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Web 2.0 tools and social technologies — blogs, social networks, widgets, videosharing and photosharing sites — all are cost-effective ways to build participation, sharing and collaboration into the core of what organizations do.
But they’re different than traditional nonprofit efforts online. They require organizations to go to areas that they can’t control, where potential supporters are gathered. And though they offer the ability for increased engagement, it doesn’t just happen on its own. Here’s a look at how a few nonprofits are using online social technologies in their outreach efforts.
They’re not discussion-based, so it can be hard to engage constituents on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, but it’s this superficial nature that makes these sites great venues for introducing an organization to potential supporters without the pressure of discussion.
“A lot of times message board-based communities or discussion-based communities have a hard time getting going because, I think, discussion can be an intimidating thing for people, both online and off. And there’s that kind of pressure of being the person that stands up and asks a question, and then nobody responds,” says Lee LeFever, community consultant for Common Craft, a company that makes short videos and helps organizations work with their supporters in an online community setting. “So social networking is at least a way to give people an easy entry into making their identity known on the site and relating what they’re interested in.”
Nonprofit consultant and blogger Michele Martin says the difference between communities and social networks is the difference between throwing a party and hoping the right people come, and attending a party you know includes the right people.
Life Rolls On Foundation
The Life Rolls On Foundation, a Los Angeles-based charity that serves people with spinal cord injuries, was one of the first organizations to attend the party, setting up a MySpace profile a few years ago to try a different method of communication with constituents.