Week 10: Social Media and Nonprofit Organizations

Each week a question is asked to the students of Digital Media in Practice – A course in the Ryerson MBA program.  The question relates to assigned readings and focuses on different aspects of digital media.

This week we reviewed Building the Charity Brand Community, Seth Godin on the tribes we lead, and Clay Shirky: How social media can make history.

What is a brand community? What are tribes? How can not-for-profit organizations use web 2.0 social media tools to build brand communities?
Essentially, a brand community is a group of individuals who rally around a concept, organization, or company.  Hassay and Poloza refer to brand communities as “groups of people with feelings of shared well-being, shared risks, common interests and common concerns centered on the consumption of a common object”, which is just a convoluted  way of identifying a group of people who like the same products.  A great example they use is the tribe or brand community that surrounds Harley Davidson.  Not only is this such a successful brand that it is not uncommon for people to tattoo the logo on their bodies, but it brings people together to share something they enjoy doing.  Harley owners are friends with other people who ride Harleys.

Not for profit organizations can use web 2.0 to build brand communities by allowing people who already have an interest in their brand to meet each other.  Seth Godin talks about how the web has created more silos (in a positive way) in that there is something for everyone.  If there is something that you are interested in, somewhere on the internet there is probably already a group of individuals who have put time and effort creating a community around that interest – and they would be more than happy to include you.  Not for profits can leverage this by tapping into those interested individuals and inviting them to be part of a larger group.  Seth Godin also speaks about finding people who are already interested and embracing them rather than trying to change the mind of an uninterested individual.
According to the assigned readings and short videos, what other benefits are there to not-for-profit organizations that choose to use social media?

A significant benefit that not for profits have is that they often succeed because they are honestly championing a cause.  This fits well with the motivations of people online since people feel that they can do a little bit of good without a significant contribution – like sharing information with someone in their network who would benefit from it.  Not for profits have the potential to encourage a very large audience to each make small contributions, which can be a winning combination online.

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