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« Article Published on TechSoup: Eight Secrets of Effective Online Social Networking | Main | Web1.0 VS Web2.0: It's All About You! »


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I agree, Beth, and I don't think there's a social media "bubble" that's getting ready to burst and let everyone down.

And even though I'm seeing this warning of "decline" in multiple places, I think that for organizations who are following your advice and the points that Alex makes here, the potential for effective community engagement and advocacy is substantial.

It all goes back to the points you and many social media evangelists make: there isn't one silver bullet that is going to make all your fund raising and campaigning dreams come true. It's about thinking strategically about your goals, your audience, and your resources, and putting in the time to make your plan work.

And, most importantly, the power of social media is the conversation it allows, not a blow-horn for broadcasting. And we all know that conversations take time and require patience - are dynamic and more personal.

IMHO, I still believe that this type of media suits nonprofits' purposes well, because our causes are personal (as opposed to commercial), and often our campaigns are really just about making our causes more personal to more people.

Michael Ben-Nes

Is it me? or predictions tend to be false at the end?

Besides that, I think social networks are great places for non-profits to interact with their supporters. Delegation is also crucial, supporters can be very useful in finding new ones to join the line.

Of course expectations should be reasonable, in most cases scores of supporters will not join on a monthly basis.

So my tip is to use social networks before they will be too crowded.

Beth Kanter

@michael yes, and in the beginning it takes a while to get people to become aware, find you and friend you. There is a point where the networked effect kicks in and that takes an investment. Sort of like putting quarters into a slot machine - hmm .. maybe not the right metaphor.

@annaliese do you think personal invites more conversation?

Andy Donovan

Great post Beth...and I agree with Annaliese's point that far too often non-profits are looking for that "silver bullet" or the one size fits all Social Media Program (SMP)to enhance or even replace existing strategies. Understandable when you think about all the pressures on the charity to remain cutting edge and competitive but trying to keep up with the Jones just because you think you should may not be the right course of action.

Social Media is still being assessed as to its ability to meet the specific needs of organizations within the public, private and charitable sectors - the key in my mind is to ensure you as an organization are prepared for an SMP, have the infrastructure to support it and finally the mechanics to assess its value from an organizational point of view. Having top-down support throughout the organization to make the strategic decisions that will help to attract, engage and retain your target audience (through traditional or social networking means) will be key to success here.

Postings like yours here help to encourage discussion and sharing of case studies will I think go a long way in demonstrating the value of SMP as a tool for the charitable sector.


@beth you're right, there's a type of tipping point where more stuff starts to happen. I think it has to do with establishing your identity, building your presence and behaving consistently. With time, people start to discover, recognize, friend and trust you. As you join more groups and contribute and give, then people start paying more attention to you ... and then, stuff begins to happen! And you can help others more effectively as well, from that point on.

@annaliese I agree that making it more personal invites more engagement from others. This is daunting at first, particularly as you learn to manage your identity online. You're bound to keep pushing at your own limits and also learn from (hopefully only occasional) mistakes.

@michael Do you think there's a first mover advantage to using social networks? I would say that people are always ready to welcome and support newcomers to their clubs and communities, and over time, these new members can earn credibility, trust and authority within the community.

Another point on managing expectations above, is to keep your community managers in the internal communications loop. It's important they know what's happening and what the organization's plans are, so they can make informed decisions as they interact with their respective communities.

@beth I don't currently work in the nonprofit sector, but would love to help out an NGO someday ;)

Paul Caplan

I think the point about measurement/evaluation is vital as long as we don't get hung up on stats etc. I have been trying to work with clients (Gov and Charities in the UK) on taking a broader qualitative look at how the discourse has shifted around their issue or brand or whatever. If those dipping their toes into the Live Web see sucess in terms of eyeballs rather than changing ideas, conversations and content relationships, they may well be put off.

Beth Kanter

Paul, thanks for your insightful comment. I just followed the link to your site and discovered your free e-book. Great stuff! I'm going to blog about it now.

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