July 4, 2022
·
5 mins

Slack, Discord & all-things Community Building

Community Management

Yep—we're having this discussion—Slack vs Discord. 

If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's the tl;dr. 

  • Slack is great for building paid or professional communities.
  • Discord is great for building purpose-driven communities. 
  • Both platforms have terrible search functionality, can't do long-form text and offer limited context in member profiles (solutions mentioned at the end). 

I want to reference a few posts from Mighty NetworksZapierAhoyConnect & a neat-looking table from Tribe. They were the top results for the keyword "slack vs discord", & in case you landed here via search, you might have seen them already.

First—there was a lot of unnecessary information; barely helpful to answer the question—"what is the best platform to host your community?". And wait for a second, are Slack and Discord the only two choices?

I'll skip the storytelling. 

If you've ever thought about building an online community, there are a lot of options you can choose from; but only a few make sense—

Slack

Everyone and their bosses have Slack on their devices (think laptops, mobiles)—this makes it convenient to access Slack-hosted communities on the move—it's one click away. 

Great for building professional and paid communities. Need inspiration? Here are a few—

  • Friends of Lenny's Newsletter: 9k+ paid members & actively growing Community of product people. No specific stats, but they are VERY engaging. 
  • Partnership Leaders: ~1k partnership professionals (as the name would suggest) from top companies like Mailchimp, Udemy, PartnerStack & more. 
  • Ramen Club: I recently joined this Community; almost 200 founders building ramen-profitable businesses—lots of exciting things are happening inside. 

See a pattern? Professional and paid communities thrive on Slack. 


But wait—that doesn't mean you can't build a free-to-join community on Slack. RevGenius, CommunityClub, DemandCurve, and s11s are just some free communities hosted on Slack and thriving. 


One caveat—the engagement levels do not compare to paid communities (as usually observed for free communities, in general). Still, they outdo the volumes (RevGenius has almost 28k members, and DemandCurve is nearing 6k). 


Not to forget, an increasing number of brands are using Slack communities as a customer support channel. Remember, one click to access? It makes Slack perfect for this use case. 


Digital Ocean (for their Hatch community), Linear & Webflow are some examples. 

To sum up, You should use Slack to build a community—

  • If you are building a professional community (sales, partnerships, product, etc.) 
  • If you are building a paid-to-access community. 
  • If you are building a customer support community. 
  • If you are building a learning community (more on this later in the post). 

And why Slack to build a community? 

  • Slack is easy to access; it requires only one click to access the Community. 
  • Slack has a no-to-flat learning curve; everyone is already using it for work. 
  • Slack is free, and before you say "what about the limitations,"—I'll cover this later in the post. 


(maybe) fun fact: An average person has Slack open on their devices for 9+ hours daily. 


Discord

I spent a lot of time using Discord—embraced the chaotic mess it is, and even made some lifelong friends on Discord video hangouts. 

And then our cohort ended. 

Sounds opinionated but isn't. You need a solid purpose to build and sustain a community on Discord.

Yes, yes—all web3 communities use Discord...and they have a pretty solid purpose—this screenshot below should sum it up. Don't @ me. 

Okay, serious talk—here are a few communities using Discord you should check out—

  • Friends of Figma: ~1.5k members talking about all-things Figma. It's free to join but requires profile verification. 
  • Visualize Value: ~2.5k paid members. VV used to be super-engaging on Slack earlier but moved to Discord after a failed experiment with Circle. 
  • Reflect: A support community for the note-taking tool by ex-Clearbit founder Alex Maccaw. 
  • The Product House: a community for web3 learners, enthusiasts & builders by The Product Folks (main Community is on Slack with ~18k members).

So—a lot of different types of communities on Discord. Everything you could build with Slack, you can also do with Discord—but remember, it requires a lot more purpose for people to keep opening Discord. 

But wait, there are a few things where Discord outshines Slack—by a lot (and basically why you should use Discord over Slack)—

  • Better video & audio communication is in-built with the app; Slack's huddles do not stand a chance against that. 
  • Granular roles/permissions and access controls. 
  • Better member-segmentation. 
  • No limits on message retention (Slack has 10k most recent messages visible on the free plan). 
  • Better moderation; made even better with the recent AutoMod update. 
  • Discord is free for server owners; members can upgrade with Nitro for additional features (for both member profiles and servers). 


Sounds great.

But wait again, Discord...is the most evil business in the world? There's an interesting discussion on Rosie Sherry's forum, The Village about Discord—which I think you should read before making a decision. 

And here's a response from a member of Rosieland's Discord (soon-to-be shutdown) to sum up the Slack-vs-Discord debate. 

Discourse, Circle and Forum-based Platforms

Usually, one would relate Discourse, Circle and other forum-based platforms with async communities (having no chat-based functionality)—but increasingly popular with learning and content-driven communities.

You see, both Slack and Discord—

  • Have terrible search functionality. 
  • Have no (or very poor) capability to host videos or long-form text.
  • Offer limited context in member profiles. 

The above reasons make forum-like platforms an obvious choice to use alongside Slack/Discord.

But there are downsides—

  • Forums are away from where the Community exists (Slack/Discord). 
  • Forums require additional authentication. 
  • Forums have a learning curve. 

And the downsides are pretty much visible, with <5% engagement compared to the chat platforms. 

Slack and Discord, both suck at Online Communities?

Pretty much. Both are great for chat—that's it, and communities require a lot more. 

But since everyone has Slack or Discord on their devices, building a community on a far-off platform doesn't make sense. 

I can't end this post without a shameless plug—Magic solves for everything you need to run a Community on Slack (and soon Discord)—

  • Get more context about your community members with a native and customizable Member Directory. 
  • Export conversations from Slack and make it search-indexable (great for giving a sneak peek inside your Community). 
  • Gather your community resources in a single space, with access controlled with Slack identity (no need to remember different passwords). 
  • Message everyone in the Community or members of a specific channel with one click. 
  • ...and some nifty features I'll let you in when you sign up for a demo. 

Some last words—platforms—Slack, Discord or a forum barely matter in front of the community experience you build—but crucial to choose the right one depending on your audience. 


Rishabh Sonker
CMO, Magik
Community Management

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