Have you seen the new WordPress apps? There are desktop versions made for Windows, Mac and Linux systems. Mobile isn’t left out either with apps for both Android and iOS devices. Best of all . . . these apps are free. All of them support WordPress.com sites as well as self-hosted WordPress sites with the Jetpack plugin installed. Not only do they make it easy to publish and manage multiple sites, they also provide an impressive reader component. It’s this reader that makes virtual special interest groups possible.
Virtual special interest groups are an easy and affordable way to expand your society’s reach. It means your groups are always active – not just during monthly meetings. They also provide opportunities for distant members to participate in the society.
Each virtual group revolves around its own private WordPress site. The site is regularly updated with interesting posts related to the group’s focus and members participate using the Reader component of the WordPress app. The Reader delivers each new post to SIG members and the comments element makes it easy to ask questions, offer tips and provide additional information.
Group leaders’ accounts are given editor roles and group members are given viewer roles. Yes, this means that everyone has a site login, but when using the free WordPress app of their choice means they only have to log in once – in the app.
The group administrator “invites” each member by adding them as a site user. The member receives an automated email inviting them to the site. They click a button and are taken to WordPress.com to complete their user profile information. Then they download the appropriate app, plug their login information into the app’s settings and they are connected. Now, when new content is posted to the group site, it is also delivered to every member’s reader. And, because the app manages the member’s login, they can use the site’s comments component to ask questions or add comments with ease.
The user invitations will create a WordPress.com account for the user – and offer the option to build them a free site. This may be a bit confusing to new users so you will want to create an instruction sheet to walk them through the process. The good news is that once their account is created, it will automatically be used should they want to join any other WordPress-based SIGs your society might offer. Even better, they can subscribe to other interesting sites as well. Using the Reader in the WP app, SIG members can easily keep up with activity at any number of sites.
Using WordPress, you can build private social networks that are available whenever it is convenient for your members to participate. Take advantage of WordPress’s free sites to begin your experiment with virtual SIGs. With luck they will become so successful that you will need to upgrade to a premium site to handle the activity. My guess is that by then your SIGs would also have attracted enough “distant” members to more than cover the upgrade costs.
Have questions? Take advantage of the comments section below to ask them. Your ideas and concerns are welcome too!