Is Social Networking an Investment in the Future?

Robin Noah

Sarah DiJulio and Marc Ruben co-authored a chapter in the book, People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, where they provide information from a guide to the “lingo” of social sites, to an approach to planning your entry into social networking. This book is still one of the most interesting books addressing the issue.

DiJulio and Ruben point out that one of the most important things to do is to pick the right social networks: You may need an “expert” to help you map out a strategy for moving forward … and …the expert may be someone in your organization who is already savvy re the social networks. How about an internship program that highlights the development of your social media networks?

DiJulio and Ruben also recommend that you extend your reach. Select a social network and then use a ‘scattershot’ approach. That is, don’t just set up a profile. Create a group as well and attract more supporters that way.

Protect yourself legally regarding the control of your networking group. Get your legal adviser involved.

Look for your supporters that are already on social networks. Send them an e-mail inviting them to become your friend or to join your group. You may have to assign a staff person to accept friend requests, post comments on other people’s pages, and invite others to become friends. Social networking requires activity.

Eventually you will want to start turning your ‘friends’ into activists, donors, and volunteers. You want to make sure your social networking pages always feature lots of opportunities to get involved; include donation opportunities. Even if you do not raise much in the short run, it helps to set expectations for the future. Setting up shop and collecting “Likes,” “Friends” or “Followers” will not necessarily result in donors and supporters. You have to “work” the network. Communicate with your social network friends on a regular basis.

Update your pages with new content. Use MySpace ‘bulletins’ and Facebook ‘notes’ on other users’ profiles to get the word out on important issues and drive people to your page. Create interesting content.

Social networking is an investment in the future. The mostly young people you will be dealing with are your donors and supporters of tomorrow. Get into the game now and learn how to use social media or you might be left behind for good.

Note: There are many websites with lists of words and terms for social media. Oxford University Press commissioned a list that you can access at www.pcworld.com/article/.

Author:  Robin Noah,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,  www.ECofOC.org