Telegram for community building

If you're not from Asia or at least Caucausus region, or somewhere near Russia, for you Telegram may be just yet another app. However, it has a lot of interesting back stoies.

Telegram is a messaging app created by Pavel Durov, the founder of Russian social media platform Vkontakte.

On March 2018, Telegram got request from Russian intelligence agency to handover the encryption keys from the application. The justification for the intelligence agency was, that they wanted to gain access to terrorist organizations sharing information on the platform.

What that means essentially is to open the access to the messages of all users of the application to the government. While we don't know if Pavel Durov got a similar request for Vkontakte social network (and thus we don't know what was the answer), in case of Telegram Durov decided to answer to the government with a word that they are not necessarily familiar with: "Nope".

Famously they send the "encryption keys" to the FSB.

handing down encryption keys of telegram

This epic move ended poorly, for everyone (except for Telegram). Russian government banned the use of Telegram in their country, which lead to accidentally banning hundreds of websites who used the same data centers and same IP addresses as Telegram.

As software engineer I remember those times quite well, because my (and many other developers) contracts where: "Help, my website is not working in Russia".

However, after two years Russia lifted the ban from Telegram. Mostly because some of the governmental institutions were using Telegram Channels themselves to share the news.

This incident helped Telegram to gain reputation for being secure, and caring about their user's privacies. But long before that and especially now Telegram is most well known for being hyper privacy focused. To this day there was no major hacking attack on Telegram as platform that succeded.

If you got to here and think: "Why am I reading a history of Telegram appliation?" Then here's the answer. I think it's important to understand some of the contoversies and news around this app just to show what kind of audiences are mainly drawn there.

Community niches

Telegram is more or less well known around the world, however it's adoption in the West still is not taking off. Famous acquisition of Whatsapp by Facebook really hyped up the competition, and let's not forget a similar application Signal.

The geography of Telegram is mainly Asia and to some degree Europe. Their recent failure with paying to the ICO investors (Telegram's ICO was the biggest one by the way) added one more bad point to their reputation in West.

Current niches in Telegram are mainly:

  • local news distribution,
  • crypto traiding channels,
  • crypto traiding bots,
  • personal micro-blogs of influencers,
  • automated goods traiding channels filled with bots that you need to subscribe to,
  • gaming,
  • software engineers (e.g. hackers, russian hackers).

You can check out the most popular categories on these websites: Telegram channels, Telegram Channels list.

Telegram can be useful for any community niche. The main problem with this application is the adoption level in your desired geography.

Features

In this section let's discuss the features of Telegram that can make it great place for thriving communities. Telegram supports a few chats:

  • Widely known group chats.
  • Secret chats - same as group chats however the messages are being deleted from this chat after read.
  • Channels.

Channels

Telegram Channels are basically channels where the owner can share information. You don't have limits on the text length which makes it a great place to put out articles. Telegram messages also support Markdown so you can have a good formatting for your messages.

I think Telegram Channels are a great medium for sharing news and updates. I serously don't understand why newsletter writers and blog writers don't use this feature.

Discussions

Telegram Channels and Telegram Groups for a long time had one big difference. You couldn't engage with the owner, or other channels subscribers in case of Channels. However recently Telegram added a new update where they added Discussions feature. Now when you're creating a new Channel on Telegram, you can chose to add Discussions feature. Which means each post on the Channel will have a separate chatroom where people can interact with content and with each other.

Bots

I'm not kidding when I say that Telegram has the most advanced system for building bots. There's not a thing you can think about that you can't do with bots. Telegram bots are also able to manage payments. Their bots system is natively integrated with Stripe which is very convinient for paid communities and newsletters.

Interactions with bots on Telegram are happening fairly often, and almost all Telegram community management tools are using bots for that.

Video chats

Telegram was supporting 1:1 calls for a fairly long time. The only thing that they were missing for full on community experience is having video chats, which the competitors already had. This year they finally rolled out a beta version of the video-chats and if you're in the lacky testers batch you can actually have group chats with your community members on Telegram.

Tools

Community management can be hard with appropriate tools. Telegram maybe is a young application however there a lot of reliable tools that can help you with managing your online community.

InviteMember

Monetization of Telegram Channel or Telegram group can be done with InviteMember. They are one of the best applications for monetization as they support not only Stripe but also a variety of other payment gateways. Which makes it more accessable to community managers all over the world.

Chainfuel

Managing a community means that you need a good analytics system to understand the engagement level, and who are your core members. Chailfuel is not only powerfull analytics for Telegram channels and groups, but also provides anti-spam features, and entry quizes and captchas to keep the bots away. You can also customize their bot to match with your personal business process.

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I hope this helped to understand what kind of communities there are on Telegram, and if it is a suitable plafrom for you.

Good luck!

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