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.

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