En español | Article highlights:
- Control who has access to your family page
- Contact everyone in the group at once
- Understand the privacy features and make them work for you
Everybody loves Facebook for staying in touch, but that doesn't mean you necessarily want to share family-related material with your friends and business colleagues. The solution: create a private Facebook group just for family members. You control access, you can allow whomever you like to share messages and photos with the group, and, of course, it's free.
For starters, you'll need a personal Facebook account (the odds are good that you already have one — more than half of 50-plus Internet users enjoy social networking today). Be sure you understand the privacy settings used to limit who sees what you post online. You'll find these controls in the drop-down Account menu at the top far right of the page, under Privacy Settings; your options are explained in detail here.
A Facebook group page isn't that different from your personal page. Members of the group can post messages, photos and video; leave comments; create events, "like" posts that appeal to them; and have live chat sessions with each participant typing messages back and forth. But there are some interesting added capabilities, too. For example, instead of sending messages one at a time to group members, you can contact everyone at once with the click of a button.
Another intriguing option is creating group documents, which everyone can work on together. Wish you had all the family recipes in one place? Create a group document and invite everyone to kick in their favorites.
You don't have to look far to find the "Create Group" option. There should be a clickable link in the right-hand column on your Home page (you may have to click "More" if you've already joined several groups). If you still don't see the link, just go to Facebook.com/groups.
Click "Create Group" and a box pops up asking you to name the group, choose an icon, add members and set the group's overall privacy level. Let's take a moment to explore each of these tasks. And remember, you can change any of these choices after the group is created.
The icon is a little picture that shows up next to the group name in listings. There are lots of choices in a drop-down menu.
When choosing a name, you're allowed to duplicate one that's already in use, but you might want to come up with something distinctive if you want family members to find it by searching. Pity poor John Smith scrolling through page after page of Smith Family groups!
In the Members section, you can add any Facebook friend to the new group. They don't have to confirm anything (it's easy to drop out if they don't want to participate). When you start typing, a list of existing Facebook friends' names matching what you've entered so far appears, so you don't have to worry about misspellings. And, of course, you can always add more members later on.
The Privacy setting here controls the group's online visibility. If you want the group to show up in Facebook searches and be completely visible to anyone, including the member list and anything that's been posted, choose "Open" here. For more privacy, choose "Closed": Facebook members will be able to find the group, see the members list and ask to join, but they won't see the postings. To fly completely under the radar, choose "Private." That way, the group won't show up in a Facebook search and nobody but members will be able to see it — the group name won't even show up in your profile.
Now just click "Create" and — voilà — your family has an online home!
As the creator of the group, you're automatically considered a group administrator, which means you can change settings, approve new members and remove members who make nasty comments about you at a family wedding. You can share these privileges with other members by making them administrators, too. Just click "See all" next to the Members List on the group home page and you'll see the "Make Admin" option under each name. You'll also see a little "x" next to each name. Click one of these to remove a member from the group.
If you look to the left of the group name at the top of the page, you'll see a drawing of two heads in a box — boring! Click on it, though, and things get more interesting. Now you can upload a family photo or even crowd around the webcam (if you have one) and take a picture then and there. Now that photo will be the face of the group, much like the Profile Picture in your personal Facebook account.
Another feature worth setting up is a group email address (you'll find this option under "Edit Group"). You create the first part of the address (say "AARPMember" as an example) and Facebook adds "@groups.facebook.com." Now, whenever anyone sends an email to AARPMember@groups.facebook.com, the message will appear automatically in every group member's News Feed.
That takes care of the basics: If you need additional information, Facebook has a comprehensive help section for group features here.
And, of course, now that you have the family site under your belt, it's time to think about additional opportunities for quick-and-easy group sharing. Do you play on a sports team, or belong to a club or congregation? Are there a group of friends at work who'd like to share private messages during off-hours? Facebook lets each member join up to 300 groups, so the only effective limitation is your imagination.