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Online Social Networking = Community Fundraising 2.0

Howard Lake | 21 July 2007 | Blogs

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The latest news of the ongoing race between three of the UK’s most discussed social networking sites – Bebo, MySpace and Facebook – came from Hitwise UK last week, who reported that UK Internet searches for Facebook had exceeded those for MySpace for the first time.
While also confirming that Facebook is rapidly closing the gap in terms of UK Internet visits (as shown above) Hitwise don’t yet offer a prediction as to when it will actually catch-up – although this seems inevitable given the way the site’s popularity has rocketed since it lifted its students-only restriction back in September 2006.
But Facebook is particularly interesting for fundraisers for a couple of reasons beyond just its incredible growth.
Firstly, in terms of the user profile of the different sites. The average Bebo user is around 19 years old, while the average MySpace or Facebook user is now apparently mid-thirties – and Facebook seems to be ‘ageing’ faster as it grows. So, it could well be that Facebook folks are better suited to being potential donors.
Secondly, in May 2007 Facebook became the first (and currently only) major social network site to allow 3rd party developers to build applications which can integrate directly with the site’s core functions and user data – as opposed to just sit on the surface. Importantly for fundraisers, such apps. can conduct transactions directly with users – meaning that the opportunities for engagement go far beyond simply enabling them to stick something on their profile page (you can read more about this here).
It’s been great to see that the resulting flood of new Facebook apps. has included a number from charities. Initially these were US-based, like ‘Causes’, and ‘Ribbons’, but now several web-savvy UK charities are catching-on including the Royal British Legion and the NSPCC.
I was asked in a recent client presentation to say why I felt social networking sites were so important for charities and the best explanation I could give was that they essentially represent the future of community fundraising – Web 2.0 enabling Community Fundraising 2.0.
If you haven’t yet ventured onto a social networking site, then I’d really encourage you to give it a try – and look-out for the ways people are supporting charities (and charities supporting people supporting charities) while you’re there.

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