Is Your Message on MySpace?
Online social networks allow people to come together around shared interests or causes, such as making friends, dating, business networking, hobbies, interests and political discourse. The number of visitors to online social networks has grown exponentially in recent years. In June 2006 alone, MySpace.com had an estimated 55 million visitors. While most social networks attract a very young demographic (the primary age group for MySpace.com is 14 to 34), there are several networks geared toward older individuals; among them is Gather.com, which appeals to audiences such as public radio listeners.
Virtually every nonprofit organization seeks cost-effective ways to reach new supporters, and many often are interested in attracting younger constituents. Will social networks represent an effective way to access and engage new supporters in the future?
Consider the following insight from two nonprofits long known for their progressive use of online marketing. Both organizations have begun exploring new ways to leverage online social networks.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy maintains an informal presence on 19 different social networking sites including Gather.com, Care2.com and Wikipedia. The Conservancy’s senior manager of digital marketing, Jonathon D. Colman, often represents the group on these social networks as an environmental enthusiast and an individual representative of the Conservancy versus an official voice of the organization. The Nature Conservancy believes that this approach resonates well across various audiences. Overall, the organization spends about three hours per week maintaining its presence on these sites.
Since it began its online social networking efforts, hundreds of individuals have joined as friends or connections of the Conservancy on the various networks and thousands more have visited its Web site. Depending on the network, the conversion rates from friends to donors, members or e-newsletter subscribers is mixed. Although Colman makes an effort to provide links to the Conservancy’s Web site when relevant, more people are interested in engaging in dialogue within the network versus visiting The Nature Conservancy’s Web site.