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Creating a secret family group online is one way you can share family information while protecting privacy. Making a family group secret gives your family a private place to ask questions, share stories, pictures, and interact. But are they worth the effort?
Not long ago, I sent my 22-year-old married college student son a great email about cool things happening in his chosen career field from a well-respected publisher. Now this email was sent the same week as others with crucial details about the family reunion just around the corner. When I asked him about his thoughts about the career e-mail, his response was “I never saw it. I just deleted it.”
What the heck??!!!
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My son went on to explain, “I know you’ll tell me the things that I REALLY need to know. So I’m not wasting my time with email.” What did he think was IN the email?
As a girl who grew up in the professional world where e-mail was THE method of communication I was appalled at my son’s response! But I seriously doubt he is an isolated 20-something opinion.
When considering this younger generation, the millennials, email is an older person’s way of communicating. I am seriously hoping that in the future as they grow and mature and have professional careers that their opinions will alter a bit and they see the value of email. BUT UNTIL THEN…what can we do to involve this millennial generation in family togetherness?
Before going on, I need to state that when we use the term “family” on this site, it is NOT limited to immediate family. Actually, it is super inclusive of anyone you might consider family from extended blood relatives, their spouses, and even close family friends.
Secret Family Groups are a great way to: communicate family information, share historical photos and stories, ask questions about stories, and generally build familial relationships. DO YOU NEED ONE?
IDENTIFY THE AGE GROUP YOU ARE TRYING TO REACH
The millennial generation is spread over a number of birth years (1982-2004).1 Right now, those born during those years will turn 14-36 this year. There is quite a difference in lifestyle between these years.
As an interesting side note, COPPA the Childhood Online Protection Act applies to children under the age of 13. So anyone 13 and over can have full social media access. Most current status of COPPA is available HERE.
For information dissemination, the teens would still be living at home, not such a big deal if we reach them indirectly through their parents. However, we want them to feel included and part of the party, so we’d like them to participate if possible.
And for those who are now middle age and past the century mark, common knowledge tells us e-mail works well to meet this age group. But with family groups, it seems like you’d prefer to reach everyone both younger and older with the SAME vehicle at the SAME time.
When considering families, age rages go from those old enough to be on the internet up to 99 years old and even MORE! So how can we effectively reach all generations? Does a secret family group help with reach?
WHERE DO FOLKS GO TODAY FOR FAMILY NEWS AND UPDATES?
The younger generation is relying on social media for their news and extended family updates. “If it wasn’t in my social feed, then it didn’t happen.” A young person might think. Unfortunately, I’d suspect the younger the crowd the more exclusive to social media they are for both their news and family updates.
So for all these reasons and issues, when we looked for a way to bring our extended family closer together. We turned to a two-pronged approach with both e-mail AND social media. For things that are super important like family reunion details, finances, deadlines, etc. we utilized both options (e-mail & social media). But for the building excitement and weekly musings about various historical family facts, issues, pictures, items, etc. we stuck mainly to social media.
We felt SOCIAL MEDIA would be the answer to how we could reach all generations on the internet. Because not everyone has e-mail and clearly NOT everyone (aka my son) was using it. With social media, you might miss an important event in your feed. So those things that were super important we also followed up with emails. (I guess that’s the ‘adult’ in us.)
When utilizing social media for a family site, we recommend using a SECRET family group.
BUT, WHICH ONE AND HOW?
FIRST: A COUPLE OF CONSIDERATIONS
There are a few important considerations to help us decide which vehicle makes the most sense for each particular family.
CONSIDERATION: SOCIAL MEDIA PRIVACY
The most significant concern with social media is privacy. Privacy of the published information. Privacy of the individual family members because of young age or parents that work in sensitive jobs and need more family privacy. Or even privacy of the senior generations that don’t fully understand how to adjust privacy settings. (Yes I know that’s a sweeping broad brushstroke generalization…but go with it for now!)
So to protect everyone the best you can a “SECRET FAMILY GROUP” is recommended.
CONSIDERATION: WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM
There are so many things to consider.
Platform ease of use—THE KEY for the older generation
Finding a platform that teen and 20 somethings can easily use is well…easy. This group is not typically technophobic. The senior population, on the other hand, didn’t grow up with technology and doesn’t always fully understand how to use it.
So we choose something that older generations were already familiar with figuring the younger generations could figure out how to use just about anything. Even though we have a secret family group, the platform we chose isn’t the most private option. From a user perspective, it’s fairly private. But I certainly would expect that Facebook if they wanted to watches secret family groups for illegal activity and anything else they are policing.
Likelihood to use the selected platform
The next challenge is the how likely would any generation be to use a certain platform. This is a three-fold challenge:
- Use a new aspect of a familiar program – This would be similar to using say — using Microsoft Word to fill in a form. We already know how to use Microsoft Word but now we’re given a form with boxes to fill out.
- Use an existing program in an entirely new way – Continuing with the above example, it would be like using Microsoft Word to create an actual form.
- Use a new program and one that needs downloading (an extra barrier and they don’t really want to use it, to begin with) – Continuing with the example above, I have Microsoft Word on my computer, but now you are asking someone to download a free program and install it, say Open Office, for example, just to fill out an existing form. Yeah…much less likely to happen.
Each one of these steps above moves someone further away from adoption. Not exactly our goal with a secret family group.
Change to their everyday life
If someone has to change their daily/weekly/monthly habits in order to see family updates it’s much less likely to happen. So choosing something that fits into regular days versus adding something new also increases adoption.
Access to the platform/program
If the platform needs downloading to a computer or mobile device, we might not capture as many of the older generations. And if the platform was mobile only, that’s one more restriction AND step. We felt not as many of the older generations would even bother.
Choosing a platform/program that most of your family is already utilizing and familiar with makes sense. For those few that maybe aren’t familiar with the vehicle, there are plenty around them that can assist. (And heck, email is always a good back up.)
SECOND: DETERMINE THE TYPE OF INFORMATION YOU WANT TO SHARE
If you plan on sharing ONLY written details about people or events then maybe something that is more text-based works for you.
If you plan to share written details along with photos or gasp…even video to enhance your information, then consider platforms that allow appropriate storage to hold all the eye candy goodies.
Would you like this information to be searchable? Look for that too!
THIRD: DETERMINE THE LONGEVITY NEEDED
Is this a one and done type of information share or are you looking to build on posts and would like the information available for long-term. Also, what does long-term mean to you? 1-year, 5-years, indefinitely, permanent archival source?
I’ve seen many private social or family network companies go by the wayside in the last 5-years. So if you want your information and time investment sustained for a longer time, consider a proven company that is likely to be around.
WHAT KIND OF OPTIONS ARE THERE?
There are so many different and interesting options available from private social networks (PSN) and those positioning themselves as private family networks to the big guys like Instagram, What’s App, and Facebook.
Here is a list of a few options that are in business at the time of publication:
Private Family Networks
Private Social Networks-typically used by corporations but also used by families
The BIG Guys
The Family Website
There is one final option that I haven’t mentioned. You could create a family website and invite your family members. This market is similar to the Private Family Networks in that these companies seem to come and go and the monthly or annual fee for maintenance and hosting seems to make these not as desirable. However, you do have complete control over the privacy, look, and information on a personal website. Because of the ongoing cost for these and that someone must maintain them this isn’t my first choice.
Okay, so that’s the information we sifted through to arrive at the best option for us! Hoping you find the best option for you too!
When I read posts like this one, I’m ALWAYS wondering what someone else selected and even more importantly why. So I’m not leaving you hanging……..
FINALLY…HERE’S WHAT WE CHOSE
We opted for a secret family group on Facebook. Facebook has 3 different privacy settings: Public, Closed, and Secret.
SECRET on Facebook means invite only and not discoverable by a Facebook search. As the administrators of our group, we changed the privacy settings so only administrators could add family members as an added level of precaution. In fact, just today an existing member of the group recommended other family members to add, and I approved them.
Most adults even older generations, are already familiar with the Facebook look and have accounts helping to make usability easier and likeliness to use higher. The younger generation may not actively use Facebook as much but most have Facebook accounts and to interact with family.
Facebook groups are searchable, so it’s easy to find older information. Searching is especially handy once there are a few years of posts. Facebook Groups have many different features to interact with family members and make that interaction simpler for the poster and reader. And finally, nearly 2/3 of American adults have Facebook accounts so most people were familiar with it already and didn’t need to download something new or learn how to use something new.
GeniBLISS videos on how to make a Secret Family Group on Facebook and More
You can also watch us present “How to Use Facebook and Free Apps to Engage Family” at RootsTech 2018 HERE.
Whether you choose to create a secret family group on social media, a private family network, or even a family website, we still highly recommend your vehicle is SECRET.
To see us live present information on how to use a secret Family Group on Facebook, their features, and different ways to use groups to share information from the past, present, and event the future click HERE and fast forward to time 16:02.
If you are looking ONLY for ideas on what kinds of things you can put on a Secret Family Group, you can see us address these items in our live presentation. Click HERE and fast forward to time 23:53.
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Got Questions? Comment and Let’s Chat!
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I’m passionate about finding different technologies that ACTUALLY save time bring family closer together. I love life, good books, quiet time, and of course family time. “Technical support hotline how may I help you?” I might just answer my phone that way for my family and friends (not even joking), and my life motto is “Have passport, will travel!” especially with Jamie!
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