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Customer success

Customer success

Customer success

Dec 29, 2023

Gainsight Communities VS Salesforce Community Cloud: 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, codeblocks, and more, so your users can discuss their topics and your application, accurately and in detail.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce Community Cloud also has a very similar forum structure to the other enterprise-focused community platforms. Like the majority of other enterprise-focused community platforms, Salesforce Community Cloud is missing key threading functionality within posts. This means that you can not directly comment on another comment, and leads to confusion about whether a comment is a response to an existing comment, or is meant as an entirely new reply or conversation starter. This can create a lot of unnecessary friction for members who are looking to participate in conversations in your community and can drive community activity down significantly. Instead, it allows you to tag other members to indicate that you are replying to another comment, but each individual comment is still displayed directly below each other in the exact same style without indicating that it is meant as a reply on an existing comment. Salesforce Community Cloud does have a good rich text editor that you can create posts and comments with. You can add images, code blocks, videos, files, and style your text with lists. However, you can not style your text with different headers. Furthermore, you can like posts and comments, but it is missing voting functionality where members can both upvote and downvote posts and comments. Because of this you can not present your members 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.

As mentioned before, you can like posts and comments, but this doesn't affect the positioning of the content in the feed. You can only sort your feed based on the latest activity and creation date. At last, you can directly share posts and comments on any of the big social platforms. Instead, it just allows you to copy the link to the post or comment. Salesforce Community Cloud does allow you to mark comments on a post as 'Best answer' and then filter your feed based on posts that have a 'Best answer'.


Insided (Gainsight)

Insided, rebranded as Gainsight, features a functional yet basic forum structure. Notably, it lacks an inherent thread system within posts, hindering the ability to directly comment on a comment. This absence creates confusion about whether a comment is entirely new or a response to an existing one, introducing potential friction for members attempting to engage in conversations. Although users can like and 'quote' comments, these responses do not appear as threaded directly beneath the commented-on content. Instead, they are appended at the bottom of the comments list, complicating the tracking of ongoing discussions. On a positive note, Insided boasts an excellent rich text editor supporting various media types, including images, videos, codeblocks, lists, and embedded resources. Despite its strengths, Insided lacks a voting system, impeding the creation of an optimized feed showcasing the most valuable content. The absence of downvotes also deprives members of insight into what content is considered less valuable, hindering the platform's ability to guide users towards generating more valuable content over time. While an upvote button exists, it is only visible in 'idea' posts related to feature requests. On the other hand, Insided does allow users to mark comments as the 'best answer' and pin them to the top of the post. Community moderators can further designate a comment as a 'verified answer.' Additionally, the platform facilitates easy sharing of forum posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce Community Cloud is focused on the use case of 'customer community' but does not specifically focus on SaaS or software companies. The Salesforce Community Cloud product itself does not allow you to host and centralize other customer modules, but Salesforce does have a suite of products where they offer all these functionalities for customer-facing modules, individually. Salesforce Community Cloud is part of a product suite called 'Salesforce Experience Cloud' and this product suite allows you to build a community forum and knowledge base in one, so in this scenario, you can actually centralize your knowledge base with your community forum.

Insided (Gainsight)

Insided is a customer community platform focused on enterprise b2b SaaS. Insided allows you to host and centralize your knowledge base, product feedback & ideation, and product communication. With their product feedback and communication module, you can communicate product releases, receive feature requests, and let users vote on your roadmap. The platform does a relatively good job at centralizing the majority of your customer processes, but is missing key functionality to cover the entirity of your customer module ecosystem. The platform is missing the ability to host technical documentation, host and manage online community events, and natively host your help desk (direct support) channels.

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.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce Community Cloud does not allow you to directly integrate your community environment in your SaaS application. This means that your users will always have to go outside your SaaS application to be able to use and interact with your customer community environment.

Insided (Gainsight)

Insided allows you to embed your customer community environment in your SaaS application, software, or website with a widget. The in-app widget makes all the content in your customer community environment viewable and accesible from within your SaaS application. The customizability of the widget is limited and you can not exclude certain areas of your community from the widget. The widget does not have a menu overview that reflects all the areas of your community. Instead it is more a search bar that makes all your content searchable. The widget can easily get installed by copying a code snippet and adding it to the codebase of your SaaS application.

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 behavior, while still involving and incentivizing your average community members and users.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce Community Cloud offers similar gamification features to the other enterprise-focused legacy platforms under review. It allows you to create and assign badges for specific member behavior and display a ranking of your members in a leaderboard based on the number of created comments/answers. The key differentiator in the Salesforce Community Cloud platform is that it allows members to endorse each other for specific skills or expertise. At last, members can win points based on their activity in the community. You can also sort leaderboards based on this point system. At last, a nice aspect is that you can set the leaderboards so that every member gets a ranking and can see their ranking. This way you can use this gamification feature as an engagement trigger for all your members, instead of just the top 10 most active members.

Insided (Gainsight)

Insided has great gamification features such as leaderboards for your community members as well as leaderboards for employees. Having a seperate leaderboard for employees that are active in the community is great because you don't want to take away the effectiveness of the engagement incentive for users that the leaderboard was meant to be. The leaderboards are based on an adjustable point system, where points get awarded to people contributing in the community and providing helpful answers to other members. Another valuable aspect of the leaderboards, that is worth mentioning, is the fact that you can display full leaderboards that give every member in the community a rank. This way you involve and trigger every member instead of only the top 10 members (if it would be a leaderboard that is only displaying the top 10 members). Besides that you can create custom badges and award them manually or automatically if a member meets a certain set of conditions. All in all, the biggest upside of the Insided gamification engine is its high customizability.

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.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce Community Cloud offers all the needed community activity and insight analytics. Salesforce Community Cloud stands out compared to other platforms because it is able to connect to all the other products in the Salesforce product suite, which allows you to enrich your community activity data with all your CRM data and data from other modules built with Salesforce. Note that this is only possible if all your other modules have also been built with the Salesforce product suite. This combination of data and insights allows you to indirectly measure the business impact of your community initiative, by making estimations and calculating it yourself. It does not directly display how many support costs have been saved due to the community, and how much customer churn has been reduced. So, if your other modules have not been built with Salesforce the analytics will be pretty limited, but if they have, then Salesforce Community Cloud is one of the platforms under review with the better analytics suite.

Insided (Gainsight)

Insided offers all the must have and needed community activity and insight analytics such as member count, engagement rates, views, visits, and much more. Their community activity metrics are very comprehensive and in-depth and gives you insight in to everything you need to know about the activity inside your community. On the other hand, Insided is not providing business impact analytics. This makes it hard for SaaS companies to understand and calculate the impact of their customer community initiative on key business objectives, such as customer churn and support case deflection, and saved support costs. As a result of this, ROI calculations for the customer community initiative as a whole will be hard to make or won't be accurate enough to provide real insights into the benefits that the customer community initiative is providing. Especially for community managers in enterprise SaaS companies this might be a downside.

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 userbase, 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.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce Community Cloud has almost identical customization capabilities as Higher Logic, Khoros, and Insided (Gainsight). You can completely edit and customize your community with a no-code editor. You can adjust the logos, colours, layout, typography, and more. The core of the editor is centered around dragging and dropping different sections to adjust the layout with different positioning of the forum, text blocks, blocks from your knowledge base, and images. You can also add custom code blocks that allow you to expand the functions of the platform and adjust it to your needs even more.

Insided (Gainsight)

Insided offers extensive customization options, allowing you to tailor your community environment to suit your style and needs. This includes personalized categorization through pages and building blocks, the flexibility to design a customizable homepage, and the freedom to adjust colors, typography, and of course branding with your own logos. Moreover, you have the flexibility to fine-tune the menu bar's categorization in the header, add a custom domain for hosting your community, and modify fields in member profiles to showcase the most compelling characteristics. While these features represent a snapshot of Insided's customization capabilities, they stand out as the most noteworthy. Insided stand's out with it's high customizability, which mainly is the result of their focus on enterprise b2b SaaS.

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.

Salesforce Community Cloud

Salesforce it's pricing is a bit complicated because it overlaps with a lot of the other products in their suite. For example, if you already have the Salesforce Service Cloud solution, Community Cloud is already included. If not, you can only use the Community Cloud solution as an add-on to another Salesforce product suite. If you are not using Salesforce Service Cloud, but are using another product suite of theirs, you can add the Community Cloud solution. In this scenario, there are two different plans. The first is 'Customer Community', which starts at 2 USD per login or 5 USD per community member, per year. Selecting member is best when there is a known user count or frequent users of a Community. Selecting login is best when there is an unknown user count or infrequent users of a Community. The other plan is 'Customer Community Plus' and starts at 6 USD per login or 15 USD per community member, per year. Besides that, the 'Customer Community Plus' plan comes with additional administration and moderation functionalities. Important to note is that you have to use other Salesforce modules to be able to use Salesforce Community Cloud. If you are using Salesforce already, the Community Cloud solution is very expensive. For a community of 10k members, you can expect to pay an average of 50,000 USD per year on the 'Customer Community' plan and 100,000 -150,000 on the 'Customer Community Plus' plan.

Insided (Gainsight)

As mentioned before, Insided is focused on enteprise b2b SaaS. As you might have guessed this also reflects in their pricing. Insided does not publicly display any pricing plans, and does not offer a free trial. They work with a custom pricing for each customer and require you to schedule a demo or call with the sales team to get insight into what their pricing is like. Although the exact pricing is not public, we know that Insided falls under the highest end of the community software spectrum and the average community built with Insided falls within a range of $20k to $100k per year. Unfortunately, any specifics on different plans and feature limits per subscription plan are not online available.

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

Salesforce Community Cloud caters to all sorts of companies looking to build a customer community environment but 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. Especially if you're not already using Salesforce for the other modules in your ecosystem, the functionality of Salesforce Community will be very limited.


That leaves us with Insided (Gainsight) and Turf. Insided (Gainsight) is focused on enterprise software companies and because of their pricing, completely excludes other software companies that are not on an enterprise level. Besides their pricing, Insided (Gainsight) is also missing some key features that would allow software companies to maximize user activity in the community and the ability to measure the business impact of their customer community initiative. For SaaS and software companies of all sizes (even enterprises), Turf would be a better option based on this review.

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.