Friday, June 26, 2009

Social Networking: What's It All About?

Lost the business card of that interesting contact you met last week? Need to quickly mobilize your constituency for a meeting? Want to know what your local politicians are up to in Congress? At its core, social networking sites create a shared space where users can express themselves, connect with others, and – most importantly for us in community development – encourage “offline” action and interaction. Still not sure what it’s all about? You might find this simple video from CommonCraft helpful.

Like the friendly folks at CommonCraft show us, the value of social networking sites is that they allow our network of friends, family, and colleagues to be visible – making it easier to connect with not only our networks, but our friends’ networks. Joining these sites is as easy as providing a name, e-mail address, and as much (or as little) personal information as you’d like.

Facebook’s ability to cater to users interested in developing both their personal and professional networks has attracted over 200 million active users. Twitter utilizes the idea of “micro-blogging” – allowing ordinary people, celebrities, politicians, community leaders, and others to quickly communicate with thousands of their “followers” through “tweets” of no more than 140 characters. While these two are by far the fastest growing sites, LinkedIn – a tool geared specifically for professional networking – has also gained a loyal following.

For our purposes in the non-profit world, these tools provide us with yet another way to connect with our peers and our communities. Does your organization already have profiles on the top social networking sites? If so, here are some tips for Facebook and Twitter to help you maximize your use of those sites. Just getting started on Facebook? Here’s a little guide that might find helpful.

Who Uses Social Media?

And what exactly are they doing?

While online activities like social networking continue to be popular with young people, the number of adults and older generations online is growing exponentially. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that the number of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years. In fact, women over 55 make up the fastest growing demographic on Facebook.

But social media is about more than just social networking. There are many other ways people create content and interact with each other online. Forrester Research uses a social technographic profile to depict how US adults are using social media. The Forrester profile includes creators, critics, collectors, joiners, and spectators. According to their online survey, in 2008 the largest percentage of US adult social media users were spectators (69%)- defined as people who read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch video from other users, read online forums, and read customer ratings/reviews. The next highest usage was among critics - people who post reviews, comment on someone else’s blog and contribute to online forums. In third place were joiners - known for visiting and maintaining profiles on a social networking site.

So what are you? I guess at a minimum, you’re a spectator since you’re reading this blog. If you want to step it up and be a joiner, check out Leaders for Communities.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What is Social Media?

Everyone has a unique relationship with technology. Whether you’re the first iPhone user on your block or unsure of how to properly use the word “tweet” in a sentence (or likely somewhere in between) – most would agree that online tools and other technologies are rapidly changing the way people communicate.

Social media tools stand at the forefront of the latest in online communication and organization. Ranging from popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to training tools such as webinars, and collaborative tools such as wikis, social media encourages online dialogue and participation in the hopes that it will yield offline results.

While we haven’t found one, universally recognized definition of social media, we like what the Corporation for National and Community Service has to say about it:

Social media, social networking, Web 2.0... there are many names for it, but the
important thing to know is that the phenomenon of people interacting and
contributing online is not going away. This is the new way many people use the
web and it opens up exciting new doors for all of us.

As NeighborWorks® prepares for the upcoming social media symposium, we refer to social media as web-based tools that allow users to generate content and interact with each other by sharing information, opinions, documents, photos, videos and interests. Some of the more popular uses of social media tools are for social networking, blogging, and video and photo sharing.

Still not sure what we mean by social media? Check out this great video by the clever folks at common craft. i3yswapghf

Already using social media? Comment below and tell us what tools you're using.

Coming Soon: NeighborWorks® Social Media Symposium

NeighborWorks® America is excited to announce an upcoming, innovative symposium entitled Social Media and Web 2.0: Engaging Community and Achieving Mission. The symposium, scheduled to take place August 19, 2009 as part of NeighborWorks® America’s week-long training institute in Chicago, will provide participants with an understanding of social media tools and how they can be used strategically to engage communities and improve communication.

Featuring highly interactive sessions along with experts who specialize in maximizing social media’s potential for nonprofits, we hope this symposium will encourage organizations to think about communication, fundraising, and community engagement in new and creative ways. Novices and tech-savvy participants alike are sure to leave the sessions with ideas on how to not only create and enhance their online presence, but to also integrate their social media efforts into their existing programs and activities.

Join us as we explore the value social media offers nonprofits. Registration is already open!

Stay tuned to our blog for more info on some of today’s latest social media tools as well as updates on this exciting symposium.