Options for Your Group's Web Presence
A new (or current!) student group has many options to choose from when it comes to creating an online presence for their group. Below are listed several options that can be used with pros and cons for each one. Depending on what kind of options you want for your group online will help you decide which kind of web presence to create.
There are several purposes to having a web presence: To have a public face for your group, to build community within your group, to help your group organize meetings and events, to show off your past activities, and to convey basic information about your group.
To successfully become affiliated with the Secular Student Alliance, a new group must meet the following requirements when creating an online presence (and these requirements are also strongly recommended for all current SSA affiliates):
- Your group must have at least one web presence that is public facing (you may create a private one in addition to this if you would like). We require this so that potential new members, community members, media personel, and others may find your group, and information about your group, online. As such, the following web presences do not meet this requirement:
- Secret Facebook groups - no one can see or find such groups without being invited (even with a direct link, potential members only see this). Instead, you may use a closed Facebook group, where members must be invited but can be found in a Facebook or Google search.
- .edu Facebook groups - Facebook groups that are only accessible to those within your school network are also unacceptable. These do not allow anyone outside the network to join.
- Twitter may not be used by itself because it does not display enough information, though it is great in addition to other web presences.
- Orgsync is acceptable only if your group can create a public facing information page with it. Otherwise, we recommend using it alongside another web presence, much like we do with Twitter.
- Information on the group should be provided on the web presence, such as what the group is about/does, leadership contact info, meeting/event info and dates, and links to any other web presences you might have. More information on what should be included in an information block can be found at this page.
|Google Groups||SSA Page (secularstudents.org)|
There are two options for organizations wishing to have a presence on Facebook: creating a Facebook Page and creating a Facebook Group. Both do things very well and both do things not so well. We recommend that groups maintain both a Facebook Page and a Facebook Group. The table below highlights key differences between Pages and Groups:
|Ideal for public face||Ideal for discussion and community building|
|Create public events; manual invites||Create public events or events only members of Group can RSVP to; can automatically invite everyone in the Group|
|Events show that they were made by the Page itself (Example)||Events show that they were made by the person who made the event (Example)|
|Updates may or may not show up in news/activity feed||All updates show up in notification panel|
|Non-admin comment/feedback only shows on small section of the Page||All comments/feedback notifies everyone in group|
|Extensive Twitter integration||No Twitter integration|
|Unable to see everyone who liked the Page||Able to see everyone who joined the Group|
|Anyone can like and immediately receieve updates||Unless public, members must request to be added or be added by a friend who is in the group|
|Nobody can see who has liked the page unless they go to a person's profile page||Unless secret, anyone can see who is a member of the group. If the group is secret, no one can verify the group even exists (Example).|
|Custom URL: www.facebook.com/groupname||Custom URL: www.facebook.com/groups/groupname (Tutorial)|
|Visible to public regardless if they have a Facebook account||Requires a Facebook account to see content|
Please always avoid creating a profile (person page) for your group–Facebook can delete such a page without any warning at any time. They actively remove profiles who are not people.
Groups by themselves don't provide a sufficient public presence, while Pages by themselves don't provide a forum for community building. Maintaining both a Group and a Page addresses both needs of a presence on Facebook. However, for the purposes of starting an SSA Affiliate, we will accept one or the other.
Discussions, brainstorming, and planning should be kept on the Group, while public announcements should be posted on the Page. You can create events on the Group that automatically invite everyone, then post the link on the Page (along with an encouragement to join the Group). You can even use Twitter to update the Page (or vice versa) to keep non-Facebook users informed.
If you choose to use a group and then make it "secret", be aware that this hides it completely to everyone outside of it (even those with a direct link–it looks like this). We advise using a page as a public face if you choose to go that route so that those outside your group can find you.
Keep in mind that an Page or Group that isn't updated regularly reflects poorly upon the group. Remember that this is oftentimes your group's public face for newcomers, members, media, school personnel, and anyone else interested in learning more about your group. We would much rather see a single Page/Group that is frequently updated rather than both a Group and a Page which are not.
(Note: There is a format of Facebook Group that limits membership specifically to students at a single school via a mandatory .edu address. We do NOT recommend this style of Facebook Group as your primary web presence for a number of reasons, in particular because it is harder for organizers, non-students, and students who have not registered their school e-mail with Facebook to connect to the group. If privacy is what you are looking for, a closed Group or Page allows for privacy while not making it difficult to contact your group.)
GroupSpaces is a relatively new service that combines the functionality of old Facebook groups, mailing lists, and Google Docs. It is a great service but takes a bit more getting used to than a Facebook group does. The page is entirely customizable, similar to the customization available on a blog service. You can post unlimited amounts of information, so you are able to avoid the restrictions on Facebook and Twitter. It has group events functionality, similar to Facebook events; it even allows you to post events automatically on Facebook as Facebook events. It contains a mailing list that can hold up to 1,000 contacts for free. The original creator of the page needs to have an account on the site, though to be a member of the group it is not necessary to have a GroupSpaces account. Members of the group also have the ability to upload files and documents to the group, similar to Google Docs.
Pros: Fairly easy to use, includes a mailing list and email address, privacy options, event creation, plenty of space for group information, had functionality similar to Google Docs, not as public as Facebook.
Cons: Still a new service so it is somewhat unknown, not as easy to use as Facebook.
We have set up a handy page on how great this service is. Click here to find it.
Twitter is a good option to consider, although its uses are limited. Your group's Twitter account can be set up as a private account where any followers will need to be approved or it can be open to anyone. The space given for information is very limited. If this is your only web presence, we very much recommend posting contact info and officer info before anything else. Twitter is a popular service, although not quite as big as Facebook, and that is important for people to be able to find your group's page. You cannot send a mass private message to all followers or anything along those lines; there is also no way to set up events such as on Facebook. Tweets are limited in amount of characters, so it may sometimes be hard to get your message across.
Pros: Easy to create and manage, large user base on the service, privacy options
Cons: No group messaging, small info section, no events function, limited "Tweet" size
To create an account, click here
Blogs have a large set of advantages for making your group visible to the public, but the trade off is that they ultimately fail as a means to organize your members. An oft-updated blog will produce high search results in google, ensuring that your site is viewed by a comparatively large number of people. They are also easy to update and to maintain, with a lot of versatility in terms of content. For instance, facebook pages/groups have a certain set of options and that's what you have to work with. With a blog, your side bar can have any number of links, all customizable. If you don't like it on the side, it can easily be made into a header/footer. It really depends on what you want. You can even use widgets to augment the functionality of your blog.
Blogs are also a good fit no matter what your level of technical expertise. Someone with a minimal amount of experience with online writing can make solid use of a blog, while someone with a tremendous amount of experience will be able to find ways to really put those talents to use.
Sadly, there is no mass-messaging aspect to a blog. Also, making a blog private can be a lot of work which will alienate a lot of your members if you demand that level of privacy. A mailing list should be operated alongside a blog to enable your group to contact its membership.
Pros: High traffic/visibility, versatility, ease of use.
Cons: Lousy as a means to organize members.
A website is a large responsibility to take on. It takes expertise that is usually only held by a couple members of a group, if any. If you create a web page for your group, then you will need to make sure there is someone who is able to manage the site after the site's creator has moved on. Privacy options can vary and there is any amount of space you want for information about your group. It looks professional to those who seek you out. However, you cannot message all your readers or send them event notifications. A mailing list should be operated alongside a website to enable your group to contact its membership.
Pros: unlimited space for group info, somewhat more professional looking than other options
Cons: No way to contact membership, no event notification, takes a certain level of expertise to manage
Atheist Nexus is a social network exclusively for non-believers. It operates a lot like Facebook with one exception; all profiles and groups must be approved first by the site administration. This can be a great place for your group's page, as long as you realize that only those active as atheists, agnostics, etc. will be active on the site. If you are looking to reach a larger audience in the same type of medium, Facebook may be a better alternative for you. Your group on Atheist Nexus can be set to private but the information section is limited. It is pretty easy to create and administer a group on it and you can message all members of the group although there is no event creation option.
Pros: Privacy settings, easy to create and manage, can message all members
Cons: Limited audience, no event notifications, limited info space
Google Groups is a service gaining popularity. You can create an account for your group and one of the perks is that it also comes with an email address you can use to communicate within those in the group and without. A group can be set to private but there is limited space for an information section. It is relatively easy to create and there is group messaging, though there is no way to set up events other than through group messages. It is not a good thing to have as your only online presence but it may go well if used in conjunction with another type of web presence.
Pros: Privacy settings, easy to create and manage. group messages, group email address
Cons: not popular, no event creation, should not be used independently, limited info space
To create a group, click here
Secular Student Alliance Page
You can use the SSA website to host your group webpresence. We include a general layout for you, an example of which can be seen to the right but you are free edit the page. If you are interested in using an SSA page, just contact us and we will create an account for you with information to login on the site and edit the page as you see fit.
Pros: Easy to use and maintain, good public-facing resource.
Cons: Customization is limited, a basic information page.
Contact us to create this user-managed page.