IT intelligence: Social networking sites

Robin Fisk explores the opportunities for charities on social networking sites.

Which are the biggest charities in the UK? The British Red Cross? The NSPCC? Which are the most popular bands in the UK? Take That? U2? Maybe, but not on social networking website MySpace, which, according to net monitoring firm Nielsen/Net Ratings, had 6.5 million unique visitors in the UK in May 2007.

The profile with the most 'friends' in MySpace - more than 627,000 - is a 'good cause' called (RED). The bands with most friends are Gorillaz and Bullet For My Valentine. None of these is a household name, yet they are rapidly gaining momentum on the net.

(RED) is not conventional charity, but a brand that raises awareness and funds for the Global Fund (to fight Aids, TB and malaria) by encouraging people to buy certain products from a collection of iconic brands such as Apple, a proportion of which goes to the fund.

So how does having a MySpace profile differ from having a website? MySpace, Bebo and Facebook are examples of Web 2.0 - essentially user-driven sites. If you are a charity, an artist or simply an individual who wants to let the world know you exist, you can create a MySpace profile and invite others to be your friends. The next step is to encourage them to become more than friends -supporters, in other words - which they could do by being signposted to your website.

Is it really as simple as all that? Of course not, but you'll probably need to have a profile in the main social networking sites - it's how future supporters might expect to find you.

MySpace is one of (RED)'s media partners, which may be an advantage, and 627,000 messages of support do not necessarily translate into donors and volunteers. Moreover, the demographic of your typical digital citizen may not match the typical UK donor, but charities ignore social networking at their peril.

- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

Topics:
Finance IT Advice

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