Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Non-Profits Explore Social Media

Today constituent management firm Convio announced a major suite of applications designed to make it easier for non-profit organizations to tap the power of Web 2.0. I wrote earlier about the software that allows fund-raiser participants to create their own personal pages to solicit gifts. The new applications allow customers to create their own APIs, integrate various member/donor databases and take advantage of social networks like Facebook and Flickr.

At first glance, many of these applications are not DIY. It’s going to take some programming to turn your logo into a live connection to your website or to a landing page that registers new acquisitions. Once you have it, though, it is easy to post it—and to ask loyal members of your community to post it on their websites, blogs, and social network pages. That will work for non-profits in a way that it won’t work for corporations. And that’s DIY. Once you have the logo or another API, ask your supporters to post it and to encourage their friends to do the same. Corporations have to pay for that (the Amazon or eBay affiliate programs, for example). Non-profits will get it free from people who care about their cause.

Some social networks are offering special services to non-profits. It’s another traffic builder and it doesn’t hurt their public image. ASPCA, with its channel on YouTube, continues to be a leader in use of these techniques. Many of their videos feature individual animals available for adoption and, looking at them, one has to believe they result in successful adoptions. They also offer informational videos and ones like the one featuring Tony LaRussa, which was originally a PSA spot.

The channel also includes entertaining user-submitted videos that are tagged “aspca” like “Charm School.”

MySpace offers “A portal to all that is good on MySpace.” There are a lot of pages on politics on MySpace, remember The Obama Girl?” That was a supporter’s offering; the campaign has its own MySpace page, as do many others. And no, I didn’t check how many “friends” each campaign has there as a measure of its appeal to young voters. I’m not going there.

For-profit marketers take note. As long as these pages are on the “free” networks, they are going to offer advertising space. That’s a useful way to target specialized audiences with ads and sponsorships that align the corporation with good causes. Is it better than having your own commercial-looking page? Time (and marketing experiments and good metrics) will tell.

In the meantime non-profits are going to continue to explore Internet frontiers, and they deserve our support.
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