Guides Slack customer communities: a comparison of Slack’s free and paid plans

Slack customer communities: a comparison of Slack’s free and paid plans

Last updatedMay 28, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

Building a thriving customer community can be the thing that transforms the trajectory of an early-stage startup or company. By creating a dedicated space for your customers to connect, share experiences, and learn from one another, you can foster a deep sense of loyalty and engagement that goes beyond transactional relationships.

A well-nurtured community becomes a valuable source of feedback, helping you understand your customers’ needs and preferences, which in turn drives product improvements and innovation. A vibrant community can organically attract new customers through word-of-mouth referrals and positive brand associations, leading to sustainable growth and reduced churn. However, with numerous platforms available for building customer communities, selecting the right one is crucial for long-term success.

Many organizations – particularly early-stage startups – gravitate towards building customer communities on Slack. And at the surface this makes sense, Slack is workplace communication software and building a community on Slack enables a company’s community to sit alongside where their customers already work. However, Slack’s product focus and recent pricing changes can mean that using Slack to create a customer community can be met with challenges.

In this guide, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of using Slack for customer communities, focusing on how its pricing and features can impact your success.

Why choose Slack for your customer community

Slack has gained popularity as a platform for businesses seeking to create a dedicated space for customer engagement. One of the main reasons for this is Slack’s inherent network effects. Many professionals already use Slack for work, making it a familiar and comfortable environment for them to participate in your community. By tapping into this existing network, you can quickly attract members who are accustomed to the platform’s interface and functionality.

Slack’s real-time messaging and channel-based organization facilitate natural, free-flowing conversations. This setup mimics the casual, chat-based interactions that people enjoy in their personal lives, creating a sense of camaraderie and belonging within your community. Members can easily jump between different topics and discussions, fostering a lively and engaging atmosphere.

Moreover, Slack’s extensive app ecosystem allows you to integrate various tools and services directly into your community. This enables you to create a seamless experience for your members, where they can access relevant resources, receive notifications, and interact with other tools without leaving the Slack interface. For example, you can integrate customer support software, project management tools, or analytics platforms to streamline workflows and enhance the functionality of your community.

Another advantage of using Slack for a customer community is its accessibility across multiple devices. Members can engage with your community through the Slack desktop app, mobile app, or web interface, ensuring that they can stay connected and participate in discussions wherever they are. This flexibility is particularly valuable for communities that span different time zones or have members with varying work schedules.

The difference in features between Slack’s Free and Paid Plans

Before embarking on your community-building journey with Slack, it’s essential to understand the differences between Slack’s free and paid plans. While the free version provides basic features like channels, direct messaging, and limited app integrations, it comes with several significant limitations that can hinder the long-term success of your customer community.

Feature Free plan Paid plan
Cost Free $8.75 USD per user per month
Message history Only the last 90 days of messages Unlimited message history with a searchable archive of conversations
Integrations Up to 10 integration with apps and services Unlimited integrations with other apps and services
Analytics Basic user activity metrics Additional analytics on channels and user activity
Storage and files Only the last 90 days of files 10GB per member file storage

One of the most notable drawbacks of Slack’s free plan is the restriction on message history. With only the last 90 days of messages accessible, your community’s knowledge base and shared experiences can quickly become lost as new conversations emerge. This lack of message retention means that valuable insights, ideas, and solutions discussed by your members may be difficult or impossible to retrieve later on.

In contrast, Slack’s paid plans offer unlimited message history, allowing you to build a comprehensive archive of your community’s interactions. This searchable record becomes an invaluable resource for both new and existing members, enabling them to learn from past discussions and contribute to the collective knowledge of the group.

The challenge is that for communities of a substantial size, the pricing of Slack’s paid plan can become prohibitively expensive for running a successful community where accumulating knowledge is important. To illustrate the excessive cost of Slack’s paid plan for customer communities, we have calculated the cost for communities of varying member sizes below.

Community size (members) Cost per month (USD)
100 $105
500 $4,375
1000 $8,750
2500 $21,875
5000 $43,750

As you can see, the cost of maintaining a community on Slack’s paid plan escalates rapidly as the number of members grows. For a community of just 500 members, the monthly cost exceeds $4,000, which can be an unsustainable expense for many businesses, particularly startups and small to medium-sized enterprises. At 5,000 members, the monthly cost skyrockets to over $40,000, putting it well out of reach for most organizations.

This pricing structure poses a significant challenge for companies that want to build large, thriving customer communities with extensive knowledge bases. As the community grows, the cost of maintaining unlimited message history on Slack becomes increasingly burdensome, potentially forcing businesses to make difficult decisions about limiting access or seeking alternative platforms.

The high cost of Slack’s paid plans can create a barrier to entry for new members, as companies may be hesitant to invite more customers to join the community due to the associated expenses. This limitation can stifle the growth and diversity of the community, reducing its overall value and potential for innovation.

How Slack’s free plan can impact the success of your customer community

The features offered in each Slack plan can significantly influence the success and growth of your customer community. How you plan to engage with your community and the importance of accumulating knowledge and saving messages will determine whether Slack’s free plan is sufficient or if a paid plan is necessary.

For communities where accumulating knowledge and saving messages is crucial, Slack’s paid plan becomes a requirement. By investing in unlimited message history, you enable your members to build upon the knowledge and experiences shared by others, creating a rich tapestry of insights that can be referenced and revisited over time. This feature is particularly valuable for communities focused on technical support, product feedback, or industry-specific discussions, where the ability to search for and learn from past conversations is essential.

Imagine a scenario where a member faces a challenge and seeks guidance from the community. With a comprehensive message archive, they can easily search for previous discussions on similar topics, finding valuable advice and solutions shared by other members. This not only empowers individuals to find the help they need but also reduces the burden on community moderators and experts who would otherwise need to repeatedly address the same questions. Over time, this accumulated knowledge becomes a powerful resource that attracts new members and reinforces the value of the community.

On the other hand, if maintaining a long-term message history is not a priority for your community, Slack’s free plan could suffice. For example, if your community primarily focuses on real-time engagement, networking, or short-term projects, the message limit imposed by the free plan may not be a significant hindrance. In such cases, the emphasis is on facilitating immediate connections and conversations rather than building a lasting knowledge base.

It is important to consider the potential limitations of relying on Slack’s free plan for customer communities. The lack of message retention can make it challenging to onboard new members effectively, as they will not have access to the wealth of information and discussions that have taken place before joining. This can lead to repeated questions and a lack of continuity in the community’s narrative.

It should also be highlighted that inability to create public channels or make conversations accessible to search engines or on the internet across all Slack plans can limit your community’s visibility and discoverability. This can hinder your ability to attract new members organically and may require more active outreach and promotion efforts to grow your community.

The advantages of using Slack for customer communities

Despite the limitations of its free plan, Slack offers several compelling advantages for customer communities:

Familiarity and ease of use: With a vast number of professionals already using Slack for work, your community members are likely to be familiar with the platform’s interface and features. This familiarity reduces the learning curve for new members and encourages active participation from the start.

Real-time engagement: Slack’s instant messaging functionality enables dynamic, real-time conversations among community members. This immediacy fosters a sense of presence and connection, allowing members to quickly receive answers, feedback, and support from their peers.

Streamlined communication: Slack’s channel-based structure helps keep conversations organized and focused. By creating dedicated channels for specific topics or purposes, you can ensure that discussions remain relevant and easy to follow, reducing noise and clutter within the community.

Integration ecosystem: Slack boasts an ecosystem of integrations with third-party apps and services, enabling you to extend your community’s functionality and streamline workflows. From project management tools to customer support systems, these integrations help create a seamless and efficient experience for your members.

The disadvantages of using Slack for customer communities

While Slack has its merits, there are several notable drawbacks to consider when deciding whether it’s the right platform for your customer community:

Limited message history on the free plan: As previously discussed, Slack’s free plan caps message history to the last 90 days. The lack of message retention can make it challenging to onboard new members effectively, as they will not have access to the wealth of information and discussions that have taken place before joining. This can lead to repeated questions and a lack of continuity in the community’s narrative.

Lack of native community management tools: While Slack offers some basic administrative controls, it lacks the robust community management features found in dedicated community platforms. Features like granular user permissions, content moderation, and member analytics are essential for maintaining a healthy and engaged community.

Emphasis on text-based communication: Slack primarily focuses on text-based messaging, which can limit the richness and variety of content shared within your community. While it’s possible to share images, videos, and files, Slack may not be the ideal platform for communities that rely heavily on visual or multimedia content.

Potential for notification fatigue: Slack’s real-time nature means that members can quickly become overwhelmed by a constant stream of notifications. This can lead to disengagement and reduced participation, as members struggle to keep up with the volume of messages and discussions.

Scalability and cost concerns: As your community grows, the cost of Slack’s paid plans can quickly add up, particularly if you have a large number of members. The per-user pricing model may become unsustainable for communities with thousands of active participants, forcing you to consider alternative platforms or make difficult decisions about limiting access. Limited customization and branding options: While Slack allows for some customization, such as color schemes and logos, it does not offer the same level of flexibility as dedicated community platforms. This can make it challenging to create a fully branded experience that aligns with your company’s visual identity and creates a distinct sense of place for your community members.

Lack of public accessibility and SEO benefits: Slack communities are primarily private and accessible only to invited members. This means that the valuable content and discussions generated within your community are not indexed by search engines, limiting your ability to attract new members through organic search traffic. In contrast, dedicated community platforms often offer public-facing options that allow your community content to be discovered by a wider audience.

Summary of Slack’s pricing for customer communities

Choosing the right platform for your customer community is a critical decision that can significantly impact its success and growth. While Slack offers a familiar and engaging environment for many professionals, its limitations – particularly on the free plan – can hinder your ability to build a thriving, long-term community.

The lack of message retention on the free plan can stifle your community’s potential, making it difficult to create a lasting knowledge base and attract new members. Upgrading to a paid plan addresses some of these concerns but comes with its own set of challenges, including scalability and cost.

Ultimately, the decision to use Slack for your customer community depends on your specific needs, goals, and resources. If you have a small, focused community that primarily relies on real-time communication and can justify the cost of a paid plan, Slack may be a suitable choice. However, if you envision a large-scale, content-rich community that requires robust management tools and long-term sustainability, you may be better served by exploring dedicated community platforms.

Regardless of the platform you choose, remember that the true value of your community lies in the connections, knowledge sharing, and sense of belonging it fosters among your members. By focusing on creating a welcoming, engaging, and supportive environment, you can build a thriving customer community that drives loyalty, innovation, and growth for your business.

Start a customer community for free

Create a community for your product in just a few minutes.