Is social networking right for your organisation?

In the last year and a half social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace have being hyped as the panacea to solve all ills but how do you know if social networking is right for your organisation? Online networks particularly appeal to the VCS because of their potential to reach larger communities. Organisations hope social networking sites will assist them in widening their campaigns, recruiting volunteers, involving their users or more supporters in how their organisation is run, and even raising money. I have recently been part of a team at NCVO that has been developing a new online community and there is so much optimism and interest around the opportunities online communities and social networking can create. Although I agree with this enthusiasm, managing this online community myself, I am also aware of some of the pitfalls, resource limitations and general barriers to success that a social networking sites can face. So I thought I’d highlight this article by Idealware which really encourages organisations to think about social networking in a strategic way, and not just jump on the band wagon because everyone’s doing it. The article might be of use to organisations thinking of setting up their own online community. It includes six signs that social networking isn’t for your organisation, as well as seven opportunities that social networking can provide for the right organisation. As this post by Megan points out, there's much more to making connections online than whichever social networking site is flavour of the month. Successful online communities are aware of the importance and ease of making connections across different networks. Some of these issues are also explored in our ICT Foresight report on online communities which examines the impact of online communities and social networking technologies on the VCS in a range of areas.

Six signs that social networking isn’t for you

  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.

Opportunities in social networking

  1. Establishing a simple Web presence.
  2. Promoting specific actions or petitions.
  3. Consolidating existing, unofficial social networks related to your organisation.
  4. Informal outreach that blends the personal and professional.
  5. Researching VIPs, potential employees, and others.
  6. Strengthening relationships between people who already know each other.
  7. Encourage and respond to constituent feedback quickly.
Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
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Caroline's picture

Caroline

Third Sector Foresight

The Future Foundation's report Social networking: progress and expansion gives an interesting analysis of this topic; presenting and analysing social networking in the UK and looking at how online engagement interacts with consumer behaviour. It looks at technological innovations that will influence the future of social networking, how it influences relationships and self expression, and wider influences on consumer behaviour and engagement. Worth a look at if this topic is something you've been thinking about at all.

Kathryn's picture

Kathryn

Third Sector Foresight

17% of companies surveyed by the Chartered Insitute of Marketing say their online advertising spend has overtaken their offline advertising spend. This might not sound like a large number but it is indicative of a growing trend. Although charities and civil society organisations don't typically invest in advertising in the same way as the private sector, it does show how much they're valuing online space. It's worth considering how much you are investing in your online space and interaction. Is it worth it? let us know what you think!

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