10
 min read

10 best Discourse alternatives for building communities

Explore the top 10 Discourse alternatives based on features, customization options, pricing plans, and advantages and disadvantages. Find the ideal platform to build a successful digital community.
Written by
Kerry Leech
Last updated
October 23, 2023

Discourse is one of the best community platforms around for connecting and engaging individuals that have similar interests. But it doesn’t suit everyone’s needs, prompting them to look for Discourse alternatives.

The good news? There are plenty of community platforms to choose from. 

In fact, we’ve listed 10 of the top Discourse alternatives in this guide to save you from digging through the pros and cons of each.

But before we get started, here are the key features to look out for… 

Key features to look for in Discourse alternatives

When comparing community platforms, you want to focus on those that are a good fit for your community's needs. Each platform has its own features, nuances, and audience fit. 

Some might be geared towards non-profits. Others might be better for enterprise brands. Either way, you’ll need to weigh the features and benefits to understand which suits you best. 

Here’s a simple checklist of key features you can use to help narrow down your choices:

⬜ Ease of use (including mobile compatibility) 

⬜ Customizations

⬜ Specific features (like social media integration)

⬜ Scalability

⬜ Technical support from the platform provider

⬜ Integrations with your favorite tools

While these are just the basic community forum key features, the level of customization and scalability will be unique to you and your member's needs and goals.

One thing to bear in mind is thinking long-term. You don’t want to roll out a community platform now which doesn’t provide the extra features and personalization that members will need as you grow. It’ll just create a logistical nightmare and potentially a bad member experience. 

Now that you know the key features to look out for, you should have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a community engagement platform. So with all this in mind, let’s dive into the top 10 Discourse alternatives.

Discourse alternatives: comparison overview

There’s a wealth of good community engagement platforms to choose from. Each tool has its pros and cons, depending on your exact needs. The best choice for your company might not be suitable for another business. 

So, with this in mind, here are the Discourse alternatives we’ll run through:

  • Bettermode
  • Circle
  • Higher Logic
  • Mighty Networks
  • Mobilize
  • Slack
  • Facebook Groups
  • Hivebrite
  • Telligent
  • Disciple Media

You can check out the reviews for these platforms on G2 and TrustRadius. Reviews are an incredible source of information as members give real and honest views and can help you assess which platform is right. 

With that in mind, let’s now look at the top Discourse alternatives.

Platform 1: Bettermode

Bettermode - alternative to discourse
Block-based customization with Bettermode 

So, what makes this the best overall platform? It covers a variety of needs like forums, live chat rooms, and knowledge bases all in one place. Plus, it's mega easy to use and seamlessly integrates with your existing IT infrastructure.

Key features

Here are some of the most popular features to see why it’s a top Discourse alternative:

  • Templates for common use cases: Like forums, ideation, events, help center, and Q&As. 
  • Fully customizable: Use the Design Studio powered by Blocks to create unique layouts. 
  • Easy integration: With popular tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.
  • Embedding options: Easily integrate your community into your websites and apps.
  • Gamification: To provide rewarding experiences that better engage community members. 

Pricing

Not sure if this community platform is right? No problem – you can take out a free trial to see for yourself. Pricing start at $599 per month. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Ready-to-use templates to easily setup different communities

✅ Powerful customization capabilities to create unique communities

✅ Advanced analytics to track community engagement

✅ Easily integrate with third-party apps through the App Store

✅ Build your community using different languages – Spanish, French, German, and more

Cons:

❌ Lack of white-label mobile app

❌ Some may find the abundance of customization overwhelming

You can get started with Bettermode now, or keep reading to find out more about the other Discourse alternatives. 

Get started with Bettermode

Platform 2: Circle

Circle is a Discourse alternative designed to promote meaningful conversations amongst members.

Features

Here are just a handful of the top features:

  • Customize the design to mirror your branding.
  • Compatible across multiple devices for ease of use.
  • Integrates easily with popular tools like Zapier, Slack, and more.
  • Allows you to create both private and public spaces for different audiences.
  • Track user engagement and growth with built-in analytics.

Pricing

Circle has tiered pricing to support a growing community:

Basic

$39/month

  • Up to 1,000 members
  • Unlimited spaces
  • Email notifications

Professional

$89/month

  • Up to 10,000 members
  • Priority support
  • Custom domain

Enterprise

$360/month

  • Unlimited members
  • Dedicated account manager
  • API access

Pros and Cons

Let’s break down the highs and lows of Circle:

Pros: 

✅ Its simple and intuitive interface is easy-to-use

✅ Ability to charge subscription fees to monetize the community

Cons:

❌Limited customization features compared to other Discourse alternatives

❌ Lacks integration with business tools


Platform 3: Higher Logic Vanilla

Higher Logic is a Discourse alternative that aims to drive long-lasting engagement thanks to its interactive functionality. 

Features

Let’s look at these features in more detail:

  • Gather your customers for discussions and answer their burning questions.
  • Gamification to keep users engaged with the platform.
  • Easy access and regional platform support.
  • Automation tools to make managing your community easier and faster.

Pricing

Pricing for Higher Logic isn’t available on their website. You’ll need to get in touch with them directly for pricing packages. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Plenty of customization options

✅ Ability to post directly to discussion forums from an email

✅ Create sub-groups for targeted events

Cons:

❌ Not deemed the most user-friendly

❌ Most branding changes require CSS changes so you need coding knowledge


Platform 4: Mighty Networks

Mighty Networks

Mighty Networks is a popular platform for building online communities, courses, and memberships. It's a good option for creators and small businesses to grow their online presence. 

Features

Here’s a handful of the top features:

  • Community building: You can create segmented groups for your members (public, private, or secret groups). And from here, organize events and meetups.
  • Content creation: Build and manage online courses, memberships, and subscriptions.
  • Analytics and reporting: Keep a close eye on engagement levels, growth metrics, and overall content performance.
  • Customizable: Make the platform look and feel just like your brand. 
  • Many integrations: Plenty of plugins with popular third-party tools like Zapier, Google Analytics, and Mailchimp.

Pricing

Like other Discourse alternatives, Mighty Networks has a few pricing options. And they offer a free trial too. 

Basic

Free

  • Access basic features
  • Create one Mighty Network

Community

$28/month (billed annually) or $28/month (billed monthly)

  • Access to premium features, integrations, and custom branding

Business

Custom pricing

  • Dedicated support
  • Onboarding
  • Additional features for large-scale networks

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Simple and easy-to-use interface for both creators and members

✅ Provides mobile app

✅ Ability to host courses

Cons:

❌ Customization and content management functionality is limited

❌ Integration with third-party business tools is limited


Platform 5: Mobilize

Designed specifically for use on a mobile, Mobilize has a range of features that make a mobile community much easier to manage and engage with – for example through forums, live chat, and polls.

Features

Here are a handful of features that are popular:

  • Find and connect with members through an organized and searchable member directory.
  • Leverage the integrated messaging system to communicate easily across email, in-app, and SMS.
  • Easily store and share content with a content library.
  • Promote and run events, like meetings, directly on the platform.
  • Review engagement and growth metrics with the analytics dashboard.

Pricing

Like others, Mobilize provides tiered pricing for different-sized organizations. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Always developing their platform and providing new features

✅ Easy to set up and manage

✅ Reviews rave about customer service

Cons:

❌ Limited admin features to control member accounts

❌ Limited third-party integrations


Platform 6: Slack

Slack is a well-known communication platform that allows members to connect, chat, and keep in touch. It’s more popular in the business world, as it offers a variety of tools that make project collaboration much easier.  

Features

Let’s dive straight into the features that make this possible:

  • Instant messaging and group meet-ups (a.k.a. “Huddles” – audio and video calls).
  • Organize conversations by “channels”.
  • File sharing and storage.
  • Integrations with other apps like Zoom, Trello, and Google Drive.
  • Searchable message history so you can quickly find previous chats and files.
  • Plenty of notification settings.

Pricing

This Discourse alternative starts with a free package. And you can level up depending on your needs. 

Basic

Free

  • Limited features and storage
  • Ideal for small teams. Or, for testing purposes

Standard

$6.67 per active user/per month (billed annually)

  • Ideal for small to medium-sized businesses

Plus

$12.50 per active user/per month (billed annually)

  • Ideal for bigger businesses or those with advanced security and administrative needs

Enterprise Grid

Custom pricing

  • Ideal for larger organizations and enterprises with specific requirements

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Easy to share and collaborate in real-time

✅ Supports text chat and audio and video calls

✅ Provides up to 10 integrations on the free version and hundreds more in the paid plans

Cons:

❌ Limited customization for branding

❌ Even the paid plans make it difficult to scale a community

❌ Managing notifications can be a nightmare


Platform 7: Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups sits on a well-known and widely used social media platform, allowing users to share content and network both publicly and through private groups. 

Features

Let’s take a look at the top features of this social platform: 

  • Ability to create public, closed, or secret groups.
  • Easily search and find content within groups.
  • Quickly share announcements and pinned posts.
  • Share files and documents.
  • Create events and manage them within a group calendar.
  • Run polls and surveys.

Pricing

Facebook Groups is free and sits within a normal Facebook account. However, if you want to advertise within Groups, you’ll need to pay (prices for ads vary depending on the size of the audience, for example). 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Free

✅ Relatively easy to set up – with many members using it already so quick to adapt

✅ Wide reach as Facebook has a large existing user base

Cons:

❌ Limited customization for branding

❌ Concerns over data mining 

❌ Members need to have a Facebook account to access Groups and Facebook is declining particularly among younger users


Platform 8: Hivebrite

Hivebrite

Hivebrite is a Discourse alternative that allows you to run events, manage members, and run email marketing campaigns. Similar to Bettermode, Hivebrite claims to be an all-in-one platform.

Features

Hivebrite’s best features include:

  • Fully brandable thanks to advanced customization features.
  • Easily search its member directory for better networking.
  • Event planning and management tools.
  • Social media marketing and management tools.
  • Integrates with some of the popular applications and tools.

Pricing

Pricing for Hivebrite is on the higher end compared to these other Discourse alternatives – with pricing starting from $5,000 per year. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Crafted for alumni communities

✅ Easy to manage social networks

✅ Ideal for educational institutions

✅ Plenty of online community management features

Cons:

❌ Difficult to set up so may result in a steeper learning curve (and you’ll likely need IT support)

❌ Limited third-party integrations

Platform 9: Telligent

Telligent, previously known as Verint Community, prides itself on being a self-hosted, self-service hub for content sharing.

Features

A range of features makes blogs, how-to videos, wiki widgets, media galleries, and community forums easily accessible to members. Plus, there are these additional features:

  • Tools to generate and curate content and recommend people to connect with.
  • Ideation application to capture user feedback.
  • Easy-to-use interface with drag-and-drop build functionality.
  • Integrates with third-party apps and external sites and products – like Salesforce.
  • Advanced security and authentication.

Pricing

Unfortunately, pricing for Telligent isn't available on the website but you can get a quote by contacting the sales team.

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Highly customizable to mirror your brand

✅️ Automations, leaderboards, ideation, and easier to manage

✅️ Plenty of tools to support troubleshooting and great tech support

Cons:

❌ Built more with developer support in mind

❌️ Appears to be a lack of development and bug fixing

Platform 10: Disciple Media

Disciple Media is another all-in-one community software solution that rivals Discourse.

Features

Here are a handful of the most popular features:

  • Options to monetize membership (subscription, in-app purchases, and sponsorship).
  • Plenty of communication options (push notifications, polls, live streams).
  • Engagement analytics, at an individual-member level.
  • Integrates with popular tools like Google Suite, Mailchimp, and Hubspot.

Pricing

Disciple Media offers a range of pricing plans to suit different needs and budgets – starting from c.$50 per month.

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

✅ Great onboarding and technical support

✅️ SEO is possible on the web version

✅️ No ads or spam

✅️ Compatible with various devices (iOS, Android, and web)

Cons:

❌ Lacking some key features on all devices like live-streaming and group video chats

❌️ Technical issues such as forced app closure

Choosing your Discourse Alternatives: Key Takeaways

Now we’ve looked at the features and pros and cons of the top 10 Discourse alternatives, you’ve hopefully got a shortlist of options best suited to your community.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one, Bettermode is your best option. But, if you need a free option you might like Facebook Groups and Slack. These are widely used so likely easy for your members to get to grips with (just check they have enough functionality to cater for your needs).

Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist – you probably want to get this down to around three options – you can revisit the checklist at the start to make your final decision.

⚠ Remember to check out reviews and take advantage of free trials.

Get started with Bettermode

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about Discourse alternatives? Check out these frequently asked questions:

1. What are popular Discourse alternatives?

Popular Discourse alternatives include:

  • Bettermode
  • Circle
  • Higher Logic
  • Mighty Networks
  • Mobilize
  • Slack
  • Facebook Groups
  • Hivebrite
  • Telligent
  • Discord (more on this here)
  • Vanilla Forums (more on this here)

These have different features and pros and cons.

2. How do these Discourse alternatives compare in terms of usability, support, and customization options?

Each of the Discourse alternatives mentioned in this article focuses on different unique features and so the basis of usability and such varies. If you’re looking for an all-round best alternative, look no further than Bettermode. This ticks all these boxes.

3. Can these Discourse alternatives integrate with my technology stack?

The quick and easy answer here is: Yes. Most of these tools offer some level of integration with third-party apps and connect your existing website or product. For example, Bettermode integrates with popular tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.

4. Are these Discourse alternatives suitable for small businesses and large enterprises?

Most of the alternatives we’ve suggested have tiered pricing. This means you can add additional functionality and users as your community grows. Pricing varies somewhat so we’d highly recommend comparing price as one of the key decision-making influences. And don’t just go for the cheapest – think about long-term growth and what your community will need in the future as this saves a lot of hassle later on.

5. Do these Discourse alternatives offer embedding options?

Note that Discourse offers some level of embedding options. Bettermode also offers embedding tools ranging using different options such as IFrame, WebView, SDK and different layouts. Learn more here.

Kerry Leech
Content Contributor

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