Photo by FlorrieBassinBorn
I'm in the process of an article about tips for nonprofits on social networking sites for TechSoup. On one of my posts trying to digest the research, someone asked a question about strategies for doing outreach on social networking sites. It is about ethics:
What is the strict difference, in your opinion, between putting out feelers on various communities, and down-right spamming? Have you ever had one of your comments or posts removed because somebody accused you of trying to steal users from their social networking site?
Anything answers to that one?
Meanwhile, here's what I've learned about building your network: quality over quantity.
Doing "outreach" or adding new friends to your network is part of the work flow. To reap the benefits a using a social networking, you need to build your network, although as some experts say it is a matter of quality, not quantity. You want to avoid random outreach, but remember since outreach can be open-ended and there are opportunities for distractions. Remember to know when to stop.
A strategic way to build your network is to use a "Friend of a Friend" approach. Notes Bill Snyder, "Build a small base from a network of supporters from people you know -- maybe it's staff, board members, past supporters -- and ask them to invite people they think should be involved. In a sense, it's getting supporters to do the leg work and be active supporters. It's also the very definition of "social networking." This may happen, to some extent, on its own, but it will happen a lot faster if you contact your network and ask them to do this."
Also do some exploring of different groups on the network site, search by keywords, and explore your friends friend lists. And you may be surprised if you find several groups interested in your cause or organization already set up. Notes Darren Mullenix, "I look for groups that may already be set up by users interested in our mission. It save me time." Heather Manfield suggests, "befriend individuals who have already befriended other nonprofits with similar missions."
Some people have mentioned that while they are doing outreach and if they come across people with mutual interests, they use the firefox extension "who is this?". Once installed, you can right click over any name and it will give you the option to search them in a bunch of social networks, sites and search engines.
Finally, be sure to let your current supporters know that your organization has a presence. For example, using social networking badges on your web site or prominently displaying the profile url in your email newsletters is a good idea.
Any other tips for efficiently or effectively building your network? Any best guest for how much time you need to devote PER week Per Network to make it worth it? I'm talking about MyFace sites.