I've been planning on writing this post for a long time now, originally titled "What alternatives are there to Facebook Groups?". Twitter has forced me to slightly tweak my approach now, as the company has announced that it will soon be unleashing its own community-based tool, aptly named "Communities".
Before we get into Twitter's take on communities though, let's look at some other alternatives to Facebook Groups first, as I originally intended for this conversation.
Discord has been gaining in popularity recently, as the social network built around communities itself has cemented its place among gaming, music, and tech communities worldwide. As the central pillar of Discord is communities, rather than individuals, it is a natural and perhaps better place for groups compared to Facebook. Users join Discord with the sole purpose of joining a community, not to establish an individual presence. With text, voice, and even video chats supported, Discord allows for all types of communications between community members, which is why it's as popular as it it.
Probably the oldest form of electronic communication, emails are still widely used today especially in professional settings. Though great for information dissemination, emails are not really great for group conversations. You can have mailing lists which are kind of like communities, but needing to be added to a list by the administrator makes it less convenient compared to social media communities that you can simply join. I don't think emails will ever be used in a social context, as it will forever be considered as a "formal" communication tool that people will always use for work.
Alongside emails, forums are probably one of the oldest forms of electronic communication still around today. I remember being very active in online forums back when I was in university, even before Facebook and Twitter started becoming mainstream. Forums are probably a better community tool than emails, and like Discord, people join forums specifically to be part of a community. Though with only text as a means of communication, it is slightly less flexible compared to Discord. Reddit is the biggest forum on the internet, and with the recent GameStop stock fiasco still fresh in our minds, I don't need to tell you how wide and effective the influence of forums (Reddit in particular) can be.
Messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp have long offered group chats as a means for groups of people to communicate. I'm sure we're all part of at least one chat group. Telegram groups in my mind are far superior to WhatsApp groups, with many more powerful and useful features like polls, message pinning, and more granular admin controls. However, chat groups to me seem more suitable for smaller, more intimate groups, not massive communities like we can find online. And if you're talking about WhatsApp groups, your phone number will be visible to everyone in the group, which some may not like (this isn't a problem in Telegram). Still, I don't think messaging apps are the right alternative to Facebook Groups.
Though the newest alternative (which hasn't actually launched yet), Twitter Communities is probably the most poised to take on Facebook Groups due to its massive global reach and well established user base. We don't fully know yet how Communities will work, though we can expect that it won't stray far from how Twitter currently works. I'll be keeping an eye on Communities when it launches, and I might even start one of my own.
What online communities/groups are you a member of? Do you think Twitter's Communities will take off? Are you on Facebook just because of the Groups you have joined? Leave a comment and get the conversation rolling.