Messaging apps and social media get a bad rap for isolating people from real-world connections, but you can use these platforms to build online and in-real-life communities.

Using apps, you can build a community or create a group of people with similar interests. Apps can help you bring together a specific audience, share information, and respond to queries your followers may have.

Many successful companies use groups. Some companies have their LinkedIn groups, and others participate in relevant communities or groups based on common interests.

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Whatever strategy you opt for, being involved in a group is a great way to build a community, engage with the existing audience and prospective customers, grow your business, offer value to your customers, and keep track of the changes in your industry.

And, today, there’s an alternative for social media groups: community apps.

Here are two apps that can help you build a community of engaged and targeted audience.

1. Slack (https://slack.com/intl/en-gb/)

Slack is a real-time social messaging app which is exploding in popularity.

And most of the "teams" on the app belong to the same company. For example, Amazon employees, BuzzFeed, and Urban Outfitters all use Slack to communicate, foster teamwork, and collaborate.

Slack is moving beyond the employee groups too. This is because more and more topic-and-interest-themed groups are forming around the network. More businesses and individual consumers are using Slack, and they’re repurposing it as a public and external communication forum.

When building your community on Slack, start by picking a topic. Go for something broad to attract the maximum number of relevant people. Naturally, your topic should be related to what you’re offering. If you want to attract potential customers, you should focus on creating the type of community they’d be interested in joining. Go back to your customer personas for inspiration if necessary!

After creating your community, promote it to attract more prospective customers. The best way to promote your Slack community is by inviting users through sign-up forms.

Once you get users, leverage Slack’s "channels" feature to offer more value to your audience. And like any other online forum, moderate to keep your community friendly and respectful at all times.

2. Telegram (https://telegram.org/)

Telegram is a messaging app that combines WhatsApp and Snapchat features. The app allows users to contact other users who have public Telegram usernames or existing contacts within your phone. Using this app, you can see if a recipient has received and read your messages.

To build a following and maximize the utility of Telegram:

* Post interesting content from your industry or about your brand. Draw people to your community by starting conversations and sharing content that might interest them.

* Don’t market 24/7. If you want to use Telegram to market your business, remember that you should do more than just advertise your products or services. People are attracted to communities that foster deeper connections — not just promotions. So, show an interest in your target audience and the things they enjoy, and try to promote ongoing conversations about the topics your prospective customers are following.

* Run contests and sweepstakes; this will help you draw followers to your community or group.

* Return favors if your followers respond or repost something. Paying attention to your followers will make them feel valued, and they’ll invite others to join your community.

Slack groups and Telegram communities are free to start and run. So, your biggest investment will simply be time and effort.

Join us next time as we look at apps that offer video and audio options.