In addition to standard paid websites, the webmasters of visual art groups (such as artists groups & collectives, art centers, etc.) can choose from free websites or blogs to host their sites. These are typically easy to use. There's just no excuse not to have a website! And now there's another option which is even easier and also free: the Online Group.
Why use an Online Group? COMMUNICATION is the major rationale. It's another way to get the word out about your group's activities. You can also use an online group in addition to a regular website.
These powerful capabilities to push out communication or store information online are part of most the group sites discussed:
- Landing page with info about the group - for the public
- Notices, invitations, and newsletters
- Discussions by group members
- Galleries of images of artwork and photos
- Calendars and event schedules
- Databases/Lists of contacts (group members)
- Word or text files
Worried about privacy? Most of these capabilities can be made PRIVATE -- limited only to group members. You can also be selective about who joins so that spammers and hecklers can be excluded from membership!
Also, it's so simple that you don't need a trained webmaster to administer the online group. Just a volunteer coordinator.
An email address is all that is absolutely necessary for an artist member to participate in any of the following groups:
The Major Players:
Facebook, Meetup, Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, and even Twitter and Flickr! (new: SocialRaise)
- How it works: (options of "Group" or "Page"). The number of people in Facebook is astounding -- bigger than many nations. Each can establish a free personal account and build up a network of "Friends", favorite "Pages", and "Groups".
- Create a "Group": Free sign-up for the volunteer coordinator (Admin) and members. Click on "Groups" on your Home page. Then click on Create Group. The group can be public, private or secret. The Admin can issue invites to join for private groups or Facebook members can apply. Members join by clicking "Join" and the list of members appears in the left column. Members can post comments, links, images and videos on the wall.
- Features: Group: Wall, Info, Discussions, Photos, Events (option to add additional); old version: Admin ability to send an email to all Group members
Page: Wall, Info, Discussions, Photos, Events, Reviews (other possibilities according to category of business)
- Local examples using Facebook: Art Groups DFW (group page); Southwestern Watercolor Society (group page); Asel Art Supply (business Page); Joel Sampson (artist Page); Visual Arts Society of Texas (organization Page)
- How it works: Meetup is the world's largest network of local groups. You can find a local group of interest by typing in the keyword or category desired and the zipcode. Meetup responds with a list keyed to your location. Free to join and free to create a group -- just click on the Start a Meetup Group tab. Groups can be public or private. Notices are automatically sent out to the membership.
- Features: Landing page with meetup notices, left column info (stats, contact links, contents, sponsor ads); top menu: members, sponsors, photos, pages, discussions, more (polls, files, promote). Automatic email for notices and discussion. Admin can send out email notices.
- Local groups using Meetup: DANG! (Dallas Artist Networking Group) [private]
- How it works: Yahoo! Groups offers free mailing lists, photo & file sharing, group calendars and more. Free to join (requires free Yahoo mail account) and free to create a group. You can find a group by searching keywords. Groups can be public or private. Both Admin and members can post messages, which are automatically sent out to the membership. (Members can specifiy individual emails, a daily digest, or reading on the Web only.)
- Features: Landing page with group description; messages posted (searchable); files, photos, polls, links, database, members, calendar (everything but the landing page is private in a private group). Automatic email for messages. Admin can send out notices. Optional applications available including Chat, Address Book, Birthday List, Maps, Profiles, Classifieds, etc.
- Local groups using Yahoo Groups: Articrafters (private); North Texas Mixed Media Group (private)
- How it works: Google Groups offers free discussion groups. Free to join (requires free Gmail account) and free to create a group. You can find a group by searching keywords.
- Features: Landing page with discussion; automatic email for messages. Admin can send out notices and invitations for membership. Files can be coordinated through Google Sites and Google Docs capabilities.
- How it works: Not your typical group discussion site, but Twitter does allow the formation of a community. Free to join. You can "tweet" brief notices from your computer, ipad or phone. Or you can set up your blog to post notices onto Twitter using RSS coding -- since tweets are brief, that's usually just the title plus a tinyurl (for how to, see TwitterFeed or Feedblitz). Followers can read messages via phone, Ipad or computer. You can also create tailored "lists" of tweets by following other Twitter users. You can also privately message someone on Twitter by sending a direct message. Plus there are search capabilities.
- Features: Landing page with links to tweets; profile; messages; who to follow (find friends, view suggestions, browse by interest); lists (create a list or find one following you); invite people to join
- Local groups using Twitter: ArtGroupsDFW's Art News DFW; Art&Seek
- How it works: Although primarily a photo site, Flickr does have a group site capability complete with gallery "pool" and online discussion group. Free to join (requires free Yahoo mail account) and free to create a group pool with discussion group. Option for a paid professional level account. Once your Flickr account has been created, you can create a group pool of photos (or art images), plus an optional discussion group. Groups can be public or private (and can be limited to 18+, which restricts nudity). Postings can be moderated and members can be banned. The group pool is a good option for an organization, since it lessons the chance that Flickr will disable your account for copyright infringement since members contribute their own images through their separate accounts into the pool. You can also post a slideshow from your Flickr account or group pool onto your regular website or blog.
- Features: Photo pool; discussion group (online only)
- Local groups using Flickr: ArtGroupDFW's Art in DFW; Art&Seek
How it works: A new contender, SocialRaise is an integrated platform that lets you engage your community in a powerful, meaningful way through social media (blogs and an internal social network) and increase fundraising and revenue through one-time and recurring donations, ecommerce and advertising. The platform is wrapped in an easy-to-use control panel that lets you make changes on the fly without any technical experience whatsoever.
Features: website, blog, accepting donations, e-commerce; social networking with groups, posts, photos, video, events, polls; and also sharing of any of these to 20 other social media outlets like FaceBook