How To Develop an Online Support Group or Web Site

Michael Adam Reale By Michael Adam Reale, 12th Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Recovery & Coping

This article will help the end user in creating online support groups, forums, etc.

The changing face of online support groups

When the internet was young, there was online support via listservs. Listservs were, and still are, a great way for individuals to communicate. But one problem with listservs is that subscribers can be bombarded with too many emails from individual listserv members commenting and sharing. Yahoo seemed to be the first to address this issue with its online support groups. Yahoo allowed its users to go into the Yahoo Social Media site and adjust the setting in Yahoo Groups. One had the choice to either receive every email, daily digests, read content online, etc. Message boards began to arise, support forums, and other various ways for people to keep in touch with one another.

Then other social media sites began to arise. Google developed Google Groups, and then Facebook launched its social media site which had a profound effect on other social media sites. Support groups began to pop up on these sites. Today, we now have Facebook Support Groups, Google Support Groups, of course Yahoo Support Groups and even Twitter developed a way for individuals to tweet in a semi-moderated setting at a set time.

People became inspired by some of the innovations that Facebook came up with and realized the potential for social media sites that dealt with one or more issues. The modality was changing. Developers with issues such as depression, anxiety, cancer, and other issues began to create their own interactive social media with a view toward supporting others in the same situation. Sites such as PanicSurvivor.com, CancerSupportCommunity.org, CancerMatch.com and CancerCare.org (just to name a few) where developers were able to create a site where individuals can create subgroups, online chats, local meet-ups, and more.

Support groups also began to utilize telephone functions whereby they can create teleconferences via phone and internet to connect people who are farther away in such a way that is more interactive and personal. Examples such as IAmAChildofDivorce.com and BrainTalk.com exist where distance is no longer a problem. Nothing is as important as a face-to-face meeting but there are times where attending a face-to-face meeting is nearly impossible and this fills in a much needed gap. More and more face-to-face local community support groups are providing a place online for this very reason, the need to reach more people.

Creating groups in social media sites can be fun. If you haven’t already done so, you will need to first register with one of the various social media sites, before you can join or create any group, in any social media venue.

As you create your support group, some things you might wish to consider is whether or not you want your group to be an “open” or “closed” group, this will depend greatly on the issue around which the group is being created as well as the desire for privacy. Additionally, one might wish to consider if the posts are to be moderated or not. A “closed group” would only be open by invitation whereas an “open group,” anyone can join. With moderated groups, the facilitator will have to approve all posts whereas un-moderated groups can run the risk of rogue posts on one’s page. Weigh these things in advance but remember one can always change the settings as issues arise.

Creating a support group on Facebook:

Facebook is a great place to start a support group. Today, many people use this social media for all sorts of purposes, from keeping in touch with long lost relatives and friends to storing and sharing your favorite photographs. Recently, Facebook users have started to create support groups on this social media site. It’s pretty easy to start a group in Facebook. How do I create a group? One might ask. Simple, Facebook offers instructions on Creating a Group.

To create a group:

1. From your home page, go to the Groups section on the left side menu and click Create Group.
2. Click + Create New Group at the top of the page. A window will appear, where you'll be able to add a group name, add members and select the privacy settings for your group.
3. Click Create when you're done.

Once the group is created, you'll be taken to the group. To get started, click at the top right of the group and select Edit Group Settings. From here you can add a group description, tags, set a group email address and add a group picture.

By clicking on the side bar, one can find instructions for Group Admin Basics. Group admins are able to edit their group's name, privacy, description and other settings. Group Features gives very detailed instructions for a host of things from uploading photos to messages and even sponsoring events. Facebook also offers more features, on the side bar, such as Using Dropbox in Groups and Group Privacy & Abuse.

Facebook groups can be a great support network that brings together people from all over the world. It can also be an excellent tool to reduce human suffering and isolation as well as increasing the availability of social support and coping skills.

Creating a group in Google or Yahoo:

Begin by going to either Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. You will see that you have two options from which to choose, either browse existing groups or to create a group.

Select “Create a Group” and follow the instruction on the webpage, enter in the information and you are on your way. Before creating a group, check “Browse Groups” to be sure that no other group exists that might serve your needs.

Important to note: You may want to advise potential members that when they register for any Yahoo group, there are 3 different ways they can receive messages:

1. Individual emails. You will get individual email messages.
2. Daily digest. Many emails are sent daily to you in one message.
3. No email. You'll receive no email, but can read all the messages at the Yahoo website for your group.

Creating groups in Tumblr:

Within Tumblr it is called “Group Blogging” and this value link provides you with the in(s) and out(s) of creating your own support group on Tumblr. Additionally, you can create custom HTML themes on Tumblr.

Creating your own Website:

If you are more ambitious and have the technical expertise then you might want to consider building your own support forum on your own website. For building a free website (but with a variety of banner and possible pop-up ads), check out Wikipedia’s comparison of free web hosting services. It will give you information on band width, FTP capabilities, storage and much more.

Tags

Self-Help, Support Group

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author avatar Michael Adam Reale
Issues of social justice and advocacy are very important to me.

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