Online Social Networking – Using It To Support Your Ministry Or Non-Profit

If you are a busy community leader of a non-profit or spiritual organization, probably the last thing you have time for is reading a slew of status updates on social networks, responding to event and game invitations. Nevertheless, if you work with people, you have probably become aware of how important social networking has become, especially for the younger generation. Maybe you have even become concerned about losing the connection with the social networking communities but have been equally concerned about also losing your mind with the hectic, and seemingly pointless social network environment that don’t seem to be a match with the mission of your organization. You don’t have to go crazy and you can use social networking without having it take over your life. That is, if you keep it simple from the start.

Here is how I used online Social Networking to support my non-profit spiritual organization without become overwhelmed by it. With a few easy, self-imposed rules, I have been able to benefit from the fast moving, world-wide connectivity of free online services, such as Facebook.

My first personal rule is to accept no application invitations (games, birthday dates, favorite person, etc.)

Although Facebook is used for communication with family and friends, it is a growing resource for organizations to promote awareness about their activities, services and events. If you plan to use Facebook for the latter, it is advisable to avoid using the ‘fun’ features that are more appropriate for use with friends and family connections (although, even among loved ones you can quickly become unpopular for too much of these features.) Fun features can also be a blow to your credibility if you get entangled in one of those send-to-twenty-friends applications. My advice: step away from the apps. Block them.

My second personal rule is to only accept friend request and not seek out friends.

Although it may take longer for you to build a network of friends, if you accept my advice, you will over time develop a network of people who genuinely want to hear from you and who have opted-in to know about your organizations work through their connection with you. This way, when you create an event and send invitation to your friends, you have an excellent chance of being received with interest. This is a different strategy from developing business connections where it may make sense to have as many friends as you can. My advice: rather than solicit friends, join groups with similar interest and post interesting comments that will attract those who have an affinity with your organization’s mission.

My third personal rule is to limit upkeep and update time

You don’t have to continually update your status. Too many updates may even work against your goal of staying in contact with people who are interested in your organization. I enjoy reading articles on new technology and gadgets and have been following a few popular online magazines via Twitter. I recently un-followed a few because of the volume of update and messages that began to annoy me rather than inform me. I also follow a popular teacher in the human potential movement and her messages come about once a week. I make sure I don’t miss them.

My fourth personal rule is to use free automation to keep my content fresh and to free up my time to do more important things

There are a number of free and paid services that you can use to write short, relevant updates that will be posted automatically to your Facebook status. You can write these in advance and queue them up for later delivery so you can go about your business. I use one in connection with my blog so that new blog entries are announced on my Facebook status page. They are scheduled and ready to go and I’m free. (Search for “schedule Facebook updates” to find dozens of articles and recommendations.)

I hope this information will help you get started in using Facebook or similar online social networking. It is my belief that with a little time and effort it can be used to serve your mission.

Edward Viljoen

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