Community Platforms That Scale

As part of the relaunch of our Little Black Book, we studied several solutions for hosting a private LBB community. We were looking for a cost-effective way to host a private group of 500 to 2000 individuals. Easy onboarding, accessible discussions on any device and long-term stickiness were particularly important to us. However, the style of communication and feel of the platform’s UI was something we were open to letting our members choose.

NOTE: We’re taking feedback from current Little Black Book members on which platform they’d prefer. You’ll be receiving an email with a poll and the ability to leave specific comments. We hope to have the decision finalized by 2/11/2019

What Platforms are we currently considering?

Facebook Groups

What’s great about it? A lot of you are already in FB groups and have Facebook installed on your phones. Participation will be pretty seamless. FB Groups strike a nice balance of giving you immediate access to recent content on any device and giving you the ability to review older content.

What’s less than great?. For those who don’t like to mix work and pleasure, Facebook groups aren’t going to feel like the right fit. Some of your co-workers may have no desire to have a Facebook account. Functionality is a bit limited. We’d have one group.


What is it? Modern day web forums.

What’s great about it? Organizing and looking up information on Discourse is really easy. It provides a few additional features for organizing topics that Facebook Groups and Facebook Workspace do not. Do you want to easily browse all content that’s created in the community with no bias towards newer content? Do you want to create and consume longer form content? If so, Discourse is a great fit.

It would also be very easy to create subgroups of vendors. Vendors could self-organize and message each other privately.

You wouldn’t need to remember two sets of credentials. Discourse can be configured to allow you to login with your SMP username and password.

What’s less than great? It’s very web-first, desktop-first solution and the experience on mobile shows this. The app feels clunky and slow on iOS. If SMP members plan to use forums while at their desks, great. If you’re looking for more communication when you’re out and about on your phones we don’t believe Discourse is optimal. If you know and love Facebook, getting used to Discourse is certainly doable but it’s a new user interface you have to learn.


What is it? Discord started as chat for gamers but has ballooned into one of the more popular group chat platforms in the world. Recently, Discord raised 150M at a 2B valuation.

What’s great about it? It’s just like Slack (written up below) without threaded conversations. You can quickly chat with other LBB members or employees at SMP. We use it internally to host all chat for our business. It’s reliable and pretty simple to use.

What’s less than great? The gamer-first UI can feel a little off-brand for wedding companies. Chat is nice, but it can be hard to search for what you need. Like Slack, Discord has the concept of channels but you can’t go back and review specific topics within a channel. It would impossible to browse older information by topic.

What Else We Considered

We studied the following platforms but ultimately decided they weren’t right for our needs.

Facebook Workplace

What is it? It’s essentially a walled-off Facebook just for the business You.

What’s great about it? You can join with whatever email address you get all of the core functionality of Facebook including multiple groups, live video and Newsfeeds without needing a Facebook account. You get both chat and Group functionality which might be nice for faster communication. For us, Workspace provides an API that makes managing membership a little easier.

What’s less than great? It’s like Facebook but you need to remember another username and password. You’d have to install a new app on your phone (two if you want chat) as Workplace and regular Facebook are fully dis-integrated.

Why we’re not using it. I really wanted to like Facebook Workspace. However, it’s really hard to set up across organizations. Onboarding users outside your company’s domain was so painful this solution would have upset LBB members. Any member who wanted to sign up with a business email address would first need to create a Facebook Worskpace for their business. If you’re the owner of a small local business this would have been annoying. If you work for a large venue or even large businsess this would have been something that your IT Security team would have squashed if you asked permission or could have gotten you in trouble if you asked forgiveness.


What’s great about it? It’s the chat leader. You might already be using it. Threaded discussions and search are first rate.

What’s less than great? Nothing really. I’m not sure a chat-first solution is what we’re looking at for the LBB but Slack does what it intends to really well.

Why we are not using it: Essentially the free version of slack was a little too limiting (only the first 10,000 messages are kept). A paid version which allows us up to 3 members per LBB membership is potentially several thousand dollars a month. The functionality is too similar to Discord to consider paying that.

Wrapping Up

We studied several community platforms that would scale over a thousand users looking for ones that could achieve high adoption rates but had low cost. We like our top three but I’m sure there are plenty we missed. What else? Leave a comment below and tell us.


    1. > 1) Discourse — Forums are always great. And they SEO very well.

      We’d keep these closed to the public so SEO wouldn’t really be something that would work for them. Discourse has a lot of other strong points. I’m definitely a fan. I wish the app was better.


  1. I took our tribe off of facebook into a private platform we owned. I was so excited about the change. My group was so faithful and they gave the changed an honest try. A five month try to be exact. Finally we had to admit that the engagement had reduced so much that it was clear we had a big issue. When asked for honest opinions about our new platform, much to my dismay they all begged to be back in our closed facebook group. With in one day conversations spiked and there was such elation from the group. I really want something other than facebook to work but sadly I think its what people find easiest and prefer. Also weirdly enough our young members were complaining the most.


    1. Great feedback, Holly. FB groups have some logistical challenges but so many vendors are already on FB. I always believe you go where your audience is instead of demanding that they come to you.


    2. So Holly. How do you handle adding and removing people from FB groups? Do you just do it manually? There’s no API we can use to keep members in sync with our membership database. Any best practices to report?


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