Maybe social networking isn’t right for your organization

February 8, 2008

With so much written about social networking and its myriad benefits, it’s good to see some discussion that examines the question of whether every organization should jump on this bandwagon. Brett Bonfield of IdealWare shared his thoughts on this subject in a piece that appears on the TechSoup site.

Brett lists six signs that social networking isn’t for you and then goes on to discuss the opportunities that social networking can provide.

A couple of points Brett makes stand out for me. He cautions that jumping into social networking takes a considerable investment in time, both in terms of learning the culture and functionality of social networking, as well as to maintain the activity. Slapping up a group page on Facebook without examining your goals and how this platform best works is not going to result in a successful outcome. Organizations need to invest the time to immerse themselves in the social networking space to see what others are doing and how they are doing it.

Somewhat related is the point Brett makes about the culture of social networking—it’s very open, participatory and egalitarian. Using this tool is different than traditional communication vehicles. Brett states,

“People who use social networking tools are not interested in promoting your brand or following your message guidelines. When you get involved with these sites, it’s hard to control the context in which your organization shows up. “

So organizations need to be prepared to give up some control. Those in your social network might not talk about your organization using the terms you’d prefer or they might have opinions that don’t exactly align with your organization’s mission. To me, this is what makes social media so exciting. It provides an opportunity for the free flow exchange of ideas and a more genuine experience between organizations and its supporters. Where some see a threat, others see an opportunity.

While social networking might not be right for every organization, there are significant potential benefits that warrant exploring the medium. The biggest mistake is to discount social media/networking out of hand. It’s worth every organization’s time to evaluate this tool and reading Brett’s article is a good place to start.

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