Expert view: Social networking - Stop delaying and get twittering

Do you have a dog? If so, is it a cute one? Are charity sector workers more likely to have cute pets? Asks broadcasting consultant Nick Ware.

The cute-dog theory - that the best non-profit social media networkers have the cutest dogs - is just one of the threads I've been enjoying on one of the best blogs you'll read.

It's hard to stay in touch with the latest digital technology, even when you think you are paying attention. The minute you start to think that you're missing out by not 'twittering' - using texts to broadcast your movements to the world - you hear that the parade has gone by and everyone is now rushing headlong into FriendFeed, billed as 'discover what your friends are sharing'. In a world of stretched resources where no one in the office has the time to track all this, let alone implement it, wouldn't it be great if someone else could do it for you?

Step forward Beth Kanter. I discovered Beth's blog last year, and it is the best resource I have found for keeping up with what's happening in the social networking world, and especially with what works best for charities.

Beth has a phenomenal work rate. She posts at least once, sometimes twice a day. She brings together her own knowledge as a trainer and consultant with all the brain power of other people in her social networks to provide clear, insightful and timely information about what's happening in the world of the web. For example, if you are trying to work out if Twitter might work for you, follow the thread that offers you stats, strategies, slide shows, anecdotes, real users' experiences and insights about its value. Or if you are at the beginning of the journey, just about to get started, Beth recommends things you can do in only 10 minutes.

I seem to be reading a lot of ads for digital media staff right now. If you're lucky, your charity values this stuff and is employing people to do it. But it's more than likely that you work for one of the thousands of other charities that are struggling to get to grips with it all and remaining sceptical.

There are real benefits - new supporters and new sources of income - to be reaped from social networking. In the end, there is no short cut to enlightenment. The real lesson from Beth and her contributors is that it is trial and error that will bring forward the right mixture of how much time you spend on social networking, which applications you use, and how you seed debate and keep conversations going.

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