Blogger Steve Woodruff recently published a free eBook: Build Your Own Opportunity Network: Getting Started In Social Networking with the purpose of helping people that are new to the social space network online more effectively. Woodruff describes social networking as a safety net that provides the greatest opportunities for you to build ties of shared interest, sympathy and connections.
Woodruff’s eBook is really about how to increase your Social Capital, the currency of business interactions and relationships. He gives specific steps on how to intentionally use social sites like Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as tools for increasing and maximizing your social capital, opportunity networks as he calls them.
What caught my attention was Woodruff’s image and discussion of participation levels. Woodruff states, “I’ve identified five levels, as follows, each with greater or lesser degrees of interaction, transparency, and disclosure.” Here are his five levels of participation:
- Passive Outposting (Zoominfo, etc.)
- Formal Connecting (LinkedIn, etc.)
- Lifestreaming (Facebook, etc.)
- Engaging With Private Communities (Ning, etc.)
- Open Web Networking (Twitter, etc.)
Using Woodruff’s image, the higher you go with your participation in the social space, the more transparent you become, the more you disclose and the more micro-interactions you have. Thus, the more you participate and share, the more you increase your social capital. So as I say, “Participation is the new black and transparency is the new gray.” If you’re not participating in the social space, you’re not increasing your social capital or nurturing your online relationships.
So how does this apply to nonprofit associations? As a nonprofit employee, I’ve found many associations and their staff resisting social networking and social media for a variety of reasons including lack of staff support, fear of change, fear of unknown, lack of clear vision or strategy, perceived lack of tangible ROI, etc. Often, these associations are willing to embrace Plaxo, Zoominfo or LinkedIn yet their involvement in the social space stops there.
So, I wonder. Do associations have social capital? Can associations be conduits for opportunity networks for their members? Or do only the individuals at these organizations and their members have social capital? Should associations allow their employees, even further encourage their employees, to increase their social capital thus increasing the association’s standing in the public’s eye? And if their employees are more connected, does it ultimately benefit the organization? Likewise, I think that associations have yet to capitalize on the social capital of their members and see the social space as a conduit connecting members with potential new members. Further, I think that an association’s lack of presence in the social arena sends a louder message about their “corporate culture” and underlying beliefs. Their absence speaks loud and clear to members and potential new members alike.
Using Woodruff’s Levels of Participation, I submit that some association leadership have yet to embrace two of the foundation principles of social networking and media: participation and transparency. While some leaders in association boardrooms are still waiting for social media to implode, others have jumped into the social arena with both feet and are using it successfully. Even though the public has been crying for transparency and participation from brands and business, many associations have yet to embrace these trends. They are still using the last decade’s black and gray.
Some associations are chanting the mantra, “We have a Website. Isn’t that enough?” In a Web 2.0 World, if you want to engage your 2.0 members and prospective members, a Website is not enough. I firmly believe that today individuals are looking for associations, businesses and organizations in the social network sites they frequent. The Website silo is no longer enough. Ultimately, these organizations need to have several Web properties like a blog, a Facebook Fan Page, a LinkedIn Group and Twitter account in order to succeed in today’s Web 2.0 environment. And of course, all of these Web properties should be connected with each other and the main Website.
What do you think?
Special thanks to Steve Woodruff for the use of his Participation Levels image and allowing me to continue the conversation of his original thoughts.