5 Quick Free Ways to Set Up Your Own Chat Room

Lori Halley 26 May 2009 1 comments

For quick consultations with colleagues, or staying in touch with your contacts, free instant messaging (IM) services like Google Chat, Skype, AIM, and many others will fit the bill. But if you need a user-friendly way to interact directly with those online supporters of your organization who aren’t on your contact list, a chatroom might be a useful tool for strengthening your online community.

In her introduction to Meebo, Soha explained step-by-step how to embed a MeeboMe chatroom on your organization’s website.  Since then, Meebo has continued to become even more useful, most recently with the addition of a notifier that lets you know when your chatroom is active, in much the same way as IM services pop up a notice when one of your contacts sends a message. As well, for anyone who was unable to get into Meebo through a corporate firewall may find they are able to use the service now that https and proxy access have been added. On the other hand, users may find that they’ll need to update their browser’s Flash player to participate in the chat.

If you don’t want to embed your chatroom on your website, if you need a chatroom only for a short period of time — to collaborate with your team on a project, for example, or to support a specific campaign — or if you have concerns about embedding a public chatroom on your organization’s website, a hosted chatroom may be right for you.

Chatmaker, for example, lets you set up an instant free chatroom as easily as typing in a name for your chatroom and sharing a link with those you’d like to invite. You do have the choice to make your chatroom secure, for greater privacy, but it is a paid option.

TinyChat chatrooms are “disposable” — they disappear when you’ve finished the chat, and the only way to save data is to download the chat log file before you leave — so it’s suitable for chats that you’d prefer not to have archived on the Internet. TinyChat is free and couldn’t be more easy to set up  — just click a link and the chatroom is created automatically. Share a link to the chatroom by email or on your website, or simply click a button to invite people from your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace) to come to the chatroom.

With ParaChat, you can choose whether to have the chatroom hosted on the company’s server or embedded on your own website. One attractive feature is that you can make the embedded chatroom in any size and customize it to match your site’s look and feel. The Basic version of ParaChat is free and very functional but it is ad-supported at this level — as with any ad-supported service, you’ll want to be sure that the ads displayed are appropriate to be associated with your non-profit website.

And for something a bit different, do have a look at Firefly. It’s half chatroom and half social network — any Firefly user can drop into chat on any Firefly-enabled website. (To get install Firefly is as simple as copy-and-paste a snippet of Javascript code, to add the interactive badge to your website or blog sidebar.) Users can see chat messages left by others, then add their own.

I’m inclined more to put Firefly more into the category of “social annotation” for a website than traditional chatroom, as it’s not strictly limited to real-time interactions, but it serves the same key function — to increase the opportunities for two-way communication between your nonprofit organization, the people you serve, and those who support your cause.

If your nonprofit is already engaging your supporters (or a broader audience) with chat, or you’re using a private chatroom to get things done with your colleagues, what tools and services have you found work best for you?  And if you haven’t gone there yet, is a chatroom the kind of communications tool that you think you might like to try?

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 5:53 PM

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Comments

  • Gary said:

    Sunday, 09 August 2009 at 7:01 PM

    Have you ever tried TattleChat? It's a free office communicator program that doesn't even need to be installed. Everyone just uses the same file that is stored in a shared folder. We use it at work everyday. I found it on freeware files, but you can also use http://tattlechat.blogspot.com .

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