We need each other now more than ever. There’s something about humans, we’re wired to be in community. And as you’ve probably noticed, the way we’ve structured our modern world can leave us feeling lonely and disconnected.
The answer to finding community, for many of us, is not in diving into traditional communities. It’s in building new types of communities online. There are some great things about online communities, probably best of all is the ability to forge amazing friendships with people who share our interests – from all over the world!
If you’re ready to start or join an online community, there are lots of cool options to help you grow it and get it thriving. In this article, we’re going to focus on the thing every community needs: conversation! If you’re looking for a community chat app to host great conversations big and small, these 12 options have something for every need and every size of community.
If you want more support in building your online community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!
What kind of chat app do you need?
There are a lot of crossovers between these types of chat apps. Many do more than one thing. But here’s what to look for.
- Community chat app: Host & organizes complex conversations & discussions between groups of people & even sell memberships.
- Messenger app: A chat app for sending messages (text, video, etc.) from user to user. Most messenger apps are also group chat apps.
- Video chat apps: Chat apps with a video-first focus.
- Premium chat apps: Chat apps that let established brands and creators serve users under their own brands.
Best community chat apps
1. Mighty Networks
Best all-in-one community chat app with monetization
When you want to host chats and get paid to do it, Mighty Networks is the place to build. Creators on Mighty can build a community side hustle, or a 6- or even 7- figure business by talking about the things they love. It’s an awesome community chat app that helps you organize rich, complex conversations with lots of members.
Mighty’s all-in-one community platform is G2’s top-rated community software, and its Spaces can hold events, courses, live streaming and – you guessed it – an awesome chat app. You can chat 1:1 with fellow members OR chat in groups OR host discussion board conversations.
Mighty’s community AI engine–Mighty Co-Host™–can transform a few words into a Big Purpose, community name, brand, landing and sales pages, and more. Try it!
- Sell memberships, events, private groups, and courses
- Chat with 1:1, groups, or host conversations in discussion forums
- AI chat features like “make it better” text editor and icebreaker questions.
- Native chat, video, and livestreaming
- Events with RSVP + one-click Zoom integration
- @ mentions & notifications
- Native Mighty Networks app for every device
Best free community app
Discord is a community chat app that was designed for gamers to connect in real-time. It’s best with text and voice, giving you the space to build your own “channel” that’s dedicated to a topic that interests you, as well as inviting members and organizing conversations.
Discord is centered around a forum feature, with customizable member roles. It’s good for communities of gamers, of course, as well as free communities that you don’t intend to monetize.
If you decide you want to monetize your Discord community, you’ll probably have to move somewhere else.
- Discussion forum, chat, & messaging
- @ mentions and notifications
- Screen sharing & video streaming
- YouTube & Twitch integrations
- No real monetization features
- Security concerns
- Limited customization options
Best workplace community chat app
If you’ve ever spent time in an office, you’ve probably met Slack. It’s the community chat app for organizing teams, and it works well for this. With channels, a messaging function, and notifications, it’s really great for hosting conversations.
You can connect different channels to your Slack app, meaning different conversations from different places can all be in the same app. All this gives you a lot to work with. Slack is a perfect community chat app for the workplace or for people who know each other. But it’s a bit limited for bringing together strangers and helping them become friends.
It’s complicated for hosting live events, requiring connecting integrations and hacking solutions together – it’s not intuitive or native. And if you’re looking for a paid community chat, where members register and pay a fee to join, it’s not the right platform.
Slack is best for what it’s built for – workplace chats.
- Forum-style discussions, group chats, and 1:1 messaging
- Huddles with video or audio conversations
- @ tagging, mentions
- Integrations with Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, Outlook, and Adobe.
- No native monetization
- Limited event features (other than huddles)
- No customization options
One-to-many community chat app
Telegram is a community chat app that’s a bit like email meets SMS. It has good member chat features – users can send each other photos, videos, and files. You can also hold a voice or video call with Telegram.
Telegram can be considered a community chat app, but it’s mostly for creating large groups and broadcasting. Subscribers within a group can click links and polls, but it’s more of a broadcasting tool than a community-building tool.
If you want to monetize your Telegram, you can sell subscriptions and build a community chat app business.
- Group broadcasting
- Chat & messaging, videos & voice calls
- Organize discussions by channels
- Monetization & subscription features
- No community discussions
- Top-down broadcasting instead of community-building
5. Facebook Groups
Free with community chat functions
A Facebook group has some of the power of a community chat app. It’s a brand everyone knows with a solid app for every device. A Facebook Group exists on Facebook, you create it for free and people can join (or request to join). It has features like tagging, a simple one-stream community discussion, and community chats.
The downsides? You can’t really monetize a Facebook group (not natively, anyway). You’re competing with the algorithm and all the other distractions of Facebook. And there’s no way to organize your discussions.
Facebook Groups Pros
- Free group software, easy to invite people
- A simple discussion feature & chat
- Built-in events
Facebook Groups Cons
- No monetization
- You have to fight the algorithm
- No features to organize discussions or a bigger community
6. MS Teams
Good community chat app for workplace meetings
Microsoft Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack–designed for the workplace. But it’s a better messenger app than a community chat app. You can organize different groups to chat with, but big groups can get confusing.
MS Teams is really solid for events too. For a workplace, scheduling and hosting team meetings is really simple–especially if you use Outlook for email.
All these features mean that Teams works great for the office. But how does it hold up as a community chat app?
Well, you can host group chats. Teams also has a free function for “Home” use, so even if you aren’t in the office you can chat with family and friends. That means that it’s slightly better than Slack for holding a community chat, because of its built-in event functionality. BUT, like Slack, it’s hard to grow an online community of people who don’t know each other. And it’s hard to organize discussions. There’s no real way to catch up on recent activity without simply scrolling up and reading the whole thread.
MS Teams Pros
- Good chat app functionality (for small conversations)
- Awesome event integration (calls, video, and groups)
- Easy integration with Outlook
- Great for co-working in an office
MS Teams Cons
- Large discussions can get confusing (you have to scroll up and up to get caught up)
- No way to monetize
- No discussion board functions
Best messenger & video chat apps
Free messenger chat app
WhatsApp is Facebook’s conjoined twin – Facebook owns it – and it’s more popular outside of North America. In a similar way to Facebook Messenger, you can host a group chat in WhatsApp. But all the same limitations apply, making it good for a small, simple community chat and a nightmare for anything big and complex.
WhatsApp boasts an end-to-end encryption feature that protects messages (although tech companies can still read them). And it works off a phone number, making it fantastic for cross-border chats and calling.
- SMS-based chat app for group chats and 1:1
- Messaging, calling, text, & video chat
- It’s well-known (though less common in North America)
- Terrible for complex chats or group chats
- No monetization features
Calling and messaging chat app
Viber is a chat app that you can use for 1:1 or group chats, plus it has a good video chat function. It can also handle calls to landlines and mobile numbers around the world–but you have to buy calling minutes.
Viber also has end-to-end encryption and solid privacy features. And they’ve added in features like messages that disappear over time for extra security.
Viber calls itself a community chat app too, but the functionality is pretty limited here. Yes you can build huge chat channels and assign people as admins, but having 1,000 people in a group chat isn’t a community; it’s a nightmare.
Viber also doesn’t have monetization features that other community chat apps have–so it’s better to just compare it to messenger chat apps.
- Good chat and messaging app for small groups or 1:1
- Call landlines & mobile numbers
- End-to-end encryption
- Not good for large groups or communities
- No monetization
Video & photo-first chat app
Snapchat is a photo and video-sharing app, made famous for posts that disappear after a set time – often they can only be viewed once. It has emojis, filters, and texts, and is a combination of a chat app and sharing app (sharing as stories).
- Good 1:1 messaging with text, photos, videos, and calling
- Story-feature means you can build a following too
- Content disappears over time
- Disappearing content isn’t a perfect science (be careful what you share)
- Not good for building larger communities
- No monetization
10. Google Chat App
Google Chat app
The Google Chat app is a messenger-first app for chatting with friends or colleagues, and it’s a bit like Facebook Messenger meets Slack. You can create either discussion spaces OR a group chat. You then send an invite for chatting and can host a 1:1 or group chat.
There’s no forum organization and it’s limited for community-building, so the Google Chat app is best for people who already know each other.
The best part about the Google chat app is the price tag (free), and the fact that it integrates so well with other Google Products: Docs, Calendar, and Meet.
Google Chat App Pros
- Great chat and spaces functionality for messaging & small groups
- Integration with other Google products
- End-to-end encryption
Google Chat App Cons
- No monetization
- Not good for larger groups
11. Facebook Messenger
Of course, Facebook Messenger needs to be on any list of community chat apps. It’s free, well-known, and by this time your grandma and her friends all have accounts.
And Facebook Messenger is a really solid piece of technology. With chat, notifications, and lots of fun features from games to funny faces, it works well. Lots of people have the app, and it’s common for group chats.
HOWEVER, there are a couple of concerns about using Facebook Messenger as a community chat app. First of all, it really doesn’t work for larger chats. Have you ever been added to a chat like “Kat’s Surprise 25th Birthday Party” and watched as the 30 attendees all added their questions, comments, and random thoughts? It’s a nightmare. Your phone dings every 30 seconds and you probably muted it if not left the conversation altogether.
Facebook Messenger is the perfect chat app for small groups. It’s a nightmare for organizing larger conversations. This means that, as a community chat app, Facebook Messenger works for really small communities with really simple conversations.
Anything bigger and you’re better picking something else.
Facebook Messenger Pros
- Easy to use, free, and widely known
- Great chat features, different content, emojis, etc.
- Chat 1:1 or in groups
Facebook Messenger Cons
- Not made for larger communities
Good video-chat app
Geneva is a group chat app that comes with chat rooms, forums, audio, and video rooms to bring together conversations that are interesting to you. It also has post rooms, which can be used for more long-form content like a traditional blog or discussion forum. With DM functionality built-in, it comes with an events feature that lets you plan and host live events, including a calendar, RSVPs, and notifications when the event starts.
You have control over who comes into your chat group, with an application form you can opt for instead of open admission. You can grant different admin roles to your users and change user permissions.
All said, Geneva is a great free chat app. But it has no monetization features, so it wouldn’t work to create a membership with chatting in it.
- Chat rooms, forums, audio, and video rooms
- Long-form content options
- Events with RSVPs
- No monetization features
Best Premium chat app
13. Mighty Pro
Mighty Pro is the totally white-label version of Mighty Networks. While Mighty Networks lets you build your own brand and customize your community, Mighty Pro takes this a step further and helps you build a completely custom app under your own brand.
For established brands and companies, it’s the perfect white-label chat app. And if you’re not ready to go pro yet, you can start with Mighty Networks and move to pro when you’re ready – without switching platforms or trying to move your members.
Mighty Pro Pros
- Chat app under your own brand
- G2’s top-rated community software
- Livestreaming, chat & messaging, discussion forums, live events, etc.
- Monetization and membership features
- Customization and branding
- AI chat features (“make-it-better” text editor, icebreaker questions)
- Work with the Mighty Pro team
Mighty Pro Cons
- It’s a premium chat app so it’s more costly. If you’re just getting started, start with Mighty Networks
Ready to start?
If you’re ready to start growing with a community chat app, come give Mighty a try! Our community engine brings together every type of content you could imagine: long-form, short-form, video, and text. Plus, organize conversations by Spaces and your members will always see what’s relevant to them. Add in live events and live streaming, plus the ability to charge for access in any currency OR monetize with social-tokens, and you’ve got everything you need to create a community that thrives.
But don’t take our word for it. Come try it free for 14 days! No credit card required.