Not just a marketplace: What it’s like to build an online support group

Published October 19, 2020, 12:01 PM

by MB Lifestyle

The stories of the Viber community superadmins

In a span of weeks, our lives have been turned upside down by Covid-19. Things we used to do without worries—like shopping, going to the gym, attending a cooking class, and meeting our friends—have instantly become a thing of the past. Well, until further notice.

Now, we’re hooked on our screens, looking for ways to find a sense of normalcy and community and manage our anxieties at a time when physical distancing means saving lives.

Some Viber users didn’t let the pandemic stop them from bringing people together (safely, of course). Meet the people who created some of our favorite Viber communities while in quarantine, keeping their members company and loneliness at bay.

Good vibes and quarantine baking

When KG Sison, a marketing consultant, saw an unanswered query about baking suppliers in one of the communities she was already part of, she decided to create her own. Homebaking Community, though initially dedicated to baking supplies, evolved into a thriving support group that shared baking tips, hacks, and more.

KG Sison encourages members to post their creations and share their baking-related tips to the Homebaking Viber Community.

“We encouraged members to post their creations and freely ask baking-related questions,” she said. “We wanted to be a legit community—a place where people talked and made friends instead of being transactional in nature.”

On a personal note, KG said that managing a community made her less lonely during the quarantine, emphasizing how these communities have become a source of positivity for her and the members.

“Even our members have reported that the group has made them less lonely and anxious during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). It served as a form of social support for us and our members,” KG said. “We made friends. I think this was the greatest surprise and blessing that I gained from these Viber communities.”

Since then, KG has indeed lived up to being a superadmin, establishing other groups like Homecooking Community, Urban Gardening, and MNL Sourdough Fam Community, all of which have the same community vibe, “less selling, more interaction.” It wasn’t until recently that she decided to create the Homebakers Marketplace, providing community members another venue to sell their baked goods during quarantine.

“I use a variety of chat platforms, but I noticed that the general public uses Viber, and that means more reach,” she pointed out. “But more importantly, I find that there are less trolls on Viber because you need to have a phone number attached to an account.”

Staying active together at home

With gyms closed during ECQ, fitness enthusiasts were pushed to modify their workouts and do their routines at home. And for those who didn’t have what they needed, the Gym & Fitness Marketplace MM Viber Community became a lifesaver. This haven was for everyone who’s looking for jump ropes and yoga mats to more specific gym equipment like spinning bikes and squat racks.

Celina Payawal created the Gym & FItness Marketplace MM, a Viber Community where they sell gym equipment and motivate each other to stay fit at home.

Created by Celina Payawal, an entrepreneur, after she noticed that there was no community dedicated to the fitness market. The group that was only supposed to cater to those living in Metro Manila grew to include members from Tarlac, Ilocos, and Cebu. Apart from connecting buyers to sellers and helping SMEs sustain their businesses, Celina as the superadmin sees the community as a place where everyone can encourage each other to stay fit and healthy while the world battles a deadly virus.

Given the popularity of the messaging app in the Philippines, it’s easy for superadmins like Celina to connect with like-minded individuals and help sellers reach out to customers. It really was a no-brainer for her, pointing out how Viber made sure that superadmins got the features they needed to manage their community well, from pinning posts, choosing notification settings, to deleting unwanted messages.

A major point for Celina is how Viber allows community members to chat with each other without having to share their numbers. “It’s a safe place for all online sellers and buyers to be able to transact with each other, since the don’t have to divulge their personal numbers, providing them both convenience and security,” she said.

Shopping safely for essentials

Since the virus forced many stores and SMEs to close indefinitely, several entrepreneurs have been struggling to sell their products to a wider base. Terry Ilagan noticed this, and decided to create the Locale City Guide, a Viber community that catalogs essential items sold by SMEs. From auto shop services to face shields, members were welcome to sell their products from the safety of their homes.

Sellers are grateful to Terry Ilagan for creating the Locale City Guide Viber Community.

Terry chose Viber because of its unlimited member capacity and easy invite features. He thought it would be a great way to sell a wide array of goods. Community members can find pre-cooked meals and groceries to keep them well-fed over quarantine, delivery services to maintain social distancing guidelines, direct distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to keep business supplies moving, Covid essentials, and even entertainment products like gaming equipment and streaming links.

Terry knew he was doing something right when sellers began reaching out to him to thank him for creating the community.

“It may sound shallow, but being able to extend help by posting a seller’s homemade pastries and knowing that she made some bucks gave me a pleasant feeling that lasted throughout the day,” he said.

‘It’s a safe place for all online sellers and buyers to be able to transact with each other, since they don’t have to divulge their personal numbers, providing them both convenience and security.’

Uplifting neighborhoods and communities

One evening in March, Diane Jimeno was looking through a Viber Community that gave residents of Bonifacio Global City a list of goods and services they could avail of over quarantine. She decided that her community, Acacia Estates, needed one too, and went to make it herself. The Acacia Estates Residents Community initially was dedicated to health updates on the pandemic.

The Acacia Estates Viber Community, made by Diane Jimeno, was initially dedicated to updates on COVID-19 but then it quickly became a venue for SMEs to promote their businesses during these trying times.

But later, people began using the community as a way to sell their products. “We decided to just accommodate the sellers in the group, but the community kept on growing rapidly that having community updates related to Covid-19 was almost impossible,” said Diane. “This led us to create another community called Acacia Estates Community and renamed the Acacia Estates Residents community to Acacia Estates Marketplace.”

Several of Diane’s neighbors began thanking her for giving them a space to do business. “Being able to promote micro and small businesses in the community helped people especially during these trying times,” said Diane. Though many were feeling the economic crisis of the pandemic, the people of Acacia Estates had a platform to keep their livelihoods afloat and support one another.

Now, it’s your turn to share your Viber story. Let Viber know how the app became part of your daily life. Send your story over to [email protected]

 
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