Dornubari Vizor - Mar 2, 2020
7 Best Facebook Group Alternatives – (Free & Paid)
Facebook groups and Facebook group alternatives have been valuable tools for community marketing for quite some time. They offer businesses the opportunity to interact with current and potential customers, learn from them, provide them with direct support, and nurture a sense of community.
But are Facebook groups really the best choice for this? Back when digital marketing was at its early stages, they truly were valuable. Today, however, there are so many good Facebook group alternatives that turning to this social network for community management simply makes no sense. Let’s take a closer look.
Why You Should Look for Facebook Group Alternatives
One of the biggest challenges with using Facebook Groups as the community-building platform is that you will have no ownership over it. For sure, you will be entitled “owner” and “admin”, but in fact, Facebook has full control over your community and how you communicate with it.
Facebook brought us many advantages – we are able to stay in touch with many people easily, and many more. You can use Facebook for Sample friend messaging, live videos, stories, etc. The effect is immediate on your members – random notifications will steal your members’ attention from your community and make it harder for them to achieve success.
In the context of education and community building, this is a significant downside. Suppose you want to use your Facebook group as a learning community or coaching program. In that case, the members of your community will struggle to stay focused because of how distracting Facebook can be. This is a direct result of Facebook being built to serve you new content all the time. If you want to create a thriving community, you need to lose distractions.
More and more business are turning their backs to Facebook and looking for viable Facebook group alternatives. While the reasons for this are many, there are some common complaints regarding the usefulness (or lack thereof) of Facebook groups. They mostly have to do with not being able to customize and manage the community successfully or provide the support that their customers deserve.
Every brand wants to be visually recognizable – hence the existence of logos, different color schemes, or unique fonts. Ideally, you want your community group to resemble the visuals on your website and/or product. With Facebook, this is hardly possible.
Namely, the customizability of a Facebook group is extremely limited. Some of the few things that you can change include the group’s name and description, its cover image, and its type. However, even these elements provide limited customizability.
The cover photo is a great example of this. You can change it as often as you’d like, play around with different motifs and color schemes, and so on. However, whatever you do, the cover photo will be in the same place and your Facebook group will visually resemble all the others.
Minimal Organic Reach in and outside of the Group
Much more important in terms of marketing is the poor organic reach that Facebook provides. Although this didn’t use to be as big of a problem in the past, as the network grew, so did the complexity of its algorithm. What does this mean for your Facebook group?
In short, it means you have to cough up some money in order for people to see your community. In other words, acquiring new members organically – through quality content and good community management – has become almost impossible. If you want people to learn about your group and join it, you’ll have to pay ads.
But it doesn’t stop there. Organic reach seems to be dying out among group members, too. Facebook claims that this is simply their response to the demands of its users. However, it is more likely the pay-to-play social media model at its finest.
Lack of Control over Member Activity
Managing a Facebook group is not an easy job. The larger the group is, the more difficult it gets. That is why larger companies employ whole teams dedicated to managing such online communities.
Even with a team of professionals, you can only do so much to control who says or does what in your group. You can delete comments and posts, urge other members to report rule-breaking content to admins, ban people, or flag certain words as inappropriate. You can also write a set of Facebook group rules for your members to follow.
If you are an admin in a larger Facebook group, you know that all these tools – although useful – simply aren’t enough. Facebook is yet to come up with a mechanism that will put more power in admins’ hands over the content of their groups.
Limited Monetization Options
Facebook is trying its best to tailor to businesses and individuals who sell products and services online, but it simply isn’t trying enough.
For example, if you are a content creator looking to offer subscriptions for your product, you’ll have a number of platforms to choose from. You can choose websites such as Podia, Patreon, or Kajabi. Or you can choose Facebook’s fan subscription option.
For the former, all you have to do is create an account, buy a package, and offer your product. For the latter, you will have to prove your eligibility to even offer subscription services.
Poor Choice for Formal Customer Support
If your goal is to simply be more accessible to those who have purchased your product, Facebook groups aren’t a good alternative for you. A social media platform such as Facebook simply isn’t the right environment for formal customer support.
First of all, your customers may shy away from posting publically in your group about a problem they’re having. Secondly, if your group is large, their question or problem may go unnoticed. And lastly, written communication in the form of comments, especially where anyone can join in on the discussion, can be too confusing for this purpose.
Next to None Third-Party Integration Options
Would you like to integrate third-party software, such as Mailchimp, Mixpanel, or Intercom? We have some bad news. Facebook simply won’t allow it.
Third-party integrations are only possible for software that helps you publish schedule posts or reply to comments, such as Hootsuite. As of now, there is no way for you to send e-mails to your Facebook group members, for example.
Now that we’ve gone over all the reasons why Facebook groups simply aren’t a good choice for your business nowadays, let’s take a look at what Facebook group alternatives there are, and what they offer.
1. GroupApp – One of the Top Facebook Group Alternatives
GroupApp is a community platform designed to help you create an online community that you own. Host your online courses and digital content inside of your community. Get paid through subscriptions and course sales. It gives you all the necessary tools you need to manage your online community and turn it into a prosperous business. There are a handful of features offered by GroupApp we’re sure you’ll find handy.
The first thing you should be aware of is that GroupApp gives you ownership over your community. This means that you are able to export your member’s data and communicate with your community on your own terms without having to worry about algorithms or ads interfering with your community experience.
GroupApp enables you to set up membership subscriptions for your community so you can turn your community into a profitable online business that pays you to do what you love.
You can choose from a variety of subscription plans that have different duration and prices:
Besides setting a subscription plan, you can further monetize your community group by introducing coupons and trial periods for your subscription.
GroupApp offers you a feature of hosting online courses for your community members. If you are good at something or see the demand of your community members to learn and improve, you can use GroupApp online courses builder to create and sell online courses quickly.
This feature can help you bring your community and courses together on one platform and increase student success if you run online courses that have a support community.
Organize community by channels
One of the biggest downsides of Facebook groups is that there is only one channel for all types of posts. All discussions in Facebook are in one channel which means that members often have a hard time finding information when they need it. It also happens that they get overwhelmed with information they are not interested in.
With GroupApp, you are able to organize community conversations by channels or organize members by channels. This helps your members to find the information easily and stay updated with topics they are interested in, without being overwhelmed.
Patreon helps different kinds of creators build and grow membership-based businesses. Among the creators who use Patreon are videographers, photographers, game designers, musicians, cosplayers, fashion designers, and more. Basically, if you are a creator of anything, you can join Patreon.
Among the features and tools that Patreon offers are recurring monthly subscriptions, fraud protection, various communication tools, tiered memberships, special offers, community analytics, and merchandise. You can also integrate third-party apps into your Patreon group.
Patreon offers three packages to its creators, depending on what your needs are and how much you’re willing to pay. There is no fixed price, but you will pay a percentage of what you make. In other words, it is in Patreon’s interest for you to succeed.
What Do Patreon Users Say
Patreon might seem perfect on paper, but is it as perfect in practice? There’s no better way to tell what a company is really like than by looking at its reviews.
“Patreon’s operating model is quite different from some other competitors in the market, it’s worked as recurring funding rather than a one-time campaign. In my opinion, this can be difficult because usually people just want to donate only one time. When you see it as a recurring payment, it will make people think twice before sending you a payment.”
On the other hand, most creators find it overall helpful. While some see it as a source of their main income and others as a side gig, most creators seem to agree that Patreon is a viable solution for their needs.
Yet another one of many Facebook group alternatives, Kajabi is dedicated to helping its clients grow their businesses in one place. It allows you to access your website, community, and products all from a single platform.
Kajabi’s list of features includes memberships, a website, landing pages, e-mailing, selling courses and digital products, and so on. Kajabi puts an emphasis on being self-sufficient, but it still allows third-party integrations.
There are three pricing levels – basic, growth, and pro, starting at $119 a month, but billed annually. It might seem like a lot at first, but Kajabi has no transaction fees, regardless of which package you opt for.
So what do the users say?
Reviews of Kajabi
One of the most common complaints is that Kajabi’s interface isn’t too intuitive. This is also the feature that Kajabi got the lowest score for on Capterra. They find it a little difficult to navigate, and some of them complain that the tools don’t always do what they want them to.
However, those same reviewers usually say that, with the help of Kajabi’s customer support team, they were able to overcome these difficulties.
“At first I had a little trouble figuring out how to use Kajabi, but customer service got me through it and once I started using it on a regular basis, it became easier and easier.”
4. Mighty Networks
In its core, Mighty Networks is a website builder – it helps you create a more successful webpage, with dynamic elements, captivating visuals, and easy navigation. However, Mighty Networks offers an array of other services designed to help you manage your community and monetize it.
Aside from building a website, you can design online courses, create and manage a community, grow your digital business, as well as integrate third-party software. All these features are divided into three packages: Free, Business, and Community. Mighty Networks also offers a detailed pricing plan comparison, so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Is Mighty Networks Really That Mighty?
Overall, there are very few complaints concerning Mighty Networks. Some reviewers on Capterra said they wished the Free Plan wasn’t as limited as it is. It’s almost as if it acts as a teaser for the paid plans. If you ask us, if the biggest complaint you receive is that you’re not giving away stuff for free, you’re doing pretty well.
Another complaint that Mighty Networks got on G2 is a simple fact that “it does create another app, another thing people need to access. With Facebook or another social media group, it’s in a place they are already regularly using.” Then again, the same can be said about all the other Facebook group alternatives.
Slack isn’t really a community marketing platform. However, it replaces another function of Facebook groups. It allows people who work in the same team or on the same project to communicate more efficiently. Think of it as Facebook for businesses.
So how does Slack make communication more efficient? First of all, it allows you to divide a group into several different channels according to the topic discussed. You can also message other members privately, or conduct video and audio calls.
Aside from communication features, Slack offers a handful of useful tools. For example, you can connect your Slack group to other software, such as Google Drive, Polly, Shipped, Obie, and over 2,000 others. It also helps you organize the team’s workflow and share files.
There are four pricing tiers: Free, Standard, Plus, and Enterprise Grid. Choose the one that fits your needs depending on the size of your team or business and your goals.
The Pros and Cons of Using Slack
In general, people seem to have mostly positive experiences using Slack. However, there are some downsides to it. For example, PC Mag’s Jill Duffy find Slack’s paid packages to be slightly too expensive for what they include. Duffy also highlights that the quality of video and audio calls could be better.
As far as video and audio quality is concerned, LeapFroggr agrees. “If your team is the type that does a lot of Skype/VoIP, for instance, you might lament this quite a bit.” They also agree that the paid packages can get too pricy for larger teams: “We maintain that the Free version is already a very usable app for most small organizations, but it doesn’t mean we can’t complain about the up-to-$8 cost per user per month if you upgrade to Standard.”
6. Vanilla Forums
Vanilla Forums is somewhat different from other Facebook group alternatives in that it focuses on providing customer support, rather than building a sense of community. It still allows you to provide educational content and customize the forum, but the emphasis remains on allowing you to hear out and answer your customers’ demands.
There are three payment plans offered by Vanilla Forums: Business, Corporate, and Enterprise. Aside from these, you can also purchase add-ons, such as knowledgebases, enterprise security, and backup shipping. Additional packages are available if you go over a limit prescribed by your payment plan.
Should You Use Vanilla
Simply put, Vanilla is not for rookies. If you have no experience with CSS, HTML, API, and platforms similar to Vanilla in general, you are bound to find it complicated. Other than that, Vanilla users seem to be highly satisfied with the platform.
“For companies that want to customize almost anything and make the forum look like your site, Vanilla Forums is the one for you. Customization and automation of the data via the API with other systems is more than possible and they serve to be great as a hosting provider, dealing with all the upgrades, deployments and maintenance and threat management well.” – TrustRadius
The last but not the least of the Facebook group alternatives we want to present is Discourse. This is a forum-building platform that provides a space for your community to have civilized discussions.
There are three points that the creators of Discourse are particularly proud of:
- the anti-spam, anti-trolling, anti-hate speech protection,
- a single open-source version of the platform,
- the balance between the usefulness and simplicity of the UI.
As with most other Facebook group alternatives, Discourse offers three payment plans. Standard comes at $100 a month, Business will cost you $300 a month, while you’d have to contact customer support if you want to get Enterprise. All three alternatives have free two-week trials. However, if these don’t fit your budget, Discourse is open-source software, and you can host it yourself on a cloud.
Is It All It’s Cracked up to Be?
The main complaints Discourse users have on G2 have to do with how cluttered the UI can seem. However, as one reviewer pointed out: “Whenever I have a complaint, I can bring it to the Discourse community at meta.discourse.org and see if others agree. When the concern is shared, the Discourse team will work to improve the product within months.” Overall, reviewers seem to agree that Discourse is a good solution for when your business needs a forum.
The Bottom Line
Have you found your favorite among our Facebook group alternatives? Then we suggest you delete your Facebook group and move on to better, simpler, and more productive platforms. Your business and customers deserve it!