In the past six months, COVID-19 has turned life upside down.
The things people normally did —working, dining out, shopping, exercising at the gym, attending cooking class, going out with friends — stopped until further notice.
Home quarantine made people look for ways to find a sense of normalcy and community and manage 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 Viber Communities while in quarantine.
When KG Sison, a marketing consultant, saw an unanswered question about baking suppliers in one of the communities she’s 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 and more.
“We encouraged members to post their creations and freely ask baking-related questions. We wanted to be a legit community — a place where people talked and made friends instead of being transactional in nature,” she said.
KG pointed out that managing a community made her less lonely while in quarantine, emphasizing how the Communities have become a source of positivity for her and the members.
“Even our members have reported that the group has made them less anxious during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). It served as a form of social support for us and our members,” KG said, noting how webinars have been produced and future field trips planned. “We made friends. I think this was the greatest surprise and blessing that I gained from the Viber Communities.”
Since then, KG has 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.
“I use a variety of chat platforms, but I noticed that the general public uses Viber, and that means more reach. But more importantly, I find that there are less trolls on Viber because you need to have a phone number attached to an account,” she said.
With gyms closed, fitness enthusiasts were pushed to modify their workouts and do their routines at home. For those who didn’t have what they needed, the Gym & Fitness Marketplace MM Viber community became a life saver. This was where everyone who was looking for jump ropes and yoga mats, to more specific gym equipment like spinning bikes and squat racks, flocked to.
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.
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 was how Viber allowed community members to chat with each other without having to share their number. “It’s a safe place for all online sellers and buyers to transact with each other, since they don’t have to divulge their personal numbers, providing them both convenience and security,” she said.
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.
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. 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.
One evening in March, Diane Jimeno was looking through a Viber community that gave residents of Bonifacio Global City a catalog of goods and services they could avail of over quarantine. She decided that her community, Acacia Estates, needed one, too, and decided to make it herself. The Acacia Estates Residents Community initially was dedicated to health updates on the pandemic.
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 to discuss,” said Diane. “This led us to decide 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.