiar with LinkedIn and have a profile, but how often do you use it? It’s a great tool to see who is connected to who professionally. The lack of a social aspect keeps things professional, but it also means that unless you’re a recruiter, working in sales, or on the job hunt, it’s unlikely that you’re frequenting the platform. For these reasons, LinkedIn is best suited for communities that bring together the sales and marketing professionals. teams of professional associations and not a fit for groups who are connecting socially.

Facebook

Facebook is still the most versatile of all the social platforms and has done a pretty great job of remaining relevant as new options pop up. Because there’s a potential for both social and professional interaction on the site, it’s likely that your members, especially those between the ages of 21–60 are checking it on a regular basis. While the dual social and professional vibe helps when it comes to visibility, it also creates a less polished space. It’s likely that your profile and activity contain parts of your personal life you may not want to share with a professional network. It’s also worth noting that Facebook notifications are in high supply and easy to ignore or lose in the mix. For these reasons, Facebook is best suited for those community groups that are connected to your personal life, like dog walking groups, or local groups for moms. If your community is targeting engaging people outside of their workplace (even if it’s your work), Facebook is a good place to be.

Slack

Slack is growing in popularity, but if your workplace isn’t using it, it’s unlikely that you’ll be logging in (if you even have an account) very often. Slack is a great tool to keep conversations compartmentalized, streamlined, and organized. It has a useful search function, allowing you to quickly find what you’re looking for within a group chat. The downside? If you’re using the free version, it only saves the last 1,000 messages sent, which means that the knowledge shared by your community isn’t being saved long term, and the search functionality isn’t as valuable as it may seem. Slack also lacks a social aspect, with no real built-out ‘profile’ feature like the other options and no clear cut way to see who your connections are connected to or what other communities or content they are engaged in. If you do end up going with Slack, check out their app store. They have lots of free and low-cost tools you can use to increase engagement in your community. So, in short, if your members are already on Slack, and you have a need for various threads (as opposed to one main conversation), Slack could be for you. It’s good for developers and hacker evangelist communities, for founder communities, and for communities comprised of startup people.

WhatsApp

Even more so than Slack, WhatsApp isn’t really a community platform, it’s an app used primarily for messaging either 1:1 or in small groups. It’s great in that it’s user-friendly, quick to create and onboard, and a popular choice all around the world. It was primarily designed as a mobile app, but an equally easy desktop version is also available. The downside is there is no threads capability so every conversation (and all of the responses) appear in the one single conversation which can get a bit messy and hard to track. Additionally, there’s a cap at 256 members within a group chat, so if your group is much larger than that, or if you’re hoping to grow it out, it’s probably not the best choice. Lastly, because this tool is really meant for messaging, there are no additional community tools available or methods by-which to track metrics knowledge management. For these reasons, WhatsApp is best suited for groups aiming to bring some people together, simply.

One last thing worth noting: Once you build a community online, it can be a bit tricky to transition to a new platform. The new tools available designed specifically to facilitate professional community growth, outlined here, are impressive and include some great features, but they also require your members to sign up and often cost money. Plus, because they’re new tools, you’ll need to help your members learn how to use them. Herein lies a bit of a paradox. Starting on a free tool to see how the community grows makes sense, but if things go well, it’s then more difficult to move over to one of the new platforms that could really serve your needs more efficiently.

Decisions, decisions. Regardless of what you choose, I don’t recommend launching a new platform while still engaging on the other OR launching the same community on various platforms. Send me a note if you are in this predicament, and I’d be happy to share some war stories and dive into strategy mode.

Here’s the good news. Regardless of which platform you pick, if your community adds value to your members, they’ll come join you wherever you end up. The content you share and the people who participate are the most important aspects of any community. These tools just help to bolster that greatness!

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Yuval Yarden

Yuval Yarden

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Head of Community at Venwise, Mama to Baby Noa, Bachelor Nation Superfan