Top Free Alternatives to Facebook Groups
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Facebook Groups is one of the frequently used platforms for building online communities. There are two important factors that have generally enticed the businesses or individuals to create Facebook groups — the first one is the large pre-existing user base (close to 2.4 billion monthly active users) and the second one is the frictionless setup process. Also, Facebook doesn’t charge a dime to the community builders for using its platform.
With the recent trend of community-focused marketing and monetizing communities, many businesses are looking to join the bandwagon. However, because of the growing concerns over Facebook’s privacy issues and uncertain algorithm changes, people have started losing trust in the platform. So, irrespective of whether the use case is for building a community for an established brand or a solopreneur looking to create a purpose-driven community around a shared interest, it highly likely that the community builder is looking for alternatives to Facebook Groups for their communities.
With recent data scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, it’s quite common to acknowledge that community owners are inclined towards completely owning the data and privacy guidelines. That’s the primary reason why community managers are looking for robust platforms that would check off all these requirements.
There are several other factors propelling the growth of alternative platforms. Read on to explore in greater detail.
Why are companies looking for alternatives to Facebook groups?
Although at first, it might seem that building a community on Facebook might be a good starting point as your audiences are already available there, you need to consider that Facebook can be very distracting. While your community members are having discussions and building connections with your brand, Facebook would be consistently sending notifications from friends, showing ads, and delivering suggestions for similar Groups.
When you take away the distractions from the community, you would be at ground zero to initiate true engagement. Community managers are well aware that the success of the community is completely dependent on the content, members’ engagement, and retention.
Here are some of the concrete reasons that make Facebook Groups a poor choice for community building:
Reason 1: Dwindling reach
It is continuously becoming difficult to reach the target audience via Facebook. The flagship newsfeed of Facebook has become more and more cluttered with distractions, fake news, and clickbaity articles.
Also, the algorithm behind this newsfeed changes quite frequently, thereby affecting the visibility of the content pushed by different brands. This essentially means that the messages sent to the Group might not come across to the right audience at the right time.
A dedicated community platform delivers several ways to reach members — right from activity-specific contextual notifications and manual messaging to emails and powerful integration with third-party communication tools.
Reason 2: Lack of organic growth via the web
If one of the goals of your community is to raise awareness of your solution, build brand leadership, acquire new users by getting in front of as many people as possible, Facebook Groups will not be useful. Although you can use their advertising solution to increasing the visibility of your company, the very nature of the “closed space” for Facebook Groups restricts from organic growth.
Since Facebook Groups are completely confined to the platform and search engines are not allowed to crawl the content posted in your community, there is no way for the bots to discover content, index them, and send traffic organically. Also, note that none of the third-party sites (e.g., a blog or news portal) will be able to link to any valuable content posted in the Group.
In this type of use case, Facebook Groups absolutely disregard the very essence of the web and knowledge discovery.
Reason 3: No customization
Facebook Groups can be set up swiftly, but they are equally rigid when it comes to customizing it based on your business or brand. For example, you cannot keep the group under your custom domain (e.g., community.domain.com). Also, you are not allowed to change the look and feel, color combinations to better reflect your brand guidelines. Apart from this, it is not possible to merge the group in your site’s header and footer for seamless navigation.
Above all, you as a community owner should be able to organize and showcase the specific elements of the community exactly based on your requirements and user needs. It is not possible to use one generic group template and use the same to represent millions of unique communities.
Reason 4: No subcommunities or subgroups
It is imperative for any community manager to build small subcommunities inside the community to bring people with a shared passion close and build another channel for member and knowledge discovery. For example, you might want to bring the super users of your product or service together for ideation on a certain topic. This is absolutely not possible with Facebook Groups.
Reason 5: Lack of control
On Facebook, all of the control lies with Facebook alone — both the community owner and the members are subject go in the direction that Facebook deems appropriate.
When you don’t get the ownership of the platform, you will always remain dependent on the platform owner.
Facebook doesn’t give you ownership of the members’ data. All you receive after getting more than 250 members is an aggregated report which showcases new members, top content, etc. in a pre-defined format. So, you cannot run your own analytics on member behavior, user-generated content.
The data lives in a silo — for instance, you can neither use Google Analytics to understand community visitors and users nor use advanced analytics solutions such as Amplitude to measure key metrics (e.g., retention, lifecycle, etc.) at a granular level (e.g., number of likes over time).
This also means that you cannot take the audience data and push them to your newsletter list or communication solutions such as MailChimp and Intercom.
What are the top alternatives to Facebook groups?
Those are just five of the many factors influencing community owners to search for alternatives to Facebook groups. A platform where community managers can engage, retain, and monetize the communities.
Tribe is the leading alternative to Facebook Groups in this context as it has been built to solve all of the above-mentioned issues while offering the best bits of Facebook’s social components.
You can use Tribe to create any type of branded online community — starting from support communities and c2c communities to niche social networks and private communities for employees.
Irrespective of your reason behind looking for an alternative, Tribe can deliver a fully customized, mobile-responsive, widget-driven online community that is uniquely yours. Moreover, the capability of the community can be taken to a greater height with its comprehensive API, apps ecosystem, and deep integration with other popular tools.
Improve your community engagement with Tribe, one of the top alternatives to Facebook groups.
In the next section, we’ll learn about the other free alternatives apart from Tribe.
More Facebook Groups alternatives
There are a lot of potential substitutes for Facebook Groups, it can be somewhat complex to find the right one. Also, what adds to this complexity is the fact that each solution has its own philosophy behind community architecture and has only certain similarities with Facebook.
Here are the alternatives:
Open-source Discourse software
Discourse is a very flexible open-source software that can be used to build discussion forums and long-form chat rooms.
Pros of Discourse
- It has an in-built forum solution along with useful features around notifications, SSO, integration, plug-in system, etc.
- Resources required for hosting and maintenance
- Cannot be embedded inside a product or website to bring in community touchpoints
- Still mimicks older forum-style design
- The focus is not on community building or deep-interest networking (it has multi-purpose use)
Slack is a popular business communication tool and similar to Facebook Groups, there is less friction to get people to join the Slack group. Primarily because a large number of professionals already have a Slack account.
The free plan has limitations on the number of messages (10,000 recent messages) that can be searched and 5 GB total storage space.
Pros of Slack
- Easy and free to get started
- Ability categorize the discussions via channels
- Slack can be integrated with a large number of third-party tools
- You can enhance the Slack groups using apps (aka extensions)
- Slack is cloud-based and highly secure
Cons of Slak
- The paid plan can be very expensive at $6.67 per member
- You can only build private communities (no SEO benefit via community-generated content)
- No customization
- Poor moderation capability
- Doesn’t support asynchronous discussion because of the real-time nature of the conversation
Telescope Nova is a free, open-source application platform built with React and powered by Meteor on the back-end. Nova provides simple components such as posts, comments, forms, and modals, and makes it easy to quickly customize them to build social web apps such as Product Hunt and Hacker News.
Pros of Nova
- Completely customizable
- Modern technology
Cons of Nova
- Hosting, maintenance, and all the technical details need to be handled by your company
- Engineering resources required to build the platform as a base solution has only the building blocks
Reddit is a network of online forums which are known as “subreddits”. These subreddits are based on different interest groups so people can join the subreddit in which they are interested. Finally, a content feed is presented to the user based on the subscriptions to the subreddits.
Although Reddit has a global presence, this site is predominantly popular in North America. It is interesting to note that quite a high number of cryptocurrency projects are offering support by creating dedicated subreddits.
Pros of Reddit
- A free platform to create a forum
- Accessibility of the subreddit can be set as Public, Restricted, and Private
- Search engines can index the content on public subreddits which can drive organic growth
Cons of Reddit
- Not customizable
- Inherently full of distractions
- Only premium members of Reddit get an ad-free experience
This is a relatively new open source solution that is well suited for private networks and enterprise social networks. Since it is open-source, you can engage developers to customize it and build anything which is missing in the base platform. It also offers an enterprise edition at 99€ per month.
Pros of HumHub
- Suitable for company intranets
- The standard feature set includes activity stream, groups, member profile, etc.
Cons of HumHub intranet
- Hosting, maintenance, and upkeep has to be done by your company
- Engineering resources required to develop new features
Takeaways for free Facebook Groups alternative
Community owners are already researching the options for building a successful branded community since Facebook is not the right solution for this in spite of the large user base. If you’re a professional associated with community building and actively searching for an alternative to Facebook groups, this is the perfect time to consider different platforms.
As a community manager, if you wish to fully own the community data, provide a safe space to the members for discussions, networking, and engage them with new-age tools, your own hosted platform would be the right choice.
Facebook can be a communication tool and a great media platform for advertising. Hence, it should be used for that — consider promoting your stand-alone, dedicated and distinctive community by linking back from Facebook promotions.
Tribe community platform can be a great alternative to Facebook Groups. You can get started with the forever free plan offered by Tribe to build your community under your custom domain and enjoy complete ownership of all the data. It can be up and running within five minutes with our super-simple community builder.