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Customer success

Customer success

Customer success

Dec 28, 2023

Influitive VS Discourse: 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.

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.


Influitive

Influitive has a good forum structure but is missing key threading functionality within posts. You can directly reply to a specific comment, but these replies get added at the bottom of the list of comments. It does indicate the user who you are replying, but this is very small. All in all, this can lead to confusion about whether a comment is a response to an existing comment or if it is meant a new comment. Even if this is not clear for a percentage of your community members, it can lead to a lot of friction for members who are looking to participate in conversations and can drive community activity down. Influitive does offer a great rich text editor for creating posts and comments. Very similar to Salesforce Community Cloud, you can add images, videos, code blocks, files, style your text with lists, preset stylings to mark something as a 'warning', and more. The rich text editor of Influitive does stand out compared to the other platforms under review due to the ability to also style text with headers, and the wide range of text style editing options. Just like the majority of other platforms under review, 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 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, however, sort your feed based on creation date, most viewed, most liked, and most commented. Furthermore, Influitive does not allow you to share posts and comments from the forum on any of the big social platforms and you can also not directly copy a link to a post or comment. At last, post creators and moderators can mark a comment as 'Accepted answer' which brings the selected comment to the top of the list and marks it with green highlights. Unfortunately, you can not filter the feed based on posts that have an 'Accepted answer'.


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.

Influitive

Influitive is focused on the use case of 'customer community', does not focus on SaaS and software companies specifically, but instead focuses on any type of large enterprise business. Influitive has the functionality that allows you to host and centralize a knowledge base, product feedback & ideation, courses & academies, online events, and feature suggestions. The one thing that stands out with Influitive is that they also provide functionality to manage customer referrals. While comparing this to the other platforms under review, we see that Influitive is one of the better-performing platforms with its functionalities to host and centralize other customer modules.

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.

Influitive

Influitive does not allow you to integrate or embed your community environment in 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 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.

Influitive

Influitive stands out as one of the community platforms with the best gamification engine. Influitive allows you to create member levels based on their activity in the community, assign & create badges, and display leaderboards. The aspect where the gamification engine of Influitive really stands out, is the ability to make members work towards specific real-life rewards (e.g. conference tickets, discounts, merchandise). You can specify the reward and then also state what members need to do to achieve this reward. While working towards this achievement, members can see their progress and can also see how much they still need to perform. Influitive seems to be one of the only platforms under review that has native functionality for this real-life reward management system based on community activity.

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.

Influitive

Influitive offers both the needed community activity & insight analytics, as well as basic business impact analytics. Compared to the other enterprise-focused community platforms under review this is already a step in the right direction. Influitive allows you to assign an ROI value to each specific action that a member can perform in the community and then measure the total ROI based on how many times activities get performed. The amazing thing about this is that you can literally assign a value to each activity that a member can perform. The downside is that people most of the time don't really know what the ROI value of a specific action is or should be. This most of the time, can lead to unrealistic ROI calculations that are far from accurate. Besides that, Influitive does not allow you to get insight into the impact of the community initiative on customer churn rates. All in all, Influitive still has one of the best analytics suites due to its ability to assign an ROI value to each specific community activity.

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.

Influitive

Influitive has similar customization functionalities to the other enterprise community platforms under review. You can edit and customize logos, colors, layout, typography, styling, and more. The downside compared to other platforms is that this has to be done through CSS and HTML code blocks, and can not be done with a no-code editor. Also, this customization is only available for the advanced plan. You can edit a lot of the basic settings of your community through a community settings page, but this is not as detailed and easy to use as the no-code editor that some of the other platforms provide.

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.

Influitive

Influitive has two different subscription plans and does not offer a free trial. The 'Customer advocacy' plan starts at 24,000 USD per year but does not include the community forum discussion functionality that we are looking for in this review. That leaves us with the 'Digital community' plan that starts at 42,000 USD per year. This plan comes with all the functionality described in this review and is the only available plan for the community forum functionality. This makes Influitive one of the more expensive community platforms. You will have to talk to their sales team to be able to start, but for 42,000 USD per year, you might want to be in close contact with them.

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 Influitive and Turf. Influitive is focused on enterprises in general (not specifically software or SaaS companies) and because of their pricing, completely excludes other software companies that are not on an enterprise level. Besides their pricing, Influitive 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. Even for enterprise software companies looking for a customer community platform, 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.