We Need Facebook (?)

Bo Crader - 07.01.2009

I tend to hear this question a lot these days - nonprofits are looking for ways to effectively utilize Facebook (If this sounds familiar, be sure to check out Raheel Gauba’s piece on getting started with Facebook).  And why not? Both the number of users and the time those users are spending on Facebook continue to increase at an incredible pace.


At the same time, there are a lot of assumptions in that statement “We Need Facebook” that I would like to challenge.  Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is the most popular social networking site worldwide, and we can't imagine living without it, but Facebook isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Here’s a short list of alternative social media sites that nonprofits might want to consider:

  1. Building awareness and promoting compelling content might be supplemented by social bookmarking sites like Digg, newsvine, or del.icio.us.  
  2. Twitter is going to be a medium of choice for a segment of your constituents (the Nielsen study mentioned above makes note of a 3,700% increase in Twitter usage).  
  3. Organizations uncomfortable with the open nature of Facebook may wish to use Ning, which allows you to create private social networks, or you may wish to have an internal community on your own site, similar to what Blackbaud NetCommunity Wave does right out of the box or the communities our partner ThePort Network creates for Blackbaud Sphere clients. 
  4. Looking for skilled volunteers - try LinkedIn.  Starting up a “Friends of the Library” at your local public branch?  Try drumming up a group on GoodReads…you get the point.

Other factors to consider would be the geography of your audience - the adoption rate of Facebook varies significantly outside of the States.  Orkut is #1 in Brazil and India – both significant emerging markets for nonprofits.  Friendster - yes, for those of you who remember Friendster, it is still alive and kicking - with the vast majority of its users are in the Asia / Pacific region.


And, there are those that believe Facebook has reached its high-water mark or at least has yet to prove itself a viable fundraising channel for nonprofits.


So, will Facebook go the way of Flooz any time soon?   No.  But that doesn't mean there's only one player in this game.


If you're looking for ideas, check out the latest Baudcast on Facebook, or Mashable’s impressive but not-quite-exhaustive list of 350 social sites and services you can use to promote your organization.   Or, better yet, trying looking up your top five or ten major donors, advocates, or volunteers on Facebook, LinkedIn, or your favorite networking site – you may be surprised by what you find.


Related info:


I’d love to hear comments (and even better) examples of your "out of the box" approaches to marketing through social networks.   Leave a comment and join the discussion!

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