at first blush: one nonprofit’s response to web 2.0

Interesting.  I made a presentation on web 2.0 tools for nonprofits, mostly just touching on blogs, photosharing, and social networks.  Before the presentation, I would have predicted that the most readily adopted tool would be blogging, then photosharing, then social networks.

 This was based mostly on my perception of the current mainstream comfort level with these technologies and with these methods of conveying an organizational presence online.   I felt that blogs had been around the longest, had gotten a lot of press over the years, and especially in the last presidential election, had made real strides in becoming accepted as a valid media form.  It seemed like a short conceptual hop from let’s send out a press release and hope people publish it to let’s just publish the damn thing ourselves.

Then I figured Pictures!  Who doesn’t like pictures!  Again, it seemed a natural leap.  Most organizations are used to creating and deploying images to further their public relations.  Tools like flickr offer a free and easy way to get your images out there in the community, to invite comment and engagement, and to hopefully create a network and a community around your cause and brand.

The tool I expected the most resistance to was social netowrks like Facebook and MySpace.  I felt that these sites had a bad reputation among older, less technically-inclined folks, and that there would be a great deal of skepticism about the usefulness – and even the appropriateness – of using these sites to promote an organization.

I was off by a little.  Here’s what I heard:

Social Networks

  • We can use this right away.  We need more young people engaged in our organization, we want to recruit young vounteers, interns, and entry-level employees.  Creating a page on MySpace or Facebook seems like a great way to do this.

Flickr

  • We’re concerned about rights, use, and attribution with this model of distribution.  More information on how copyright is handled on Flickr in particular, and online in general, and especially on the Creative Commons movement, should be included in this presentation.

Blogs

  • We’re concerned about the long-term maintenance of a blog, both in terms of staff time allocation and staff skill in creating and maintaining engaging and relevant content.  Blogs seem like a great idea, but they seem like they need a great deal of care and feeding.

Interesting, no? 

I wonder what patterns of acceptance other nonprofit technology advocates are seeing, and how it matches up with their expectations and preconceptions.  Anyone care to chime in?

2 Thoughts.

  1. I had a similar surprise in August when I gave a presentation to directors of art fairs at a meeting of the National Association of Independent Artists. I gave examples of possible initiatives benefiting arts fairs in new media (blogs, podcasts, Flickr), mobile space, social networks, and virtual worlds. I had thought the trip to Second Life’s Artropolis would be a harmless diversion, but SL turned out to be the one idea which people afterward cited the most as potentially important to the future of art fairs.

    I wonder if leaders of arts organizations (and other groups) sometimes fear they’ve missed the boat on blogs, FaceBook, or whatever is cresting in the public consciousness, so that when they hear something that appears to be REALLY new, they have the pleasure of thinking, “Well, dammit, I’m not going to be the last one to the party THIS time!”

  2. I’ve been doing this for the last few years and that’s been the responses. Now there is more awareness .. people have heard of Youtube ..

    It was like this back about 15 years ago too – when the web first got started. Just takes time.

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