Brief guide for those undecided whether to engage in social networking
When Facebook (FB) changed its main page again some time ago, it was another change to the worse. It is getting on the verge of the tolerable to be constantly fed with information about someone’s results of quizzes, such as “Are you submissive or dominant in sex?”, especially with graphic representation of the results as the fuel indicator in the car (full tank in this particular case), coupled with a regular dose of hearts and beers people keep flooding you with.
FB is based on sharing of brief texts, links, photos, short videos, as well as aforementioned funny and “funny” applications. Unfortunately, there is an apparent drift towards superficiality fostered by Facebook owners and their redesigns of the main page. This trend may eventually drive many of us away. For the time being, though, it is worth staying on board. Let me explain using the development of the Revealed’s profile on FB at www.facebook.com/odhaleni.
? FB has revealed who our fans are. Obviously, it is a limited view but certainly more representative than information we can gather from chats and discussions on our website or from more or less accidental personal encounters.
? FB has brought us new supporters and helped increase awareness of our project in general through precisely targeted advertising we invested in. Btw, it was the very first time that I considered spending money on online advertising not just as appropriate but as a very good investment.
? FB allows us to offer bits of content that we would not post on our official website (the less broadcast on the airwaves) but that are worth sharing. For instance, our Cameroonian colleague sent us an image of himself sitting in the TV studio and talking about our joint project. FB is the place to post it. And when we post footage of Czech superstar Lucie Bila recording gorilla fairy tales in the studio, success is guaranteed. Having her on FB brings us new fans and increases awareness of our project.
? FB helps us know what our audience is interested in. Most in demand are images of cute baby gorillas or other animals, and celebrities. This is good to know and explore – but not to let it drive your efforts!
? FB facilitates direct communication with our fans – we ask them individually or en masse about things we would like to know, for instance when to end an online charitable auction. What time they will be able and willing to take part in the final bidding?
? When we started consulting our planned steps with the fans, we inevitably also started to establish closer personal relations with them, and many of them have become our FB friends. This may be inspiring but also time-consuming… In general, FB offers a fundamental opportunity to get in touch with those who work on similar projects do something we might be interested in. Despite the changes in FB and its drift towards superficiality, our fans and FB friends keep sending us a constant flow of relevant information we would otherwise have to laboriously search for – which we almost certainly wouldn’t. (Hello, Paul Kahumba
? Our FB fans are happy to provide their own content for our purposes. They mainly upload photos and videos – and when we announced a photo competition, they submitted loads of amazing images. We asked for hi-res versions of the best entries and made large prints for an auction.
? Some fans have started supporting us by sharing our announcements, such as that about the so-called donor sms messages on behalf of our project. Some of the users included information about the sms donations permanently in the footer of their e-mails to disseminate it among their contacts.
? Many fans have answered our call and sent a donor sms or bought something from our shop to support our activities. However, we have had a rather negative experience with addressing people directly with an offer to buy our merchandise. Sale over FB does not work for us and rather discourages our fans.
? Yet I see the Revealed’s FB profile as more important than the official website. The website carries more extensive materials, but these could be located anywhere because we always notify of them on FB anyway. This may be a rather extreme attitude stemming from the fact that FB is relatively new and from the great amount of time I devote to it. On the other hand, it is undeniable that the world wide web is changing. I fear umbrella projects like WildlifeDirect will soon be marginalized by FB, unless they reposition themselves. because everyone can now compile their own alternative to WildlifeDirect in FB or other social networking environment.
To sum up: An FB profile is worth having, primarily because of the valuable feedback you are getting. It may well happen that the feedback will cause you to start doubting what you are doing. You may as well end up producing tabloidish content. Most likely, though, the interest your content will generate and comments and information from users will encourage and inspire you. You may even raise some funds or at least spark greater interest in your project. In the first place, though, you will be riding the wave of “new” internet and “new” media – and gearing for the future which will be marked by yet more social networking and personalised content. However, it requires you to devote a substantial amount of time to FB every day and think about the message you are sending out and messages others are sending to you. And you will have to face an ever increasing number of sex activity gauges, hearts, and beers. So, think twice before joining…
PS: Things may change soon. Google Wave is coming (wave.google.com)…