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Customer success

Customer success

Customer success

Dec 19, 2023

Discourse VS Bettermode: The Best Community Platform For Software Companies in 2024

The aspects of a community platform that are most vital for community success

Many SaaS and software companies recognize the power of building an online community to drive their businesses forward, but what exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘community’? Before we start comparing these different platforms, it is a must to be clear about for which use case we are comparing the platforms. For SaaS and software companies, there are two possible use cases of ‘community’. First, a ‘community of practice’ about a specific niche or segment with the goal of attracting your target audience in this community to increase user acquisition. Second, a ‘customer community’ that is centered around your product or brand, and is focused on reducing customer churn and customer support costs.


In this comparison we focus on the use case of a customer community environment for SaaS and software companies.

The level of ROI and benefit of a customer community environment solely depends on how much you can engage your users to be active in the customer community environment. The more active your users, the more support costs you will save and the more your churn rates will be reduced. 


With that goal in mind, we will focus this comparison on the key features and platform characteristics that are most vital for the level of engagement and activity in your customer community environment:

  1. Threads and forum structure

  2. Functionality to host and centralize other customer modules

  3. In-app integration

  4. Gamification

  5. Business impact analytics and metrics

  6. Customization of the community environment

  7. Pricing


This is also where Turf becomes a part of the equation. Turf is a customer community platform built specifically for SaaS and software companies. Made to increase the effectiveness and business impact of customer community building, our platform gives you all the tools needed to not only nurture community engagement, but also measure the direct business impact of it. 


Cant wait to launch your customer community environment? Talk to our team and get free access up to 100 community members. PS: You can launch your customer community environment with 2 clicks. No brainer, right? If not, be sure to keep reading for a comparison of the leading community forum platforms.

Threads and forum structure

The structure of the threads and forum functionality will form the basis of your community and will be the place where your users will interact and communicate with each other. Threads and forums need to be easy to use, allow post creators and moderators to pin ‘best answers’, and have the ability to create rich posts with screenshots, videos, code blocks, and more, so your users can discuss their topics and your application, accurately and in detail.

Discourse

Discourse is one of the only open-source community platforms that allows you to fully build on top of their out-of-the-box solution. In their out-of-the-box solution, they have a good thread and forum structure that is easy to use and gives a good overview of comments on comments, and makes it easy to understand which comments are part of which discussion. However, it is missing a voting system where members can both upvote and downvote posts and comments. Because of this, you can not present your members with an optimized feed that showcases the most valuable posts more prominently. The absence of downvotes also means that members do not get insight into what type of posts or comments are seen as not valuable, which means that you can not help guide them toward generating more valuable content in the long term. You can like posts and comments, but this doesn't affect the positioning of the content in the feed. Discourse has a great rich text editor that allows you to create detailed posts and comments. It allows you to add images, videos, code blocks, files, lists, calendar activities, tables, charts, and more. Compared to the other legacy community platforms that have been reviewed, Discourse provides one of the best rich text editors for creating posts and comments. Furthermore, Discourse allows you to filter your feed based on 'latest', 'unread', 'top', and 'categories'. The 'top' filter displays the posts with the most activity first. At last, you can not directly share posts or comments on any of the big social platforms. They only allow you to copy a link to the post or comment. All in all, Discourse has a good core forum and thread functionality, but the formatting and styling is very 'legacy' and make it more feel like a 'question & answer' forum than a real engaged community. You can solve this by customizing based on their open-source code base, but that does require manual coding work.


Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) has a good but basic forum structure. It is missing a thread system where you can directly comment on a comment, which makes it difficult to understand if a comment is a new comment or if the comment is a reply on a previous comment. The downside of this is that it will lead to friction when members want to participate in conversations, because it is hard for them to understand which discussions are actually taking place. Besides that they have a great rich text editor that can be used when creating posts and comments, allowing members to effectively add images, videos, codeblocks, lists, and more. Tribe (Bettermode) its forum does allow members to upvote, but not downvote. In this scenario upvoting a post is an alternative to liking a post. The downside of not being able to downvote posts and comments as well is that members do not get a sense of what types of posts or content are considered not valuable, only what is valuable. By also showcasing what types of posts and content are considered not valuable, you can speed up the guiding process of getting members to create more content that gets regarded as valuable. Also, post creators or community moderators can mark a comment on a post as ‘Best answer’ or pin a comment at the top. At last, Bettermode has great and detailed sharing functionality for posts on your forum. You can directly share them on the majority of big social platforms as well as embed posts through HTML code, in for example your website or blog.


Turf

Turf has a good thread and forum structure. The thread system in Turf allows members to directly get an overview of which conversations are taking place, by displaying each comment and comment on comments in its own block. It is easy to use and comes with a detailed rich text editor that can be used when creating new posts as well as when creating comments. The rich text editor allows members to create posts and comments with images, videos, codeblocks, lists, headings, and more. Turf its forum allows members to upvote and downvote, posts and comments. This way members will get a more detailed sense of what types of posts and content are valuable, but also what types of posts and content are considered not valuable. This will speed up the guiding process of getting members to create more content that gets regarded as valuable. Also, post creators and community moderators are able to mark a comment on a post as ‘Best answer’ or pin a comment at the top. This way other members that have a similar question and find this post/thread by typing their question in the search bar, will directly see the correct answer to their question at the top, instead of having to look through all the comments on the post. At last, Turf allows your members to mark posts and threads as ‘This has helped me’ and you can share posts and threads from your forum directly on the majority of big social platforms.

Functionality to host and centralize other customer modules

This might be the most important factor in cultivating user engagement and activity in your customer community environment. Centralizing other customer modules such as knowledge base, help center, roadmap communication, product feedback, changelogs, bug reporting, feature requests, help desk, academy, technical documentation, and online events, in your customer community environment directly increases activity in your customer community. By doing this, you are giving your users consistent incentives to come back to your customer community environment. Your users will have to go to your customer community environment for almost all actions that they want to perform and at the same time will be exposed to all the other modules located there. This doesn't only increase activity in the community, but also increases usage of all other individual modules that are being centralized there.

Discourse

Discourse is focused on providing community forum software for all sorts of use cases. This means that they do not focus on the use case of 'customer community' and are also not focused on SaaS and software companies in particular. Because of this general approach, they don't take into account the existing ecosystem of customer modules with which the customer community environment needs to seamlessly work and fit into. Discourse only provides the core out-of-the-box functionality of community forums and does not have any other functionalities or modules included in their software.

Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) is a community platform focused on building any type of customer community, with the goal of improving the customer experience. Tribe (Bettermode) allows you to host and centralize your knowledge base, help center, roadmap communication, product feedback, changelogs, feature requests, academy (resources/courses), online events, and a job board. The platform does a great job of centralizing the majority of other customer modules in your customer community environment, but is missing key functionality to be able to also host your technical documentation, and natively host your help desk (direct support) channels. Note that Tribe is not specifically focused on SaaS and software companies, but targets a wide range of companies looking to build a customer community.

Turf

Turf is a customer community platform specifically focused on SaaS and software companies building a customer community. The platform is centered around reducing support costs and customer churn for the company. Turf allows you to host and centralize your knowledge base, help center, roadmap communication, product feedback, changelogs, bug reporting, feature requests, help desk, academy, technical documentation, and online event management. Turf allows you to host and centralize the entirety of other customer facing modules that SaaS and software companies might have - making your customer community environment the single meetpoint for your users and increasing the usage of each module as a result.

In-app integration

An in-app integration of your customer community environment, means that your users can access and interact with your community from within your SaaS application or software. The crucial thing to understand is that your users want to be active in your customer community when they are using your tool in real-time or when they have just used your tool. Therefore, activity in your customer community environment is significantly higher when your users can interact with and participate in your customer community from within your application.

Discourse

Discourse does not allow you to natively embed your community environment in your SaaS application.

Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) allows you to embed the social parts of your community into your website, web app, or mobile app. They do this through a method that makes it look like those social parts of your community are an integral part of the web app, website, or mobile app. Note that you will have to create new dedicated pages/areas for this in your application or website, which makes it more developer-intensive.

Turf

Turf allows you to embed your customer community environment in your SaaS application, software, or website, with an embeddable widget. Through this widget, your entire customer community environment is viewable and interactable. What is being displayed in the widget is customizable, so you can decide to either only display certain modules of your community in the widget or display the entire customer community environment in the widget. The Turf widget also comes with a chatbot that is trained on user behavior inside your SaaS or software and on the community activity & content. The widget gets installed with a simple code snippet that gets added to the pages where you want the widget to be displayed.

Gamification

A gamification engine is one of the simplest ways to directly engage your community members. The gamification engine in a community should empower your super users, users who are posting valuable content, and other users that are performing ideal behaviour, while still involving and incentivizing your average community members and users.

Discourse

Discourse offers some gamification features, but they are limited compared to the other platforms under review. Discourse its out-of-the-box solution comes with a 'trust system', where members can be assigned different roles with permissions. The aim of this function is to serve the use case of letting members who become regular contributors, earn abilities to help maintain the community. Besides that, Discourse comes with the basic badges functionality, where you can assign members a set of badges that they can earn with specific behavior. You can assign preset badges but you can also add your own custom badges. To conclude, the gamification features in Discourse its out-of-the-box solution are very limited and have shortcomings when comparing it to the other platforms under review.

Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) offers gamification in their community platform through leaderboards and badges. Their leaderboards can be displayed per week, month, and over all time. Their badges can be assigned automatically through certain triggers and you can manually create new badges.

Turf

Turf offers a gamification engine that is driven by a voting system. Members can upvote and downvote all posts, comments, and resources in your community. Members get assigned a vote count based on the upvotes and downvotes that they have gotten over all their posts, comments, and other contributions to the community. The members in your community that are in the top 5% of members with the highest vote count get the label ‘Expert’ which is identified by a blue border around their profile picture, and have an increased weight of their votes by 4X. The members in your community that are in the next 15% of members with the highest vote count get the label ‘Senior’ which is identified by a green border around their profile picture, and have an increased weight of their votes by 2X. By giving these members increased weights with their votes, members that have proven knowledge and made valuable contributions to the community (according to all other members) will have a bigger influence in deciding what else is valuable or not valuable for the community. This system creates an autonomous improvement loop of the quality and value of content in your community and will make sure that your community will stay relevant and valuable over time. Besides that, Turf also has leaderboards and they allow you to create and assign badges. You can fully customize your badges and upload a specific design for your badges.

Business impact analytics and metrics

Obviously, you want to be able to get insights into how your community is performing based on activity and engagement metrics, but what about the effect of your community on key business objectives (for which you launch the initiative in the first place) such as change in customer lifetime value, churn rates, support costs, customer engagement, NPS scores, and more. This is key in understanding the effect and ROI of your customer community initiative.

Discourse

Much like the other platforms under review, Discourse offers all the needed community activity and insight analytics such as member count, activity metrics, and visitor metrics, but does not provide any business impact analytics. This leaves you in the dark about the actual impact of your community initiative on key business objectives such as churn rates and support costs.

Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) offers all the required activity and insight analytics such as member count, page views, visits, and popular community posts, but does not provide any business impact analytics. This makes it very hard for companies to understand and calculate the impact of their customer community initiative on key business objectives and understand whether the initiative is outweighing its costs in the first place.

Turf

Turf offers all the needed activity and insight analytics such as member count, page views, visitor metrics, the most active days and timeframes in the community, and popular community posts, in addition to the business impact analytics that you need to effectively understand the ROI and impact of your customer community initiative on key business objectives. Through your Turf analytics dashboard, you get direct insight into how many support cases were deflected through the community, how many support costs were saved, the customer churn rate of customers who were a community member, the customer lifetime value of customer who are a community member, and the total added customer lifetime value through the community (comparing the CLV of customers that are a community member VS the CLV of customers that are not a community member). This allows you to easily calculate the ROI of your customer community initiative and see what impact it is having on your key business objectives.

Customization of the community environment

Branding your customer community environment is key in making your community a part of your existing ecosystem. The ability to customize the structure, categories, and logos will help with increasing the ease of use for your specific user base, will make the member onboarding process as frictionless as possible, and will further attach the value that your users are getting from the community, to your brand.

Discourse

Discourse stands out through its customization capabilities. As mentioned before, Discourse is the only community software that is truly open source. This means that you can fully customize and build on top of the out-of-the-box solution of Discourse. You will have a canvas where you can completely change and customize every detail to your needs. Note that to be able to do this you will need developer capacity, which makes it a bit more high barrier. This also means that it brings a lot of additional costs on top of the subscription fee that you're paying for the out-of-the-box solution.

Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) allows for in-depth customization through custom categorization of your community environment with spaces and blocks, a customizable home page for your community, the ability to adjust colors and typography, the ability to adjust settings for fields in member profiles, the ability to customize the structure of the header, and the ability to add your own custom domain. You can also add your own logo’s and correctly brand your community environment.

Turf

Turf allows you to fully customize your customer community environment through custom categorization with tabs and channels, the ability to create private channels, your own logo’s, the ability to edit the structure of the side menu in your community, the ability to create custom badges, and the ability to add custom image banners to every page in your customer community environment so you are completely in charge of the look and feel of your community. Your customer community environment will also be hosted on your own custom domain.

Pricing

Nobody wants to invest too much cash upfront when the outcome of the initiative is not yet set in stone. Then how much should such a customer community platform cost? It should vary based on your company and user base size and should be directly attached to the ROI that you are getting from the initiative.

Discourse

Discourse has a transparent pricing module with three different subscription plans. They offer a 14-day free trial for all the subscription plans. The cheapest plan starts at 50 USD per month and allows up to 100 community members, 50k monthly page views, and 10GB storage of community data. It does not give you access to customize the environment, add your own domain, or have the ability to have non-members view it. Their 'Standard' plan does give you access to these 3 functionalities, allows for unlimited members, 100k monthly page views, and 20 GB storage of community data. Their highest subscription plan is the 'Business' plan which allows for unlimited members, 500k monthly page views, and 100GB storage of community data. Discourse can also create custom plans for enterprises that need more storage, page views, and other custom integrations or functionalities. The structure of their custom plan pricing is not clear and requires you to reach out to their sales team.

Bettermode (Tribe)

Tribe (Bettermode) offers a 14-day free trial and has 2 subscription plans. Both the Bettermode Advanced plan and the Bettermode Enterprise plan work with custom pricing and you can only purchase them or start your free trial by talking to the sales team and getting a demo first. The Bettermode Advanced plan starts from $599 per month and offers you all their features except enterprise-grade security, data residency, audit and activity logs, Uptime SLA, SAML authentication for SSO, and a master service agreement. The Bettermode Enterprise plan does not give an indication about what the base pricing is and gives you access to all their features and modules.

Turf

Turf offers 3 different subscription plans and each plan has a free trial of 14 days. The Turf subscription plans are differentiated almost solely based on the number of admin/moderator seats. After signing up, you can directly launch your customer community environment, without talking to the team. The 14-day free trial allows you to get familiar with the platform, start structuring your community, and invite your super users to get feedback on the experience, before committing to the platform. The Turf Starter plan of $95 per month gives you access to all their features, except the custom SSO functionality, custom domain functionality, and custom integrations that you might be in need of. Note that you do get access to a suite of standard integrations that have already been built. The plan allows you to build your customer community environment with 1 admin and moderator seat and allows for up to 250 community members. The Turf Premium plan of $195 per month gives you access to the same features as the Starter plan, but has unlimited members and allows you to build your customer community environment with 2 admin and moderator seats. Lastly, the Turf Pro plan of $395 is the same as the Premium plan in that it also allows for unlimited members, but in addition, you get 4 admin and moderator seats, custom domain functionality, and custom SSO. If you need more moderator seats, or other custom integrations, Turf also works with a custom plan where you can schedule a call with their team to communicate your needs and they can offer you a custom pricing.

Conclusion

Discourse caters to all sorts of companies looking to build a community forum (not specifically the use case of 'customer community') and is not specifically focused on SaaS or software companies. Because of this, it lacks crucial features for SaaS and software companies trying to build a customer community environment. 


That leaves us with Bettermode (Tribe) and Turf. Both are focused on customer communities, but Turf takes the extra step by solely being focused on accommodating customer communities for SaaS and software companies. Side-by-side we can see how this translates into a more tailored platform for SaaS and software companies:


Functionality to host and centralize other customer modules:


Turf: Offers complete functionality to host and centralize the entirety of customer modules critical for the customer journey for SaaS and software companies, creating a unified user experience.


Bettermode (Tribe): Provides good functionality to host and centralize the majority of customer modules but is missing some core functionality for customer modules in SaaS and software companies, such technical documentation.



In-App Integration:


Turf: Excels with a seamless in-app integration through an embeddable widget for higher user engagement.


Bettermode (Tribe): Supports embedding but may require more developer-intensive processes to actually embed the community environment.



Gamification Engine:


Turf: Provides a comprehensive gamification engine with a voting system, leaderboards, and customizable badges.


Bettermode (Tribe): Offers gamification through leaderboards and badges but lacks a detailed voting system.



Insightful Business Impact Analytics:


Turf: Goes beyond community activity metrics, offering business impact analytics crucial for measuring the ROI and effect of the customer community initiative on key strategic business goals.


Bettermode (Tribe): Provides activity insights but lacks business impact analytics.



Customization and Branding:


Turf: Allows extensive customization, ensuring the community seamlessly integrates with the brand.


Bettermode (Tribe): Offers in-depth customization that matches the level of customization that Turf is offering.



Pricing:


Turf: Transparent, flexible, and has a free trial of 14 days. Starter plan at $95/month, Premium plan at $195/month, and the Pro plan at $395/month. Custom pricing for enterprises or special requirements.


Bettermode (Tribe): Custom pricing for Advanced and Enterprise plans, starting from $599/month. Exact details not disclosed.


In summary, Turf emerges as the superior choice due to its specialized focus, comprehensive functionality to host and centralize all your customer modules, seamless in-app integration, robust gamification, insightful analytics, and extensive customization options tailored to the specific needs of SaaS and software companies.

The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.

The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.

The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.