I've always been interested in social networking sites like Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn. But lately, I've been spending quite some time on another social site which I've found to be quite worthy of my time and yours. If you haven't guessed it yet, I'm talking about Facebook. This powerful networking service is not just for individuals like me to keep in touch with friends. It's a very effective networking tool for nonprofits to create awareness and connect with their community. In this post, I'll take you through a beginner's guide to get your non-profit on Facebook and ways to effectively use this tool. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of features, but it may help get you started.
So what exactly is Facebook?
FaceBook is a social networking site that allows users to connect and share information. Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog has a good description of Facebook:
" FaceBook is an Internet site that allows users to post online profiles (including photos, information about themselves, etc.) and then connect to other users who share the same interests, experiences, etc. Zuckerberg threw up FaceBook while he was a student at Harvard to provide an online avenue for students to find one another. It has since morphed into a social network for everyone."
Facebook is built around groups and is made up of many networks, each based around a company, region, high school or college. Many nonprofits already have accounts and are reaping the benefits for their organization and their cause. One reason why it's so popular is because it's just very easy to use. Adding friends, updating your profile, changing your status message - whatever you do takes just minutes.
How to get started?
1. Sign up and create a Facebook Account
To get started, go to Facebook.com, click "Register" and fill out a short online registration form. Once you're signed up, you'll need to have a profile to share information and photos about your organization with others. What to include in your organization's profile? Photos, links to your website and videos can all be added. And remember, when creating your profile you can include as little or as much information as you feel comfortable.
2. Find freinds and connect with your community
Now that you have a Facebook account, connecting to people in your community is easy. Start by using the search feature to find friends who are already using Facebook and request to be their friend. You can add just about anyone you can think of including your members, supporters, volunteers, staff and even your board members. Don't worry if you don't have a big list right away. Once you have two or more contacts, you'll be able to expand your social network by locating mutual friends and contacting them.
3. Send and receive messages
Facebook offers a message board feature called "The Wall" that displays member profile pages. You can use it to post all kinds of messages to your network. But be beware: comments can be viewed by all your contacts in your list of Facebook friends.
4. Create a group for your organization or event
Just like every other social networking site, you can create and join groups on Facebook. And there's a growing number of groups dedicated to social change. Why create a group? Creating groups allows you to share information about pretty much anything. You can create groups for your organization or event to make announcements, join discussion groups or even to share pictures. There are two kinds of groups on Facebook - open and closed groups. So be sure to create open groups so that people can find it and your members can invite others to join.
5. Upload and share pictures
One of Facebook’s most popular features has been the ability to upload and share pictures. Facebook also offers an unlimited quota with their only restriction being a 60-photos-per-album limit. The process is very simple. Start by creating an album which you can then assign limitations to (e.g. visible to my members only) and upload photos within them. The album is then put into your profile, and other users can see and comment on them. You can also "tag" your photos with the names of people you mention and share the photos via a web link or by e-mail. What’s more is that you can order prints online!
6. Promote your events
Facebook is a great place to promote your organization's events. Simply create the event, add pictures and invite your contacts to join. In addition to groups, you can post details of events in your profile so people can RSVP for an event. You also have the option to leave the event open to people in your network or open for everyone.
7. Promote your blog or newsletter
Facebook also helps you to promote your blog or newsletter. This feature allows you to share information beyond what's in your profile in two ways. You can either post a note on your page or import your external blog. It is a nice way to communicate with your constituents and update them on your organization. You can also integrate an RSS feed in to your blog with notes. When you post it, the note is displayed in your profile and every one of your “friends” is notified and other members can add comments.
8. Keep in touch with your members
Facebook has a feature called "News Feed" that allows you to see all kinds of activity within your network. It's very similar to an RSS feed, in that when you log in to Facebook you immediately receive an update of all of the actions your contacts have taken. And if someone posted a new photo album or RSVPed to an event, you'll be notified right away.
9. Maintain some privacy
On Facebook, you are in control of what information is out there about your organization and who can see it. You can retain some privacy by blocking certain people from viewing your profile or by creating a limited profile to hide information you might not want to share with your contacts.
These nine points are meant to be a starting point for you to get your nonprofit on Facebook and into the social networking world. There are also many examples of nonprofit groups on Facebook. For instance, UNICEF at Indiana University has a campus group to announce news and meetings and there's also a group for Advocates for Grassroots Development in Uganda (AGRADU), a UNC student initiative aiming to support indigenous grassroots efforts at community building and economic development in Uganda. For more examples of nonprofit related content on Facebook and some helpful tips, read Emily Weinberg's post.
Want to learn more about how your non-profit organization can make the most of social media on a small budget? Get updates from the Wild Apricot non-profit technology blog by RSS feed or by email, free!