After an organization has identified an audience, objective, and strategy, a question that often comes up:
- What social networks should we establish our presence on?
- How many social networks should we participate on?
The first question is answered by Rob's wonderful cartoon that makes the point that there are different cultures and different types of users across social networks. Perhaps you need to look existing secondary research on demographics and characteristics of users (see this post for some places to start finding free information). You need to do some listening first - after setting up an individual profile, the search feature is your best friend or you may consider paid research services.
- Are there groups, Causes, or Fan Pages where people are talking about your organization your issue? Who set them up?
- Do other organizations that work on the same issues have a presence?
The answer to "which social networks?" I agree you don't have to be everywhere. But, it isn't a black and white question in my mind. My rule now is that I set up a presence on different sites and have email forwarded if people want to contact me, but I go deep in only a couple of places. Those places are the ones that provide most value - where the people I need to connect with are. And of course you need to have a strategy for managing multi-memberships.
Remember there is overlap -- people belong to more than one social network. So, while you may have a light presence on some, people in your network may be more deeply engaged on other networks and spread the word of your organization's cause. (That is if you've built relationships and identified influencers). I've seen this first hand -- I don't engage deeply on MySpace - yet some of my donors for the Cambodian campaign who heard about on Facebook and shared it with their friends on MySpace. Jonathan Colman mentioned this say multiplier effect from a recent Digg campaign.
There are also other some reasons for setting up presence across sites, but only engaging deeply on a few. Brian Solis points this out in terms of branding. Recently, I read about twitter squatters.(Remember domain name squatting? --when a ten year old reserved Toys R Us domain in the early 1990s and sold it back to them for a bike). Anyway, I like the tool that lets you check out a bunch of social networks at once to see if your name has been taken.
How do you choose which social networks your organization will have a presence on? How do you decide which ones you will make a commitment to participate regularly?