A Free App For Online Communities, Offline Events, Or Your Next Side Hustle
A Free App For Online Communities, Offline Events, Or Your Next Side Hustle30-Jul-2018
By Allie Gardner and Michelle Bruno
In most medium- to large-sized organizations, online community management, and offline event coordination are two separate responsibilities. Both jobs can be automated through different applications—community management software and event mobile apps, respectively—or as part of a single, multi-purpose platform. However, the cost of these solutions can be out of reach for a small nonprofit, hobbyist, business, community-based group, or a part-time event planner.
With a limited or nonexistent budget, it’s tempting to enlist social media websites and free tools to manage communities and events. For example, it’s possible to use Facebook for group communication and content sharing, Google Calendar for scheduling, SurveyMonkey for polling, and WhatsApp for texting and voice calls. However, keeping communities intact across multiple apps is difficult, especially as groups grow and multiply.
Feature-rich and free
BAND is a free mobile app (it's also available on the desktop) for Android and iOS that allows individuals to manage online communities. Groups (or bands, as the company refers to them) currently using the app run the gamut from book lovers and sports fans to gamers and foodies. Nonprofit organizations like AYSO (youth soccer league), professionals (think software developers), small businesses, and school groups use it too. BAND lets them communicate with one another by posting to the feed or via chat. BAND also allows them to share photos, videos, and files; track group membership, and make one-to-one and group calls.
However, while the company stresses the importance of creating and “building community,” BAND can also be used for coordinating face-to-face events. Group administrators can gather information (like t-shirt sizes or volunteer shifts) through polling, develop event schedules (including RSVPs), that can be synced with Google, Apple and Outlook calendars, track attendance, create task lists, set privacy levels, manage administrative access, use maps (Google or Apple), share documents, and send push notifications. There is even a split-the-bill feature.
Better than Facebook or Google Drive
Facebook is widely used for managing communities and many event planners—especially freelancers and independents—are Google Drive masters and mistresses. But BAND has some features that even these mega platforms don’t have:
- BAND offers a range of privacy settings. A band can be secret (membership is by invitation only, and the group is unsearchable), closed (searchable, but only members can view posts), or public (searchable and viewable).
- Members can create a unique profile for every band to which they belong, and there's no limit to the number of groups in which an individual can participate. That means, unlike with Facebook, work colleagues in one group won’t see the photos posted from a member’s best friend’s bachelor party or his or her recent workout results.
- BAND doesn’t sell or share user information (unless users violate the terms and conditions of use) or user-generated content with third parties. There is currently no advertising on the app though they are now in the process of testing advertising placements for the US. The plan is to roll them out in the not-so-distant future based on test results, company representatives say.
Backing from an Asian powerhouse
BAND isn’t a typical Silicon Valley startup or the product of a couple of guys in a dorm room. It’s a subsidiary of Naver Corporation, often called the Google of Korea. Other mobile software products from Naver include Snow (augmented selfies) and Line (mobile messaging). All three apps are widely popular in Korea and throughout Asia. The USA office of BAND, based in Palo Alto, California, has been in operation since 2012.
Affordable bells and whistles
Apps that combine community and event management features are rare, which could be why most users abandon mobile event apps after the event ends. BAND solves the abandonment problem by keeping conversations and file sharing going year-round—a reason for users to stay engaged. Community managers and/or event planners can potentially achieve the same functionality as BAND offers by connecting best-of-breed applications via application programming interfaces (APIs), but it’s an added step.
In small or cash-strapped organizations where doing more with less (or no budget at all) is the modus operandi, BAND is a user-friendly way to seamlessly manage an event for an existing online community. While it’s not as full-featured as a dedicated b-to-b community platform or more sophisticated event logistics software and it requires continuous cellular or wireless connectivity to function, it’s got a lot to offer for free. It’s perfect for managing work teams, the kids’ softball tournament, or a part-time event planning business. Did we mention it was free?