Chat App    vs.  Community Platform

Messaging and chat apps like Slack and Discord are some of popular solutions to start online communities.

The big question is whether one can build and scale a successful community using communication apps.

The shortcoming of these messaging tools lies in the inability to support a large volume of members and help deliver the right experience based on the member lifecycle.

However, a community platform is designed offer community management tools that can scale with the growth of the community and support various member groups based on the lifecycle.

Let's explore the key differences!

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

Chat apps offer an synchronous method of communication, which means all the members need to exchange messages in real-time.

Community platforms offer asynchronous communication -- all the members need not remain logged in at the same time and they can take some time to collect their thoughts for discussion.

Organic Growth with SEO

Chat apps keep your content locked and prevent search engines from indexing the user-generated content.

A community platform enables search engines to discover and index the content in your community. This in turn helps you scale your member acquisition via an organic channel.

Passivity  vs.  Longevity

In the case of the chat app, all the back and forth communication is lost with time. Chat apps only reward instant and live communication.

Community platform ensures the longevity of the content. With time members would be updating and sharing their knowledge for years. 

When a thread is completely outdated community admins can close the discussion, but the content will remain accessible. 

 For example, there are some decade-old threads on forums such as Stack Overflow and Tom’s Guide that are useful in 2020 as well.

Pricing

Messaging app vs. community software

Often pricing of a messaging app like Slack is based on per member which can be prohibitive when it comes to scaling the community size.

However, community software is generally priced based on one or a combination of the following:

- Number of pageviews - storage - registered or active  members (measured in units of thousands)

This ensures that the cost of running a community does not increase exorbitantly with a dedicate community platform.

When chat apps are suitable

Ability to get a quick response to critical and time-sensitive questions.

Keeping all the incoming messages in one place.

Reduced number of email exchanges.

The Verdict

Chat apps are effective for short and time-sensitive communication.

Community software allows members to not only contribute content and make it accessible over a long time, but it also helps build powerful member networks.

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