Thursday, October 14, 2010

Understanding Social Networks (Part 3 of 11 NetNon series)

"Traditionally, organizations have viewed themselves through an organization centric lens. Envisioning oneself and one's organization as the center of the universe with other people and organizations circling around it---providing it with funds, attention and volunteers as needed---is at odds with a world energized by social media and connectedness. Other organizations and individuals are not waiting for instructions for what to do; they're talking, doing and connecting based on their own needs and interests. Networked Nonprofits know this and are reorienting themselves to engage with individual free agents and organizations in their networks."
"How can I use social media to do fundraising, get attention for my organization, promote my event?" Those are the questions that I hear a lot. But if you are still working from an organization centric lens, which the questions above suggest, then you misunderstand the structure of social networks. The real question may be, "how do we incorporate social networks to be ready for people to get involved in the way they want to?"

Taking time to understand how a social network works, what it is used for and by who will greatly enhance your success but may also shift your goals and plans.  Chapter 3 does a great job of explaining the structure of social network. A network basically consists of two things; nodes (people\orgs) and ties (connections between them). The book goes on to describe how people connect, share and form groups.

Slight detour below.

"I've got some loose ends to tie up." We have a tendency to want control. We have a tendency to want to hang out with those we are closest to. We have a tendency to want order. We may have to rethink this.

Loose ties is what it is all about.  Within your organization's social network map you will have some strong ties to key supporters, which you have always been able to tap. But with social networks you can directly tap the LOOSE TIES. "Loose ties are lighter connections that friendly acquaintances have with one another."

"Tell your friends about..." Isn't that what we always add to the end of any pep talk? Now with social networks we have a more direct route to tell their friends or arm our friends with an easier way to tell their friends.

Detour was meant to have a point, not sure if I made it though. So like a fairy tale book, I will just say it. The point is, It is important to know who your strongest ties are, but don't loose focus on those loose ties. In order to do this, you may have to loosen control, hang out with your friends' friends and allow a little disorder.

Back on the road.

Social Capital. At the end of the chapter the focus turns to social capital. Here are some ways to social media builds social capital:
  • People are easy to find online and on many channels
  • Talk is cheap
  • Serendipity is enhanced online
  • Reciprocity is incredibly easy 
 Reciprocity is incredibly easy. That point struck me hard! It is so true. And reciprocity isn't just easy in social media, it is so powerful. A public thank you, compliment or positive interaction that people can over hear is incredible!

Anyway, my thoughts were really scrambled and random on this chapter. But in the end, understanding the structure of social networks, knowing your role\network, leveraging your ties and building social capital is how it starts (not asking how do I promote my cause.)

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 3 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.


Beth said...

Steve, I wanted to thank you for blogging about the book and sharing with your network. I'm a little behind on my reading - I managed to break my big toe and have been on crutches - slowed me down ...

Steve Heye said...

Beth, thanks for taking time to visit! Sorry to hear about the toe. Toes are one of those things we all take for granted until they are hurt.