Posts about Social Networking and Social Media
Social Networking and Social Media includes articles on online community organizing through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter; user-centered campaigns enabled by social media such as YouTube and Flickr; and cultivating online communities and building movements centered on user participation.
Earlier this year, FacebookFacebook is a social network encouraging real identity — each user has a single account under their full, real name. Facebook began among US college students but has quickly expanded to people of all ages around the world. announced they were dropping support for new custom tabs that used Facebook Markup Language, although you could still specify a particular application tab as your landing page, including custom-page-creating applications. Indeed, a custom landing tab was recommended as a Facebook best practice for nonprofits.
Now, however, it appears all visitors to a nonprofit’s Facebook Page will be directed to the Wall. What’s more, with tabs being de-emphasized by their move to smaller links under your profile, it’s less obvious how new visitors can find out more about your organization.
Gurus, mavens and experts convey information — they tell you the way things are.
Organizers, conversely, cultivate leadership and facilitate a community's exploration of its vision — they offer a way to see how things could be.
Naturally, we need an accurate picture of how things are before we can strategize ways to improve them, and so it's important to continually listen to and learn from the experts, taking from them relevant information and measuring it against our own experience and knowledge. But folks involved in social change — online or offline — can't stay there. We have to be willing to step up and do the difficult organizing work that leverages our knowledge and experts' data into something larger: a movement.
Social media doesn’t mean you do less organizing — it means you (can) do it better, or at least differently. You still have to use all the old skills of coalition-building, strategic planning, creative social action, managing relationships and preventing burnout. None of that goes away just because you’re engaging with people on Facebook instead of in town halls.
If organizers limit themselves to seeing Twitter as a strategy in and of itself — without considering the strategy apart from the tool — they risk overlooking ways to run a more effective campaign on other platforms, or augmenting a campaign using multiple platforms. Worse, organizers risk giving supporters feel-good activism that quenches their desire for social change without actually moving the movement closer to a concrete goal, or putting any pressure on powerholders.
The strategy always comes first, and then you figure out which tool fits. The alternative? A forest fire.
Just a quick note to say I’ll be speaking as part of Social Actions’ “Using Facebook for Social Change” webinar on Thursday, along with Susan Gordon, the nonprofit coordinator of Causes, and moderated by Beth Pickard and David Karp of Firstgiving.
You’re invited to join in a live and open text chat to discuss how you can use Facebook for social change. This is your opportunity to share experiences and ask questions about how people and orgs can do outreach, inspire action, and fund raise on the Facebook network.
In this presentation from the Democracy in Action Community Conference 2008, I talk about some of the successful approaches for nonprofits in using social networks like Facebook and MySpace, and social media like Flickr and YouTube. I give detailed examples of how the Genocide Intervention Network, where I served as director of communications and Internet strategy coordinator for four years, used social networking to achieve its goals in membership development, advocacy and fundraising.
For the Genocide Intervention Network, involvement in the “social web” is really an outgrowth of our entire mission: To form the first anti-genocide constituency, and to empower our members with the tools to prevent and stop genocide. The words “constituency” and “empower” are key. We’re not simply looking for a mailing list or an ATM — we want an educated, active movement of people interested in preventing and stopping genocide. Our members need to be able to think for themselves on the issue, not to simply be another name on a list, but to be a hub in an ever-expanding network.
Offering concrete ideas for how to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem can give people a sense that they, as individuals, have a stake in an issue. The Genocide Intervention Network links to a list of “ten things you can do to stop genocide.” Ivan Boothe argues that these steps, broken down into easily digestible chunks, give people an easy way to participate. Although they also link to the Genocide Intervention Network’s main web site, that isn’t always the point. “A number of these steps aren’t even within our organization,” Boothe says. This sort of advocacy is similar to bottom-up, open-source collaborative projects like Wikipedia, in which no one group has proprietary ownership over an idea or a product; instead, the goal is a constant generation of awareness and ideas. A MySpaceMySpace is a social network that is not built around a single identity. Users can and do have multiple profiles, with no restrictions on the “names” they use. MySpace is used by many musical groups. page, says Boothe, isn’t simply an advertisement for an organization, “it’s a tool for mobilizing people for different kinds of action.”
The Genocide Intervention Network is a nonprofit based in DC that is a little more than two years old. We began as a student group at Swarthmore College with an idea: to change the way the world responds to genocide. As a result of our origins as a student group, we have a strong history in using online social networking and viral campaigns, and this continues even as we branch out into other constituencies. In our first year of existence, we raised a quarter-million dollars for peacekeepers in Darfur — the only NGO to raise money for protection rather than humanitarian aid — primarily through student networks, both actual and virtual.
Ivan Boothe helped start the Genocide Intervention Network in 2004, and was responsible for communications, web development and social networking strategy. He has since started doing freelance work on his own at rootwork.org. So he cautioned me that some of the information might not be entirely up to date that he shared on listserv including a pointer to his awesome slide show with audio.
Ivan is one of a small number of nonprofit early adopters in social media and social networks — he has a couple of years of experience under his belt — so his wisdom is priceless.
Ivan says their organization’s social networking initiatives have been successful in building the “brand” of an anti-genocide constituency. Ivan notes, “Social networking is a long-term approach and using traditional metrics of advocacy or fundraising it may not look like much. But over a long period of time social networking is actually critical in building an effective, educated political constituency.”
So, what is the right fit to use a social networking strategy? Ivan suggests:
Social networking is a natural fit for an organization that wants more than an ATM of donors or a list of petition-signers, but active and engaged political organizers.