There’s never been a better time to look at Slack alternatives for building a community.
While Slack remains a fantastic platform for team communication and collaboration, it’s got some real limitations when it comes to connecting people who don’t know each other. So, whether you want to bring people together to take an online course or create a community around a website, podcast, or video channel, looking at Slack alternatives is a smart move to make.
What do we mean by community? It’s when you use a Slack team to bring together people who don’t know each other, don’t work on the same team, and don’t even work at the same company. It’s using Slack for a purpose it wasn’t exactly designed to serve.
This makes the question, “what are Slack alternatives for creating a community?” more relevant than ever. Whether you’re starting from scratch or ready to move an existing Slack community somewhere new, it’s great that you’re here to understand your options.
New Slack Alternatives
A few years ago, Slack was the only real WhatsApp or Facebook group alternative. Today, there’s a new breed of platforms that can bring your people together online in totally new, modern, and engaging ways. Especially when people don’t know each other upfront.
Choosing the best Slack alternative for creating a community means making the best decision for your own website, community, online courses, or digital business—a decision based on your unique needs, not just what’s readily available
In this article, we’ll cover what makes Slack a solid community platform, then highlight its limitations. From there, we’ll dive into how the new Slack alternatives compare not just to Slack, but to each other.
Slack has a few core features that has made it a solid solution for running a public community outside of your own internal team:
It already has members. Slack has been a go to option for a public community because it’s got the concept of members. This means that unlike a hosted website, a Slack team has member accounts, permissions, and *very light* profiles that assume people work on the same team and already know each other.
It uses a native mobile app. Again, unlike a static website from Wix, Squarespace, or even WordPress, with Slack, your members can download a native app to quickly access messages, especially because there are mobile notifications that bring them back.
There are channels to organize content and conversations. For you as the admin, you can set up “channels” that your members can opt into and contribute to around a particular sub-topic.
Chat is in real-time. Members can message each other individually, as groups, and via channels.
It can pull in data and activity from other services. Slack’s “special sauce” is that it’s easy to pull in data feeds and set up automated messages–or “bots”–to interact with members.
People are using it for work already. Most of all, Slack is familiar to people who want to join your public community because they are already using it for work.
For these reasons, many people with followings or simply a desire to start their own community have chosen to start on Slack.
Where Slack Falls Short
Unfortunately, where members might pick up Slack pretty quickly, there are countless examples where Slack’s limitations have crushed an otherwise high potential community. Why? Slack has a few notable limitations:
It’s hard to get a full picture of the community. In Slack, there’s no central Activity Feed, so while it’s a little less noisy than a Facebook group (and doesn’t have the same problem with algorithms and a one-size-fits-all newsfeed), there’s no way to discover new people or content easily on Slack. It wasn’t designed for this, and unfortunately, it limits engagement and makes the job of the admin that much harder.
Very light profiles limit points of connection. Slack’s light profiles don’t help members introduce themselves with a personal touch. Photos, interests, quotes, taglines—these show personality. They are what people need to virtually get to know each other and feel like they’re talking to real people, even though the community is virtual.
Rich media and long-form content are impossible. If content is important to your community, you’re fighting an uphill battle trying to build it on Slack. In practice, this limitation means you must *also* have a website builder, blog, or some other place for your members to access your content.
There are no polls, questions, or events to engage a community of strangers. Here’s the reality of a public community on Slack: People don’t know each other and they need icebreakers. We’re not talking about a Slack channel for introductions. To get strangers to build relationships with each other requires a central spot for people to congregate and contribute in ways they understand. This is why polls, questions, and events are essential to a public community.
You can’t easily find members. In a Slack team, there’s no obvious or natural way to find other members. Member profiles are abbreviated and intended for people who already know each other. This is great for small teams, but a killer for a larger network of folks starting off as strangers.
The Best Slack Alternatives
We’ve researched a dozen messaging and community platforms for this analysis. The truth is that there are only really two
Slack Alternative #1 – Mighty Networks: Designed for Community and Delivered Under Your Own Brand
Mighty Networks is a relatively new community entrant, although it’s been quietly building its easy-to-learn, powerful platform for a few years. A Mighty Network delivers features comparable to Slack with a few compelling differences:
- A Mighty Network is designed to connect people who don’t know each other. Each member in your Mighty Network has an Activity Feed that’s personalized for the topics, groups, or even online courses they follow or join. Plus, you as the admin can set up a “Welcome Section” for all new members, a “Featured Section” for all returning members, as well as a “Search and Discovery” page to highlight what’s happening across your community. This structure makes it easy for people who don’t know each other to find the most relevant topics, content, and people, AND get to know members faster and more naturally than on Slack.
- Your community is delivered under your brand on a Mighty Network. You can use your own brand and domain for a Mighty Network, similar to how you’d set up a Wix or Squarespace website. While you’ll access your community on iOS and Android via the Mighty Networks apps, you’ll also have the option to upgrade to get your own mobile apps, too. It’s not cheap, but the only platform where this branded app option is available.
- A Mighty Network supports beautiful articles, polls, and questions, AND has a full online course platform built in. Unlike Slack, a Mighty Network supports beautiful long-form articles with photos, videos, files, and embedded features. Plus, with three different kinds of polls and questions, a Mighty Network gets people talking and engaging with each other quickly. Even more interesting, Mighty Networks added a fully featured online course platform directly in its product. This means that if you ever want to add online courses, workshops, or even a resource center, it’s a flip of a switch to add and not paying for another course-only platform.
- Charging for membership levels comes as a standard feature. On Slack, you have to set up subscriptions or payment on a website and then trigger an invite to your Slack team. It’s tricky. In contrast, on a Mighty Network, you can charge for membership to the Mighty Network or online courses and/or groups within a Mighty Network. It’s more flexible without being overwhelming or complex.
While a Mighty Network won’t have the instant familiarity that Slack gives an user who is already using it for their job or another Slack community, the engagement rates of Mighty Networks are extremely high and the member reviews of the app are positive.
Slack Alternative #2 – Facebook Groups: The Devil You Know
While there are other new messaging and community platforms just starting to emerge–and they may be amazing in a few years!–none meet the same rich feature set or positive reviews of Mighty Networks or the other elephant-in-the-room option for a Slack alternative, a Facebook group.
And a Facebook group still has benefits for community building as an alternative to Slack. Specifically:
- You can see (most) of your community in one place. While there’s the problem of an algorithm that decides what your members do and don’t see in your Facebook group, it’s easier on a Facebook group than in a Slack team to see all of the activity in one place.
- It’s a platform people are familiar with. New Slack alternatives need to be a lot better than Slack or a Facebook group for members to build a new habit with them. That’s a high bar that only Mighty Networks has hit so far in 2020. Therefore, when you’re struggling with Slack or looking for a Slack alternative for your community, it still makes sense to consider a Facebook group.
The Winner: Mighty Networks
While there will continue to be emerging Slack alternatives that offer more relevant features than Slack for community building, today the hands-down winner is Mighty Networks.
With a broader feature set than Slack designed specifically for bringing people together who start as strangers but who share the same interest, passion, goal, or topic, Mighty Networks is the ideal Slack alternative for an online course, podcast, or influencer community.