Before you invest time and resources into a Facebook support group, make sure you have the right concept, people and content. Here are answers to questions that will help you start right.
Is there a clear need for your online support group?
Start by asking, What problem does your group solve? Does it support a key marketing objective? Without contributing to marketing objectives you risk losing stakeholder support for the community over time. It takes time to build a successful community. Is your leadership committed to providing the resources you will need to succeed?
Another important question: Do your patients really care about this idea? Will this Facebook support group be useful to them? Will they take the time to engage? If they don’t care and won't engage, no amount of effort on your part will bring success.
You find the answer to both questions by conducting interviews with key stakeholders and potential support group members.
Who will manage the group?
It’s critical to identify a community manager or admin -- someone who will spend 30-45 minutes each day monitoring and growing your community. This could be someone from marketing, a nurse, a patient advocate or the right patient volunteer.
Just as important as a time commitment is the right mindset and skill. Managing a Facebook group is very, very different than managing a Facebook page, and not everyone has the skill to do it right. You can read more about that in Phase 2.
What kind of group should I start?
Should your group be secret, closed or open? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Now’s the time to determine the right fit. You’ll want to select a name for your group to match your objectives. For instance, if you have a public group that you want easily discovered by search, pick a search-friendly name.
How do I set up the community to avoid HIPAA violations?
Use the description area to spell out your privacy guidelines in a friendly and easy-to-understand way. For instance, you might write, “To ensure that this group complies with privacy laws, and to respect the privacy of everyone involved, please limit posts, stories, and discussions to your own experiences or that of your child, if applicable. If you feel that a posted message is objectionable, contact us immediately.”
You can also pin a welcome post to the top of your feed with appropriate guidelines.
Respond to HIPAA violations in the same way you would on your organization’s Facebook page. If you monitor the community daily and respond appropriately you’ll be on safe ground.
There's much more we could say about starting right.