A community is a fantastic way to engage your audience and enable your audience to interact with not just you, but each other thereby creating opportunities for collaboration, networking and personal growth, all while strengthening your brand!
This begs the question - where should you build your community?
Slack and Discord are two platforms that have become popular in recent years for building community.
What are Slack and Discord?Slack is a workplace collaboration platform that has been around since 2011 and is used by companies such as Netflix, Spotify, and GitHub.
Slack is primarily used by teams within companies to collaborate better and be more productive. It's free to use and comes with many features, including file sharing, group chat, audio, and calendar integration. In addition, the Slack marketplace contains thousands of integrations that can be used by your team to be more productive.
Discord started as a gaming platform that has recently started focusing on communities. Discord has also become extremely popular among the web3 audience and several NFT and cryptocurrency related communities are hosted on Discord. The web3 audience is extremely engaged in Discord communities and Discord has been instrumental in the growth of web3.
How should you choose a community platform?The #1 criteria in choosing a community platform is the target audience for your community.
You want to choose a platform that your target audience is already comfortable with and enjoys using. This would be optimal for maximum engagement. For example, are you targeting GenZ gamers or business professionals?
GenZ gamers would be quite active on Discord already and would be extremely familiar with Discord's features and user experience. As for business professionals, Slack is extremely popular among businesses across the world as it started as a workplace communication tool and that is still its #1 focus. As a result, most business professionals that you target would be quite used to Slack and moving to Discord would be very challenging for them.
Slack vs Discord: A detailed comparisonNow let's get to the heat of the debate...
What are the key differences between Slack and Discord?
On the surface, they both have a similar user interface. However, once you peel the layers and get deeper, key differences emerge.
Slack's limited free planDiscord is free, while Slack has a limited free plan...
However, let's talk about the elephant in the room - Slack's 10000 message limit!!!
Slack stores only the most recent 10,000 messages and older messages cannot be viewed. This is a big limitation and any community of a few hundred members with good engagement can reach this limit quite soon. This also makes it difficult to keep a track of important older messages.
Discord's free plan is very useful and there aren't any such limits on messages. If you care about your message history enough and don't want to purchase Slack's paid plan, Discord may be a better option for you.
User Interface and EngagementDiscord's user interface is more appealing to Gen-Zs and the gaming audience. Discord started as a gaming platform and thus its interface is very responsive, fast and engaging albeit with a theme that often becomes confusing for people who don't identify with this target segment.
Slack was built for team collaboration in workplaces and thus is more business friendly. Slack is also quite engaging, but misses some of the real-time micro-interactions of Discord, which seem to be more features than bugs.
Audio and VideoAs mentioned in the previous point, Discord was built for gamers and thus has flawless audio and video capabilities that feel real-time and instant. Gamers would often operate Discord in the background to chat with their team-mates and thus Discord had to optimize for lags and delays.
Slack also has audio and video capabilities and while they’re functional, teams often use Zoom (via integration) for video. Slack’s video capabilities don’t feel native as it was more an afterthought rather than having been built from the ground up.
IntegrationsDiscord has a ton of bots that help with various parts of community building - onboarding, moderation, and engagement, etc. but since most communities on Discord are centered around gaming and web3, it lacks effective business community integrations like surveys, feedback, and polls.
Slack has a ton of integrations in its marketplace and has a plethora of integrations for business use-cases like surveys, feedback, polls, and more.
Workspace ControlWhen you enter into a Slack workspace, it feels cutoff from all the other workspaces that you're a part of. Thus, as a Slack community admin, you have more control over your workspace and members don’t easily move in and out. Moreover, Slack gives its workspace admins a lot of control.
As for Discord, Discord members are free to move around between servers and thus it feels more like a social media platform rather than a closed community. This may pose a challenge for businesses who like their communities to be more closed.
Roles and ModerationDiscord does a good job when it comes to assigning roles to community members. Community members can be assigned custom roles such as “Admin”, “Community Champions”, “Top Customers” and anything else that pertains to your community.
Here’s one that I found quite creative in a non-college community:
Freshmen - Community members who've just joined (are in their first week)
Sophomores - Community members who have been active for a week
Juniors - Community members who have been active for 2 weeks
Seniors - Community members who are nearing a month of activity
These roles appear in the community on the right-hand side tab.
Slack does not allow custom roles to its community members, and while admins can assign roles to members, these are only available on the Enterprise Grid.
Slack vs Discord: A Side By Side ComparisonHere's a table summarizing the differences quickly:
|Messaging platform for the workplace||Messaging platform for communities|
|Startups, Corporates||Gaming, Web3, Startups, Creators|
|Real-time Chat||Real-time Chat|
|Pricing||Limited Free Plan (10K limit) |
Paid Plan starting from $8/user/month
|Free Plan, |
Paid Plan starting from $4.99/user/month
|Integrations||Yes||Yes but not extensive|
|Themes||Several preloaded themes||Only Light and Dark themes available|
|Audio Channels||Yes, in paid plans||Yes|
Case Studies And Examples
Here is an example of how Product School has used Slack to its advantage:
💡 Case Study: Product School Slack Community
With over 60,000 members in the community, Product School has managed to create a community for product managers, where they can get advice from other successful product managers, ask questions, get feedback and engage in discussions related to product management.
The community also has channels like events where any upcoming events are posted, there a resume review channel for those in need, a job portal channel for the job seekers and it also product launches and mock interviews. Apart from this, the community also has a random funny channel to keep the fun alive.
💡 Case Study: Supabase Discord Community
Founded in 2020, Supabase is an open source alternative to Firebase. It helps developers with their backend needs. Supabase has its discord channel with over 7K members. The Supabase is an open-source solution and as a result any developer in the community can contribute towards feature improvements and bug fixes. Thus, Supabase's Discord community is extremely essential to the company. The server has many channels which include the general chit chat, ideas and suggestions, FAQs, and hackathon. It also has channels for their social media communities on Twitter, Reddit and Youtube.
💡 Case Study: Mr.Beast Discord Gaming Community
Mr.Beast Gaming is the youtube channel of an American Entrepreneur named Jimmy Donaldson. Mr.Beast hosts events and games on the youtube channel for its viewers and subscribers. The Discord server is the medium through which interested people can apply to the events that are hosted on the Youtube channel. The server has channels like questions and answers, announcements, how to play, and rules. The members are not allowed to chat.
So now that you (hopefully) have a better idea about which community platform will be better suited for you, what do you do next?
It’s important to have an actionable set of steps to finalize your decision. Here’s a quick way to do it:
Survey existing customers / audienceThe first step in launching your community is to survey existing customers or audiences about which platform they’d like to be on. You can conduct this survey over email, social media or both.
Once you get enough responses, you can proceed to inviting members who expressed interest.
Create a closed MVC (Minimum Viable Community)Choose a community platform based on the indicated interest, and create a closed Minimum Viable Community where you invite a small batch of your community members (say, 50 members at a time).
We’ve written at length about how to build a minimum viable community here - How To Build A Minimum Viable Community
Track engagement across the MVCThe next step is to track engagement across your community. 90-9-1 is a good rule of thumb to follow when measuring community engagement.
You should strive for about a minimum of 10-20% engagement from your MVC, as this number is likely to dip once you grow the community. Till you don’t achieve that kind of engagement, do not open up the community to more people. Solve your engagement issues before you look to grow!
Slowly open up the community to more membersOnce you get good engagement from your initial set of community members, you should slowly open up the community to more members. You can post about your community on social media and in turn drive more people into your community.
Identify top members and ask them to refer more membersYou can also identify top members and ask them to refer more people in their network. An incentive every now and then also works wonders 😊
Finally, Casa helps you manage your community on Discord and Slack. So whether you choose Discord or Slack, use Casa to identify top community members, schedule messages and flows and engage your community!