If you’re going to create a private social network – a social network that is completely under your organization’s domain and control – it’s important to give your audience a good reason for wanting to join that network. We already have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Those sites are free, easy to use, well-known, and – most importantly – all our online friends are already on those networks. So, getting people to sign up for a private network that doesn’t have a large number of their friends already on board is tough, but can be accomplished if your audience can find something there they can’t find elsewhere. In other words, you need to provide your audience with value through a private social network by helping them solve a problem those big-name networks like Facebook aren’t solving or can’t solve. A great example of providing that unique, problem-solving experience comes from the Wounded Warrior Project.
Below, you’ll find a video from the Chronicle of Philanthropy with interviews from members of the Wounded Warrior Project communications staff talking about the value a private social network brings to their constituency. If you’d rather read then watch, the following is a little bit more on why the Wounded Warrior Project’s private social network has been so effective…
Veterans struggle with private issues: Posting something to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, et al is the inverse of “private”. That is a problem for a community of individuals who are dealing with issues they consider highly personal and sometimes embarrassing. Few veterans want to talk with a broad, impersonal audience about their struggles with post traumatic stress disorder or how nightmares of their time overseas has made it impossible to sleep. The Wounded Warrior Project’s private network allows them a space to discuss those issues and seek help in a private setting.
Veterans trust other veterans: A private social network can promise exclusivity. In this case, it’s a guarantee that you’re talking to other veterans and their families as opposed to any random person on Facebook. For a veteran, the advice of a fellow veteran means a little more than advice from someone they might not recognize if they passed that person walking down the street (you likely have a few Facebook friends who fit this description). Signing up for the Wounded Warrior Project’s private network ensures the user that they’ll only be connecting with other users who have a shared experience.
A place to seek counseling and other help: Sure, a veteran could find therapeutic help in a round-a-bout way through Twitter, Google searches, and other popular methods of finding stuff online, but the Wounded Warrior Project takes the hassle out of finding help for its members. It’s a space where veterans don’t have to worry about opening up and, as a result, are often connected with the help they need – either through a professional or just by way of talking with someone else who shares their experience.
What is it that your nonprofit’s online community would find valuable that they can’t find on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the myriad other social networks? What problems can you solve for them via online resources that they can’t easily solve eslewhere? If you can answer those questions confidently, then maybe it’s time you invested in a private social network!
For more on how social media is helping to advance fundraising, visit BWF.com.