If you’re already using Shutterfly Share Sites to communicate with parents in your classroom, scout troop or sports team and it’s working for you, great! Keep doing it. However, if you’re currently using email or paper flyers to communicate with parents, read on. In this post, I will explain the main differences between Shutterfly Share Sites and SimplyCircle.

For small, high-engagement groups like classrooms, scout troops, or sports teams, both Shutterfly Share Sites and SimplyCircle provide very similar functionality and benefits:

  • Both let you create a private website for your group, and use it to share updates, photos, events, and ask for volunteers.
  • Both let you reach parents via email.
  • Both offer free mobile apps.

On the margin, Shutterfly offers more sophisticated photo sharing and management options, as well as savings for yearbook and photo printing. After all, Shutterfly Share Sites are part of Shutterfly, a photo management and printing platform.

SimplyCircle, in contrast, has better group productivity tools. It offers Google calendar imports, daily and weekly event and task reminders, event RSVPs and more sophisticated volunteer signups. So choose the platform that is optimized for things that you care about the most.

If you’re a teacher, a scout troop leader, or a coach, you will get very similar benefits from using either platform. Try them both and choose one that works best for you.

However, if you are a PTA/PTO leader, a school principal, or if you lead another large group (potentially with multiple subgroups within it), you will see big differences between Shutterfly Share Sites and SimplyCircle. SimplyCircle is a much better choice for these types of groups and communities than Shutterfly. Here’s why:

  • On Shutterfly, each group exists as a standalone group. You need separate credentials for each, and you can’t combine your emails into a single Daily Digest, or get all of your reminders in one place. So if you are a parent of two kids, and both of your kids’ teachers are using Shutterfly Share Sites, you need two sets of credentials, and you will get separate emails for the two classrooms. In contrast, on SimplyCircle, you can belong to as many groups as you want, and everything is consolidated across all of the groups that you’re in. There’s just one calendar, and you get just one Daily Digest email and one Morning Reminder email. Whether you access the platform on the web or via a mobile app, you can easily switch between looking at just one group or at all of your circles together.
  • If you manage a group with subgroups (e.g., classrooms at a school, committees within a PTA, etc.), Shutterfly Share Sites simply can’t handle it. You need to create a separate group for each classroom, and there’s no “master” group for the school as a whole. In contrast, SimplyCircle offers a school-wide license, which includes unlimited number of circles for each classroom, each grade, the PTA, the after-school activities, volunteer committees, and of course the school as a whole.
  • When you manage a large group such as a PTA or a school, you know that not everyone in your group is going to be equally engaged. Some will jump at the opportunity to join your group as soon as they receive your email invitation. Many others will stay on the sidelines, no matter how many email reminders you send them to join your group. So as a PTA President or school principal, you’re much better off using a system like SimplyCircle which lets you reach “guest users”. As long as you have their email addresses on file, your emails will be delivered to them. (Of course they can unsubscribe from your list, but very few of them do). In contrast, Shutterfly Groups require people to join your group. If they don’t join, you can’t reach them.
  • SimplyCircle offers many more sophisticated functions that are particularly useful for managers of larger groups. You can download your member list as a CSV, obtain a bounced email report, track whether or not your group members paid their membership fees, and even print PTA membership cards in compliance with National PTA standards. You can designate additional group managers to help you share the load, while still maintaining full visibility and control over who is in your group and all the content that is being shared with your group members.
  • Shutterfly’s main advantage over SimplyCircle – more sophisticated photo sharing – isn’t as relevant to many of the larger groups. Oftentimes, they can’t share photos with their group members at all, because not all the group members have given permission to share their children’s photos, even when the sharing is limited to the school community.
  • Last but not least, SimplyCircle allows many different ways for you to invite your group members. You can paste in their email addresses, upload a CSV file, import contacts from Yahoo or Google. Or you can share with them your group’s unique invite code (e.g., by passing out a paper flyer or texting it to them), and have them join your circle on their own. This way, you don’t even need to know their email addresses.

To summarize, if you’re a teacher or a scout leader, either Shutterfly Share Sites or SimplyCircle will work for group communication. But if you lead a larger group such as a whole school or a PTA, or if you are at a school that communicates with parents at every level, SimplyCircle is a much better choice. Give it a try for free today.