social network

Tips for Online Communities

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about using private online communities for your organization.  This week, I ran across a great post giving some tips for using this platform. Geoff Livingston at Mashable offers 5 Tips for Creating Online Communities.  I especially appreciated these tips:
Listening to your community remains a core social media principle.
The classic community mistake is to use a network to drive information out into the public as opposed to creating a compelling experience for members.
This is SO important!  I find that organizations that are just getting started in social media tend to think of their Facebook page or Twitter account as a bulletin board “driving information out into the public.”  Social media is about relationships, and relationships involve two-way communication.  Listen more often to what people are saying, both about their questions and concerns, and what they are saying about your organization. And, did you catch the last half of that second quote: “creating a compelling experience for members.”  That’s what you want to be thinking about in creating an online community: connecting your online members in a compelling way.  What can they experience in your online community that they cannot experience anywhere else– even when they are face-to-face? I also appreciated Geoff’s last tip, which has to do with inter-connecting all your various communication platforms.  This kind of interconnection is not a one-way connection, but moves communication in both directions.  Facebook can serve as a “beachhead” to steer folks toward your online community, but you also want to have your members communicating about your organization’s activities back in the wider online community. What do you think?  Might some kind of private online community become a part of your organization?  I’d love to hear about your thoughts! .

Add a Private Social Network

One of the really cool things about what I do now is connecting with folks from all kinds of non-profits (and small businesses).  Last week at a set of workshops, several staff members from a hospice were present.  We talked about the discussion app that’s a part of Facebook, and how it could be used for a study or small group.  They thought this mode of engagement might be something that family members might really appreciate, both as their family member is dying and after, especially those folks who would never come to a face-to-face support group.  But they were worried about the privacy concerns.  Other groups might also have the same sorts of privacy concerns, say a church that wanted to post prayer concerns about members, but not so non-members might read them. One way to deal with this privacy concern is to create a private social network.  There are a a variety of platforms available that allow you to create your own online group.  One of the best known is ning.com, which now charges $20 a year for up to 150 members.  There are also a number of free groups, like socialgo.com and blastgroups.com.  There’s even a few like this one specifically oriented to churches. Before you leap to find a service, think carefully about what features you are looking for: a discussion board, personal profiles, the capacity to post pictures and videos, the ability to create events, being able to send private messages between members, even more?  Do you need the ability to link your private network to Facebook?  Who and how will you verify or admit group members? Can you think of a situation where you would use a private social network for your organization?

Constant Contact

Constant Contact

Resources

Christian churches may be interested in the resource Spiritual Formation Newsletter Content, and online resource that makes available short articles on spiritual formation appropriate for email newsletters.