What is it?
Social networks are websites where the primary focus is on the individual. Typically, social network sites let you:
- create a profile describing yourself
- mark other users as friends, contacts, colleagues, etc.
- see your contacts' contacts as well
- send messages to all your contacts at once
- send private messages to one or more of your contacts.
Here is Common Craft's video Social Networks in Plain English:
How can you use it in your work?
- On many of the large, general-purpose services like FaceBook and MySpace, you can set up "outposts" (pages or groups) to let people know you're there, hear their thoughts, offer some interaction (sending out messages, responding to people's comments and questions), and point people to your main website or services.
- These services are not only useful for reaching youth. Statistics Canada's 2009 Internet Use Survey points out: "In 2009, 98% of people aged 16 to 24 went online, up slightly from 96% two years earlier. Of those aged 45 or older, two-thirds (66%) went online during 2009, up from 56% in 2007. This age group, traditionally slower to adopt and use the Internet, accounted for 60% of all new Internet users since 2007."
- You can use sites like BigTent and Huddle to create communities of practice within your organization or among your partners, members, etc.
- Meetup could be used to organize and promote physical activity initiatives (mall-walking groups, hiking groups and so on), parent and baby groups, or any other group or program that meets regularly.
- Several US nonprofits talk about using Ning
- Facebook has become a popular outpost for many organizations (You may need a Facebook account to view Facebook links):
- List of walking-related Meetup groups near Windsor, Ontario
- LinkedIn has many groups members can join, for example the Health Equity Knowledge Network (log in and search on "Health equity" to join). "Health Equity Knowledge Network is an open discussion group for sharing information, scientific research, policy development, and community advocacy to eliminate health disparities and create a social movement for equal opportunity for health."
- Pinterest has many health promotion images and videos
How to get it
- Facebook - one of the big, general social networking sites.
- Pinterest focuses in images. A little tool you install on your web browser lets you “pin” any image on the Internet to one or more “boards” on the Pinterest site. Other users can look at your boards and “repin” items of interest to their own boards.
- MySpace - more popular with youth than with adults, MySpace has a heavy focus on music.
- Google+ is Google's social networking service. In G+ relationships are asymmetric — you can "follow" other people and they are not required to follow you back.
- LinkedIn has a professional/corporate focus.
- Meetup is a bit different — it focuses on creating groups that meet in real, physical space, not online.
- Ning and BigTent let you create social networks based on your own interests.
Try it out
- Have a look at the front pages and "tour" links of the social networks in the How to get it section to see which (if any!) most appeals to you.
- Use the Search feature to see if many of your friends and/or contacts use that network. If they don't appear in search results they may still use that network. Privacy settings can usually be set to disallow public searches.
- Ask your friends and contacts which (if any) networks they use.
- Sign up! You can always delete your account if it turns out not to be for you
- Creating Conversations and Relationships Using LinkedIn: lots of links to resources for further reading. A bit corporately-oriented but the sections on growing your network, holding meetings and organizing groups are more widely applicable.
- Beth Kanter's A Few Good Pinterest Tools, Tips and Resources. Generously illustrated.
- Blogs vs. Facebook for Nonprofits article.
Another article: A Systematic Examination of the Use of Online Social Networking Sites for Sexual Health Promotion
"Conclusions SNSs are being used for sexual health promotion, although the extent to which they are utilised varies greatly, and the vast majority of activities are unreported in the scientific literature. Future studies should examine the key factors for success among those activities attracting a large and active user base, and how success might be measured, in order to guide the development of future health promotion activities in this emerging setting."