Friday, March 28, 2008

Are Social Networks For You?

Social networking has been given a lot of attention from non-profit organizations that want to reach a larger number of publics. Indeed, many non-profit organizations use Facebook, Bebo and other social networks to recruit new volunteers, communicate with audiences that are interested in their cause, gain support from authorities or even raise money.
From the other hand, many non-profit organizations that used social networks as a tool to help them on their cause, not only failed in meeting their expectations but also lost a substantial amount of time (money) and effort in trying to maintain an online social network.
Brett Bonfield, in his article “should your organization use social networking sites?” published in IDEALWARE, explores how and whether social networking sites fit in an organization’s non-profit goals. He had resulted in six guidelines for the non-profit organizations on how to know if social networking isn't right for them.

Six Signs that Social Networking Isn't for your Organization
1. You're still trying to get a handle on your basic software infrastructure.
2. Your target audiences aren't using social networking tools
3. You don't have time to experiment with something that might not work.
4. You're not willing to deal with technologies that don't work as well as they could.
5. You're not ready to invest in gaining a real understanding of the medium.
6. You want clear editorial control over your brand and message.
Taken from [accessed 28/03/08]
In my opinion, the above reasons are guidelines not only for non-profit organizations but for all the organizations that are considering using social networking as a communication tool. Just because it works for another company’s priorities this does not mean that it can work for everyone. Organizations should take into consideration many things before deciding to use social networks as a communication tool.


Breeze said...

Social networking for me? To be honest, I am not all too sure of that. I don't know if that has something to do with the fact that I am simply "old school". Ever since entering Facebook I've been inundated with e-mails telling me that people have added me to their list of relatives (didn’t they already know we were related?).

Surely there are all kinds of features available on Facebook. Some useful, some not so useful (like time-wasting questionnaires, i.e. "How British are you"). I can't help feeling all those sites are either made for people who love hanging around their computer screen or not working (or possibly holding jobs where their presence is not really needed).

Back to the question: Is social networking good for NPOs or not? I think it depends heavily on what type of organization we’re talking about. As long as its audience is computerized, I guess it could work nicely. But in general, I think social networking is overrated as many other novelties of the virtual world.

Mattias said...

I agree that it all depends on if a significant part of the organizations possible audience are actively using the specific targeted social medium. As a successful example, the cause Students For a Free Tibet ( has received $121,039 in donations on Facebook, most of it given before the focus was on the issue as it is right now. I think it shows that executed intelligently, knowing who one wants to reach and how, Social Media can be of great benefit for charities and NGOs.

For 120,000 dollars, it is probably worth hanging around the computer screen ;)

Jelena said...

Being ready to invest in gaining a real understanding of the medium – in my opinion this is the key point. These environments have their dynamics and rules which are sometimes not obvious at first glance. Regardless of the type of organization which is entering that environment, knowing how things work is crucial. Without that, there is a danger of irritating people and stepping on their toes.

Breeze said...

OK, I accept that my initial comment might have a bit negative. I agree that these networking sites have their dynamics and they can easily be used for PR purposes, especially on behalf of NGOs like Mattias rightly pointed out.

Understanding the dynamics of the medium is a key point. While I would encourage all practitioners to get explore the possiblities available on the internet with their own benefits in mind as well as their clients/employers, I would also advise them not make sure not to lose sight of their PR basics.