There’s no such thing as a free community

It's easy to miss the hidden costs of social media networks and even community platforms (they wouldn't be very hidden it wasn't). In this post, I look at three myths regarding the costs and limitations of some of the other platforms available when connecting your experts.

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I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed the benefits of a freebie without reading the fine print, only to be being caught out – and the same applies with free communities. There are some solutions around that use ‘free’ or 'minimal cost' as their USP and too often I see people caught out with added extras they didn’t sign-up for.

Myth 1: The cost of social media
Many organisations may initially turn to social media for a community as the cost of entry is relatively low (free, in most cases) and there’s little risk. But there are a lot of hidden costs and many of these will appear as your community scales. By signing-up to a social media-based community, you hand control to the social media provider. They are free to change their algorithms without notice, impacting your reach and engagement, for example.

You also don’t own the data in your community which is a big problem for your future strategy, marketing and growth. Data is invaluable to your organisation, it can tell you who your experts are, who regularly contributes, the most popular content and so forth. Without it, your community building will falter as you cannot effectively grow and nurture relationships.

Plus, the data that is collected on your members will only be used for the social media company’s benefit. As Greg Williams of Wired states in the opening to his article on the value of our data, “Over the past decade, big tech platforms have productised our identities for their own gain.” The reason these platforms are free is because they’re selling their members’ data for a profit.


Myth 2: Initial software costs
Some community software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers attract customers by
offering a set initial price that undercuts the market. The entry price-point seems like
the most efficient on the market, but then for extra functionality, there are extra
costs. It’s a no-frills community solution, where certain functions are bolted-on and,
more often than not, they tend to be features you cannot launch without.

With Zapnito, our pricing is transparent and you always know what you’re getting.
Current Zapnito customers have commented on the platform’s ease-of-use,
customisation options, customer support team and new features that are regularly
rolled out. All for a set price – no hidden extras.


Myth 3: WordPress limitations
The third culprit that you must watch out for is WordPress. Although a third of all websites use WordPress to build websites, it isn’t always the best solution for an online community. First, it lacks transparent pricing. Secondly, if you need advice or support, there isn’t a team available 24/7 and you may be unable to find the answers online. Unless your in-house team is very confident and technical, WordPress isn’t a user-friendly, scalable option long-term.


Hopefully this post has given you some food-for-thought when it comes to your community platform. To discover other ‘cheap and cheerful’ options to avoid, download our whitepaper on the 9 key things that we wish everyone knew before they decided to build a WordPress site.

Alternatively, if you’d like to discuss your community’s needs in more detail, get in touch with our experts now.

Max Inchcoombe

Marketing Executive, Zapnito

Into my third year at Zapnito now, some of my responsibilities include email marketing, running the social media accounts, site/community reporting, event organising and sales assistance. If you have any questions for me on Zapnito or what we do, I'll be happy to help!

2 Comments

Go to the profile of Charles Thiede
Charles Thiede 6 months ago

Great article Max. The "old adage of you get what you pay for" still applies to Communities. The most important thing, is you get back the value 10x if you do it right.

Go to the profile of Max Inchcoombe
Max Inchcoombe 6 months ago

I couldn't agree more Charles. It may even be a waste of resources to take the 'cheaper' option only to find it isn't the right solution for you!