Will Nonprofits "Like" the More Social Web that New Facebook Features Present? | npENGAGE

Will Nonprofits “Like” the More Social Web that New Facebook Features Present?

By on Apr 27, 2010 | NONPROFIT-FUNDRAISING

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If you’ve been paying attention to the news in the past week, you’ve most likely heard about the new changes making their way into Facebook to make sharing interests across the web easier. In short, Facebook is making it easier than ever to connect your online social connections across the entire web, partnering with sites like Yelp and Pandora to start, to make web interactions inherently social. They’ve also changed the “fan” status of pages to “like” and are now offering easier integration of this in-site feature across all sites on the web.

As an avid Facebook user, the idea of these changes excites me in many ways as it will now be easier than ever to share and interact with my personal community all the things I “like” around the web (whether or not people care if I’m a fan of  the band Noble Dog, the local dog rescue organization Blue Dog Rescue or the TV show Six Feet Under is another story…) And for nonprofits who are interested in reaching younger generations and embracing social efforts after reading new studies like the Next Generation of American Giving, nonprofit social media benchmark studies and nonprofit social networking benchmarks, this is big news that brings some interesting potential to future social plans.

As Mark Zuckerberg said last week “people are increasingly discovering information not just through links to web pages but also from the people and things they care about,” and the new tools Facebook is offering are going make personalizing experiences, building out the graph of connections people are making and bringing all these connections together to create a truly social web experience.

No matter what industry you work in, or volunteer for, for that matter, people are the most important aspect to your success – people who support your effort, people who buy your product, people who use the tools you’ve built – so by putting people at the center of the web Facebook is putting its money where its mouth is, betting that social will continue to fuel the growth and success of the web.

And the nonprofit community is an exceptional example of a group that thrives from people.

One of the the first thing I saw online about the new Open Graph and “like” change was this tweet sharing the initial negative reaction towards the “like” status change:

In a recent post Beth Kanter distills some of the issues these new changes bring for the nonprofit and third sector citing some of the feedback from leaders in technology like Pete Cashmore and Robert Scoble – both of whom seem to be keen on most of the new changes.

Holly Ross posted on her reaction to the news and changes to privacy settings, which she describes as “feel[ing] like I’m smack dab in the middle of a Tim Burton movie. It’s hard for me to tell if I should be delighted or scared out of my wits.” Two mandatory elements she points out as imperative to her are the ability to opt IN and the needed realization on the part of consumers that we are all responsible for our behavior on the web. Hat tip to Holly on the last point, it’s been my mantra for years.

Allyson Kapin argues on the Frogloop blog that changing the new interaction to “like” on Facebook will be good for nonprofit that want to grow their Facebook base because it lowers the barrier of commitment of having to be a “fan”. Alternatively, she also says this may hurt organizations who are looking for higher quality Facebook supporters this change won’t help.

Notable quotes: some of the top points being raised around the web on the issue

A number of different social media pundits, interactive leaders and nonprofit professionals have started chiming in on their thoughts around the issue.

  • “Every click of the button ensures Facebook can deliver a more personalized experience” – Pete Cashmore of Mashable in a CNN editorial
  • “[The new capabilities are] potentially alarming for those who wrongly regarded Facebook as a private place, or who have genuine reservations over privacy” – Emily Bell of the Guardian
  • “It’s certainly easier to drop Facebook code into one’s Web pages than to build a login system and social features from scratch” – Thomas Claburn of InformationWeek
  • “I’m also concerned about quality vs. quantity… I’d much rather have 5,000 engaged, active “fans” rather than 50,000 people who just “like” us. We shall see… we’re going to be paying close attention to our FB insights in the coming weeks for sure!” – Carie Lewis of the Humane Society
  • “Imagine if Facebook wanted to turn off the New York Times, for instance. It could. And that’s a LOT of power to give to one organization, even one that’s earned my trust like Facebook has. This is why I keep hoping Google has a clue (so far it hasn’t).” – Robert Scoble

Nonprofits already taking advantage of the new features

Earlier today I decided to see who had already taken advantage of the new feature by asking on Twitter. Here’s a few of the responses I got back:

The bottom line – what you should know now

  1. There are now privacy settings that you have the ability to change that might be affecting what information you are sharing. Everyone should educate themselves on these, people and organizations alike. Beth does a great job of pointing out what’s changed here
  2. There are less boundaries than ever before in getting people “engaged” with your cause. The real question left is how engaged this new approach will make your supporters.
  3. If you have the desire, you can now implement the new like button capability on your sites more quickly and easily than ever. If you’re interested in doing so, Facebook has the documentation posted…and it doesn’t even take a developer to install!

I’m not sure any of us will truly appreciate all the opportunities and implications of this new change for quite some time, but it’s an issue anyone – especially nonprofits who are putting so much energy into making personal connections – should be aware of and chewing on right now.

How about you, are you planning to make any changes to your current Facebook efforts due to the new changes? Are you already starting to plan integrating the ability to “like” your websites and online appeals? Or are you in the camp of those still unsure and uncomfortable with the privacy implications?

And by the way, check out the new, shiny like button on the top of this post. Give it a “like” for practice, why don’t you? : )

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