Get social

Alternative apps to build a community

It's 2009. Barack Obama was sworn in as US president. Protesters are on the street (different protesters though, not like the ones protesting now). Your iPod contains hits like Boom Boom Pow, I'm Yours and even though you hide it, you also listen to that new blonde girl's song called Love Story because it's a bop. And then there's this new thing called Facebook that people seem to be using more and more. You don't know if you're willing to give up your pimped out Hi5 profile complete with a glittery background and a MP3 player loaded with Big Ass' Len Kaung Soong but you decide to give it a shot. More than 10 years and a number of privacy issues later, you're still using Facebook along with a number of other social networking apps, but perhaps you may be looking for other ways to build a community and meet new people. Perhaps you want to meet like-minded people like you who share you love for entrepreneurship or memes, and maybe you even want to get on platforms that will actually make you some dough. Facebook isn't your only avenue. We've got you sorted on where else you can build or find a community that's right for you.


CLUBHOUSE

Available in iOS

The Apple-exclusive app has recently gained popularity in the past few weeks. But while you may be seeing a bunch of people posting on their feeds about the new networking app, there might still be a few of you who are confused as to what it actually is. Its description in the App Store touts it as a "space for casual, drop-in audio conversations". It's like you're listening to a live podcast. Wait a minute, didn't we have this sort of thing before? You know, when people talk live but it's only audio and you usually listen from your car, and they even play music sometimes?

PROS

While it is funny to think that we've basically gone full-circle from radios to an app that sort of lets us listen to various radio talkshows, the big difference is that anyone can host a room to talk about anything. That means you could host a room and talk about anything mundane or someone like Elon Musk could host a room and talk with the CEO of the Robinhood app (yes, the very same app Redditors used to save GameStop) and even field questions. In fact, it's Musk's appearance that put the app's popularity over the top. The app's exclusivity doesn't just stop at the fact that it's invite-only and limited to Apple, but its rooms permanently close once the conversation is done. You can't go back and listen to it days later. If you want to join a room and listen to the conversation, you would have to catch it while it's live, kinda like what we used to do with radios. Like I said, full-circle.

CONS

Clubhouse's exclusivity means that only a limited number of people can access it, namely owners of Apple devices and people who actually have friends who can send them an invite. The latter part may not be too difficult though. Within a minute or so of posting on my FB that I was looking for an invite, a friend sent me one, so there's a good chance someone in your circle can hook you up. However, its exclusivity may also be the only reason why it's become popular. There's nothing like feeling you're part of some "special" group because you have access to an invite-only app, but that might be the only thing Clubhouse will have going for it. Remember Vero? And if you don't, that's exactly my point.


BLOCKDIT

Available in iOS and Android

Blockdit is an app made by Thai developers that looks like a version of FB at first glance. However, spend a few minutes on it and you'll realise that Blockdit offers an interesting take on networking. Plus, you could even get monetised on it.

PROS

On Blockdit, you don't add friends. Instead, you follow pages that would interest you, whether it's a content creator, a business or a page that caters to a certain topic. It's the starting point of building a feed that's catered to your liking without the clutter of personal posts, your grandma sharing fake news or your cousin's really edgy and dark memes. The developers want the app to be the breeding ground of ideas not just by connecting with others but also encouraging you to share your own. You can make different types of posts like an article, a video, a podcast or you can link a number of posts as a "series". And of course, as previously mentioned, you can actually earn from your Blockdit page, and it's not even that difficult to get monetised since all you need is 1,000 followers.

CONS

Blockdit has gotten gained popularity among Thai people but if you're a foreigner that doesn't read Thai, finding pages in English that you can follow may be next to impossible. Right now, the platform seems to have a majority of Thai content with the only English content being about English tutorials or learning grammar.


TWITCH

Twitch.tv / Available on iOS and Android

Twitch is to gaming what ESPN is to sports. The concept of watching other people playing video games was considered ludicrous by many when it was first introduced, but Twitch gave early streamers a platform back in 2011 which then grew to become a legitimate means of earning money and the rise of E-sports. Now, it's home to a big number of partnered channels, each of whom have their own subscribers that amount to thousands.

PROS

Much like anything nowadays, streaming on Twitch isn't difficult. For example, if you've got a PS4, there's an option for you to broadcast directly to your account. Setting up a stream on PC may require more steps but it's not too complicated. What does require some grinding is getting some viewers, and the same goes if you want to become a Twitch affiliate i.e. you want to make money off your streams. But even then, the requirement isn't too crazy and is definitely attainable as long as you work at it. If you're stumped as to what content you want to stream, don't sweat it. Browse through the numerous channels on the platform and you'll realise that there's a vast amount of content -- and some of it isn't even gaming. If you're just a casual viewer then the aforementioned treasure trove of channels and content will surely give you a streamer that can entertain you and that you can also support and follow.

CONS

If you're striving to build a community and a rep as a streamer on multiple platforms and not just on Twitch, this may become problematic once you've joined their affiliate programme. Once your stream ends, that content is exclusively on Twitch for 24 hours and violating this by posting clips of it anywhere else like YT and IG is a violation of your affiliate agreement. Twitch also takes a cut from what you get from subscriptions but then again, they are your middle man in this.


TIKTOK

Available on iOS and Android

Oh, TikTok. What's left to say that hasn't already been said? Much like the disdain aimed against people who make a living off streaming, the idea that people could make money off TikTok was considered ridiculous at first -- that is, until people actually started making serious dough off the following they gained from the app. Aside from that, people also worried that the app, which originated from China, was stealing personal information (as if Facebook hadn't already done that), so much so that an actual head of state tried to ban it from his own country. Nevertheless, TikTok has become a source of entertainment and an avenue to make unlikely friends across the globe.

PROS

As a casual viewer of the Tok, content to keep yourself entertained and occupied is endless -- and I do mean endless. I've found myself scrolling through my feed and For You Page for hours on end. If you're looking to be a content creator, its set-up is simple enough that anyone can shoot and edit videos. Because of the rise of the app's popularity, a lot of people have made TikTok an essential part in building a following and community so if that's your goal and you're not on the Tok yet, you better get on it.

CONS

If you're looking to build a following on the app and trying to figure out its algorithm to get more views and likes, that's going to be a doozy. The simplest way to explain it is that it's a lottery -- there's no telling which of your videos will get views, likes or shares. There are even times you might get "shadowbanned" which is when TikTok doesn't show your videos to anyone, which sucks especially if you barely have any followers. The best thing you can do is keep creating content. Oh, and Uncle Tu is on it, apparently. Ugh.


DISCORD

Available on iOS and Android

If you haven't heard of Discord then it may be because you're not a gamer or perhaps you're... seasoned in years. Originally intended to be an instant messaging and voice chat app for gamers who are unsatisfied with in-game voice chat, Discord has become the IM of choice for many especially for those who are millennials or younger.

PROS

Remember when Zoom skyrocketed in popularity when the pandemic hit? Well, Discord was already being used for video chat with more than two people well before then. Discord's video chat seems to be smoother as well compared to other apps although a limit of 25 people can join a video/audio chat channel. Speaking of channels, that's how Discord works: instead of just one group chat where everything is jumbled, you can make servers with different channels for different topics to get organised. For example, if you want to make a server for you and your friends, you can make different channels each dedicated to study, memes or just random stuff. In other words, Discord makes group chats easier. Plus, there are many servers you can join. You can explore the different servers that are open to the public on the app. Most streamers nowadays have their very own Discord server so if you're looking for one to join, that's a good place to look at first.

CONS

Discord has a premium subscription called Nitro which gives the subscriber certain perks like a custom tag and emojis as well as the ability to "boost a server". To be honest, these are perks you wouldn't really care about if you're just going to use Discord for communication purposes. However, one big impediment non-Nitro subscribers do face is that Discord won't allow you to upload files on the app that are bigger than 8MB. Meanwhile, Nitro subscribers can upload up to 100MB. It's the only annoying thing about using the app.


REDDIT

Reddit.com / Available on iOS and Android

Reddit has been around for a long time but it definitely deserves to be on this list. With countless subreddits that range from the completely ridiculous to the somewhat dark, it's impossible you don't find a community on here.

PROS

Because of its subreddits galore, almost every topic you could think of from dank memes to screenplay advice to the PC Master Race is covered in Reddit. Thailand even has its own subreddit, aptly named r/Thailand, where posts range from latest news to the ridiculous signs users discover all around the country. Reddit's foundation is interaction: you're encouraged to post and comment so that you get upvotes and increase your "karma", which is basically an approximate measure of votes your submissions got. "Does karma win you anything?" I hear you ask. Well... no. Bragging rights, I guess?

CONS

Because of its huge number of subreddits, there's bound to be NSFW or "not safe for work" content. And no, I don't just mean of the "intimate relations" variety but actually disturbing content. I won't name any specific subreddits, but a Google search of the darkest ones will give you a good idea of what can be found in the darkest corners of Reddit. Consider yourself warned.

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