How Do You Calculate The Value of a Friend on Facebook?

C’mon, if that’s not the best session title of the whole darn show, I don’t know what is! Ben Rattray ( is here to help us find the value behind all those “friends” on Facebook. Hopefully they’re worth something a little more than all those pokes and zombie requests.

Oh, and cause I know you’re interested, Ben is a total hottie. ;)

Ben starts off by showing the audience a cluttered montage of Web 2.0 properties. It’s overwhelming and daunting. But that’s the idea.

Web 1.0 was about digitalizing information. In the Web 2.0 world, it’s easier to publish content, and easier to connect, communication and collaborate with people. Yes, there is some hype. But it’s also a real shift.

Web 2.0 does NOT mean that your Web site or email is going away. It doesn’t mean that you have to be everywhere or anywhere. Rather, it’s a brand new opportunity. Take it and know what you’re looking for.

Nonprofits can use social networking to help spread their message and capture new audiences, to deepen engagement with their supporters and to inspire action.

There are lots of people who already care about you but who right now have an impersonal interaction with you. If they can come read your blog or see your video on YouTube it can help deepen that relationship.

Blogs: Ben says that blogs are unhip now. They were hip in 2002-2003 but a lot of people have already moved on. Still, blogs are a niche media outlet and can connect you to valuable eyeballs. Use it to measure your blog and media mentions and to drive direct traffic to your site. You should also be using blogs to protect your own brand and direct conversations.

News and Bookmark Sharing Sites: The only value to these sites is direct traffic. You can’t just post a link and expect traffic; you have to push it and fight for it. Don’t use it for brand building. Relative to blogs, these sites have a very broad base audience. The value of the visitors is much less than what you’ll get from a blog.

Video Sharing Sites: When we talk about video sharing sites, we’re really only talking about YouTube. It’s people looking for fun. YouTube has a Nonprofits Channel, but the biggest problem with it is that nonprofits don’t have quality video. Even if you get someone to watch your video, if it sucks it’s not going to help you. Also consider, what’s the call to action in the video? There are no links out available. Donations are available but nobody is making them.

Social Networks: Lots of people on these sites – more than 80 million in the United States. There are tons of networks out there like MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Friendster, hi5, Tagged, etc. If you’re going to do social networking, focus on MySpace and Facebook.

MySpace: Being used by >10,000 nonprofits. Friending doesn’t mean a whole lot. The benefits are that it’s easy to communicate, there’s lots of interaction and it provides a branded experience. Still, it’s difficult to convert. The unique thing is the difference between using it for a consistent presence and simply using it for a single campaign. Campaigns can be really powerful. If you’re going to create a profile to create a presence, you won’t find much value.
Facebook: It’s been everywhere lately. There’s a huge amount of interest, especially in the developer platform. The excitement is due to the virality of the applications. There are lots of ways to establish a presence – groups, pages, causes, etc. Joining a group/page/cause doesn’t mean much. The average value of a member of a cause is $.02. The problems with Facebook are that it’s difficult to get back in touch with people (you can’t mass email your groups) and it’s hard to establish your brand.

What’s the future of Web 2.0 and Nonprofits?

• Focused Campaigns: Being sure exactly why you’re going there.
• Deep Integration: Thinking of social networking as the possibility of taking over an existing stream of communication.
• Use them as tools.

Question and Answer

Have you had any success with using widgets?

Yes. Widgets are great for driving traffic. and Kiva are great examples of nonprofit sites doing great things with widgets. They drive about 25 percent of their traffic. For widget campaigns to be successful the person has to be really passionate about it

It sounds like a lot of this is driving brand recognition. How have you found it effective to measure brand lift?

He measures blog mentions and advises going to Technorati to see who’s talking about you and how often. He says that almost no nonprofits are doing measurements.

How involved should organizations be in participating in the conversation? Should you respond to people who are talking about you?

If you have your own blog and you’re not blogging at least once a week, it’s going to be hard to generate a conversation. If you want to get real value out of things like MySpace and Facebook, it’s going to take a lot of work. You have to get people to really engage. If you see that someone is commenting negative information about you on a blog, you should step in and respond in a tactful way. People love it when companies get involved. It’s great personal recognition.

I can see how this can deepen engagement, but do you think it can be negative if you DON’T have a presence on these sites? Is it essential for people to be in this space?

Over 50 percent of social media users expect nonprofits to have some type of presence. Increasingly, nonprofits will need to have some type of a presence. There’s a big difference, though, between having a MySpace profile and being active in that community. He’s not sure if you need to spend a lot of resources on it. Unless you have very specific reasons, you may not find a lot of value.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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