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9 in 10 creators want a new community platform (results from a 600-creator survey)

Creators want communities, but none of today’s community platforms have the feature that creators say is most important.

Research from Global Web Index shows that participation in communities has been increasing each year, going from 72% of internet users in 2017 to 76% in 2019. Research on Gen Z shows that this is especially true for younger audiences, who feel that public social media is too cluttered, and private conversations are a better way to interact online.

Online communities are experiencing a renaissance. Users flock to communities instead of public social media. But in the transition from one-to-many, are community platforms building for creators — or for themselves?

Twitter recently announced Twitter Communities, but the first two weeks of its Super Follows feature generated only $6,000 in revenue. Facebook Groups are popular, and the company has been pushing them through ad campaigns and prominence in the news feed. But is that useful for creators who have most of their work off the platform?

When we talk to creators, one thing we hear again and again is that they wish they had full control over their communities — and that they didn’t have to keep their communities in a different place from everything else.

To get more info, we surveyed 602 creators about the community platforms they use, what they think of those platforms, and what’s most important to them as they build their communities.

The results were surprising:

  • 86% of creators want to switch community platforms (88% of those using Facebook, and 78% of those not using Facebook)

  • 74% of creators are using Facebook for their communities

  • Moderation and billing aren’t very important features to creators — but the ability to connect to their creator work in one place with their community is

Of the 602 creators surveyed, 471 were actively running communities, and these are the creators we include in this report. 

Here’s the breakdown of platforms used. 

88% of Facebook creators wanted to switch platforms (compared to 78% of non-Facebook creators)

We asked creators if they would move their community to another platform.

Of the creators surveyed, 86% — almost 9 out of 10 — want to switch community platforms. 

First, the overall numbers. Across all platforms, 86.2% agreed they would move. Only 3.6% disagreed.

"I would switch platforms"Percent responding

Strongly disagree

1.06%

Somewhat disagree

2.55%

Neither agree nor disagree

7.64%

Somewhat agree

25.48%

Strongly agree

60.72%

Across the board, creators using any platform were likely to say that they want to switch. But there is still a strong difference between people using Facebook instead of other platforms.

Among people not using Facebook, the numbers were slightly more favorable to incumbent platforms — 78.7% agreed they would move, and 4.1% disagreed with moving platforms.

"I would switch platforms" (non-FB users)Percent responding

Strongly disagree

2.46%

Somewhat disagree

1.64%

Neither agree nor disagree

8.20%

Somewhat agree

20.49%

Strongly agree

58.20%

Facebook users, on the other hand, are looking for the exit. 88.8% of Facebook users want to switch platforms. Only 3.44% want to stay.

"I would switch platforms" (FB users)Percent responding

Strongly disagree

0.57%

Somewhat disagree

2.87%

Neither agree nor disagree

7.45%

Somewhat agree

27.22%

Strongly agree

61.60%

Why does Facebook in particular get such a negative response? Facebook as a company is mired in controversy, with story after story about radicalization, privacy concerns, misinformation, and top executives shutting down plans to fix these problems. 

In this survey, creators had the opportunity to elaborate on responses. Here are a few of the responses that explicitly called out Facebook’s ethics concerns.

  • “I really hate sending my people to Facebook or similarly shady tech companies that harvest data and use it to hook us on distraction.” 

  • "From a user perspective, Mighty Networks and Slack do not appeal to me – I'm searching for something as easy and intuitive as Facebook, without the Zuckerberg.”

  • “FB groups are untrustworthy and gimmicky, and people are running from FB right now, so it's hard to create engagement there. It's also highly distracting to be on FB, so my clients don't like to use it.”

  • “A major issue for me and my community is the ethics behind Facebook—or the lack of them. Many of my clients aren't on FB for personal and moral reasons, and I honestly agree with them; I dislike spending time on that platform myself.”

Shadiness seems to be a factor, but creators had practical concerns as well — searching and filtering in Groups is rudimentary, Facebook can be distracting, and the algorithm affects how much control creators have over the content in their groups. 

  • “I would LOVE to get my members off of Facebook. Although it has just about everything I need, I think FB is too distracting and members either won't find my content or won't stick around.”

  • “It's really important for my community that there's a space for them to interact outside of social media.”

  • “I would love if everything was all in one place, I moved off FB as there was too much noise.”

  • “I'd love to kill the Facebook Groups. And I want to build new communities which combine membership content and conversation without having to use Facebook Groups.”

  • “My community needs a free access and a paid (premium) access, at the same place, with the same login, and content should be visible on a per access rights rule.”

One creator went into detail, neatly summarizing the concerns with Facebook as well as the challenges of running a community without creator-friendly platforms.

“It was so hard to choose just one thing that is the most important about running a creator community. I have to pay a full-time VA to admit members, welcome them, moderate, etc. We have Google Sheets and separate Facebook Messenger software that costs $30/month, plus we are slaves to Facebook's algorithm and distractions. It's such a mess. Then, there's Patreon that creates much more administrative work than I get paid for ($5/month per person less taxes and fees). I would love to have an alternative that I own and where I can nurture people into my courses and programs and communicate with them as a group or individually.”

Creators generally feel that community platforms don’t solve the challenges they face. As a result, they’re forced to hack everything together with different tools — incurring extra costs and more work for a still-unsatisfactory result.

“Connects to my work as a creator” is the most important feature of a community platform

We asked people which of 6 features were most important for choosing a community platform:

  • Platform connects to the rest of my work as a creator

  • It is easy for members to log in

  • Features are built to let members interact with each other

  • Conversations are stored and searchable

  • It’s easy for me to take payments/charge for access

  • Moderation tools make it easy to monitor conversations

Three features are clearly more important than the others. Check it out below:

FeaturePercent responding

Platform connects to the rest of my work as a creator

31.42%

It is easy for members to log in

23.57%

Features are built to let members interact with each other

21.87%

Conversations are stored and searchable

8.28%

It’s easy for me to take payments/charge for access

6.79%

Moderation tools make it easy to monitor conversations

2.55%

Interestingly, moderation was by far the least important feature.

As for the second biggest problem, creators who run communities use platforms that provide a smooth log-in experience. Equipped with familiar and tested log-in tools, it makes sense that many creators choose Facebook Groups, as most people will already have a Facebook account.

At the same time, it’s unlikely that these platforms can fully meet the needs of creators, for at least two reasons.

For starters, giant social platforms have to invest in moderation to prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation. Facebook clamping down on groups is good for stopping hate and lies, but it targets primarily big, public groups that have little in common with the communities creators build. And, as we talked about earlier, moderation isn’t as significant a problem for creators — which means social platforms are investing in features other than what creators need.

Secondly, the biggest problem remains unsolved. Creators want their communities to connect to the rest of their work. They don’t like switching between platforms, or forcing their audiences to switch. They currently use social platforms to solve the log-in problem — but only because there are no platforms available that solve their most important problem.

What’s the hardest part about running a community? Getting people to log in

We asked people to rank 6 challenges of running a community, from most difficult to least difficult. These are the 6 challenges, listed in the order creators ranked them:

  1. Getting members to log in to the community more frequently

  2. Growing the number of people in the community

  3. Creating community content on a regular basis

  4. Getting members to engage with each other

  5. Moderating conversations to keep discussions civil

  6. Confirming payments to admit/remove members

Bottom line, creators are looking for ways to get members to log in and increase the number of members in their communities, and it’s not going well for most of them. Comments in the survey mentioned that it was difficult to get members to post on platforms that they are not already logging in to regularly.

In contrast, creators don’t particularly seem to struggle with community moderation or payment management.

60% of creators aren’t satisfied with their platforms. 65% don’t think their platform is built to have features for creators.

We asked creators how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with their current community platform.

At best, the response was lukewarm. 

SatisfactionPercent responding

Very dissatisfied

10.62%

Somewhat dissatisfied

23.99%

Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied

24.84%

Somewhat satisfied

29.94%

Very satisfied

8.28%

We also asked whether creators agreed or disagreed with this statement: “My current community platform is built to have the features that matter to creators.”

42% disagreed and 34.2% agreed. 21.4% didn’t agree or disagree. Combined, over 65% of creators don’t agree that community platforms are built with features for creators.

Features that matter?Percent responding

Strongly disagree

12.95%

Somewhat disagree

29.09%

Neither agree nor disagree

21.44%

Somewhat agree

27.81%

Strongly agree

6.37%

What do we make of these results?

Creators don’t despise their platforms, but they are not in love either. They are able to get by, to a degree, with the tools available to them — there wasn’t rampant dissatisfaction.

Still, creators generally don’t think that community platforms are built with them in mind. They don’t see the features that they want prioritized in their platforms. This is likely why 86% of creators still want to switch community platforms.

Takeaway: Creators don’t hate their platforms, but they are underserved and 9 out of 10 would switch

Creators aren’t getting what they need from today’s community platforms.

Although creators are more likely to say that they are satisfied with their platforms than dissatisfied, under half of creators say that they’re satisfied — and 86% say that they would switch platforms for something more creator friendly. 

Creators struggle with community platforms because no platform has the mix of features and engagement that creators need. Facebook Groups, by far the most popular, make it easy to log in at the cost of flexibility and control, but that's where most of the benefits end. Other platforms offer better features for engagement, but are harder to get audiences to log into. 

As the market stands, no platform has the feature that matters most to creators. Even with the rise of new community options, there are no community platforms that allow creators to keep their content and their audience in the same place.

About the author

Spencer is the Founder and CEO of Podia, a platform that helps creators build and sell online courses, digital downloads, webinars, and memberships to their audience. Sign up for free today.