You Too Can 2.0!
Facebook and MySpace and Twitter, oh my! While I’m not the yellow brick road to lead you to the Emerald City of social-networking Utopia, I am a real, living, breathing, Facebook-surfing, Gen Y, nonprofit professional. My goal for this column, which will appear bimonthly in FundRaising Success’ Giving 2.0 e-letter, is to help nonprofits understand the who, what and why of Web 2.0. This medium shouldn’t be viewed as a frightening, unknown forest filled with predators, but a world of opportunity to share your message with new demographics in a plethora of innovative, creative ways.
By breaking down the world of Web 2.0, I hope to make social-networking seem less daunting and, I hope, help you to start getting in on the fun! Here are my top five things to think about before venturing into Web 2.0.
1. Get the organization behind your efforts. Start with an internal meeting. You’ll need support from your staff in order to make 2.0 endeavors successful. The Web team needs to understand what direct mail is doing, what television is doing and vice versa. Working in silos will never work with this medium.
2. Understand and establish what Web 2.0 actually is. Think of it as a gateway. It’s a way to gain recognition, knowledge and mission-driven advocates. Notice how I didn’t have the word donations in the above sentence. While I do believe that donations can be driven through this network, I don’t believe that should be the initial goal, and, even more importantly, I believe that you’ll hijack your efforts if you go into this world with fundraising as your main purpose.
3. Start small and build. Start to think about your mission and what makes it special. Find correlations to your mission and the programs it funds in the world today. Once you find topics of current interests that can relate to what your organization does on a daily basis, you can make a connection to what people are talking about on Web 2.0. Locate a social network that emphasizes that aspect of your mission.
I recently did a small test myself. I used my current organization as a starting point. I then located other groups and causes represented on Facebook that relate to my organization. I messaged the originators of the different groups, became “friends” and discussed their thoughts and feelings on the issues that were common between their Facebook groups and elements of my organization.
To give you an idea in numbers, some of these Facebook groups had populations in the thousands.This translates to thousands of people within the Facebook network who I now know have a strong affinity to elements of my organization’s mission; this is a perfect example of the importance of establishing a connection.
Once you make the first step in communication with the group members and understand where their interests lie, you’ll be able to network with each other and increase awareness using each other’s contacts. Imagine that — a social connection on a social-networking site. Who knew?
Listening and connecting with people within the existing networks before soliciting membership to your own is the best way to see real results with quality advocates. One of my favorite examples is GodTube — a YouTube-style site geared strictly to the promotion of faith-based videos, news clips, sound bites and TV shows. GodTube also contains the standard chats, forums and groups containing people who have an interest in religion, faith and spirituality. What an opportunity for religious nonprofits to engage a younger generation of potential leaders and advocates for faith-based missions!
Again, by doing research and locating an already existing body of advocates, you’ll be able to spread awareness about what your organization does and create a rapport with an invaluable resource. It’s not the quantity of social-networking sites you have a presence in, but the quality of your organization’s presence. Start with the one platform you think has the greatest potential for your organization and build onto it from there.
4. OK, so I found them. Now what do I do with them? Once you find a group of people who are supporters of one or more elements of your mission inhabiting a social-networking site, what do you do to utilize their interest? Communicate! It seems simple enough, and it is, but it’s also time consuming. In order for your organization to create a presence for itself, it needs to establish a connection with the members inside a networking platform. That connection could be with videos, blogs or personal messages. Comment on other peoples’/organizations’ pages, ask questions about them, learn from them. We Gen Y folks are opinionated; we like to tell people what we think, especially about political, humanitarian and religious issues. If your organization falls into one of those categories, you can have a field day posting on pages and when people agree or disagree with you, they more than likely will let you know about it. This will open a dialogue, and you can begin to obtain a following of dedicated people who fall into a position of agreement with your arguments. Once this begins to happen, you’ll see a snowball effect.
On Facebook, for example, once people know who and what you are they begin to add elements of their own to your page. Fans of your cause can add stories, news clippings, videos and pictures to your page. This gives them an outlet to be heard and, ultimately, that is why these people go on these sites in the first place — to be seen and heard.
5. How do I cultivate these people into action? This is an aspect of social networking that really takes both creativity and understanding of the Web 2.0 populations. Some quick ideas are creating an event on your social-networking site (most have the capability to do this), and inviting people within your network you think would be interested based on their profiles or group memberships. An event could be as simple as a Moment of Silence for Holocaust Survivors Event on National Holocaust Remembrance Day, or a National Wear Green Day for the Environment Event. These are great and simple ways to engage people, and make them gradually start to become personally attached to your mission by allowing them to display what is important to them.
A National Wear Green Day for the Environment Event also would be a great opportunity to utilize another great social-networking site, Flickr. Your organization could encourage members who attended the event (you will know who they are by their RSVP on the networking site) to take pictures of themselves and their friends supporting the environment by wearing green, and submit them to Flickr for a photo contest. This is a great way to bring networks together and further the involvement of your online advocates.
These are just a few ideas of how to begin implementing Web 2.0 tactics into your organization. In future articles, I’ll go deeper into elements of social networking such as how to cost-effectively staff and what you should not do if you want to be successful within this vast world of networking possibilities. Just keep thinking … there’s no place like 2.0!
Christina Johns is the project coordinator for radio and TV at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.