Recently, in a thread called What is TechSoup Community Forum Success, a community member lamented that Facebook usage takes users away from traditional, web-based communities, driving traffic and discussion to Facebook, which is a "closed garden" - you have to be a Facebook member to access the discussions, and many people are not members of Facebook (and may never become such).
I've noticed this can, indeed, happen - I'm on several YahooGroups that are focused on various subjects and that flourished with ever-growing membership and lively discussions for years - until Facebook and LinkedIn groups became so popular. I've seen a drop in the number of new members and discussions on these web communities, with discussions happening over on the "closed gardens" of Facebook and LinkedIn instead.
By contrast, I've seen some groups use social networking sites really well to draw people to their traditional web-based communities. For instance, TechSoup frequently tweets about threads that are going on here on the Community Forum, and the result has been new community members, new responses to questions, and new questions on the Community Forum.
What's your nonprofits', libraries', schools' or other mission-based orgs experience using social media - do you see it supporting your traditional online communications methods - online communities, email newsletter, and web site - or do you see it as taking away from those communities or messaging? Is it all in how you use it as to whether it helps or hinders your traditional online efforts? And is this argument any different from those who said online communities would reduce the number of people who attended onsite meetings?
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
If this interests you then listen to a talk by Bruce Stirling at South by Southwest this year (schedule.sxsw.com/.../event_IAP992407). The talk covers a lot of ground and Bruce has interesting stuff to say on a lot of topics. One of these topics is the trend from general widespread internet users who regularly visit a number of different sites to what he terms 'silo users' who use Google for everything, or Facebook for everything, or the next new social media giant to emerge for everything.
I run the UKVPMs email discussion group on Yahoo! (groups.yahoo.com/.../UKVPMs) and my gut feeling is that we have fewer posts to the group now than we did in the past. I'd put this down to increased networking by UK based volunteer managers on Twitter. Initiatives like #ttvolmgrs Thoughtful Thursday's have really upped the interaction between VMs on Twitter in the last twelve months and I'd suggest that has probably resulted in any drop in engagement with UKVPMs.
That said, just looking at the number of posts to UKVPMs over recent recent years, in 2011 there were 804, 2010 saw 686 and 2009 saw 690. So actually we've seen postings increase back up towards pre-2009 levels (881 in 2008, 708 in 2007).
This suggests my gut feeling is wrong. UKVPMs email based interaction still works for people and doesn't appear to be being abandoned in favour of other social media.
We have a email list, a Facebook page, and an online community that pre-dated facebook. The number of registered members continues to grow at or above the pre-facebook pace. The number of posts has stayed relatively flat on our online community - but the conversations instead are happening on our FB page. We do direct people from FB to our mailing list and to discussions on our community - that does help increase posting activity in our community. We also recently upgraded our community platform to allow a facebook login and an iPhone app since so many more people are using mobile now. We're hoping over time it will help with the posting activity on our forums. It seems like people still login and read more than post. Conclusion: our conversations are split with our FB page now, and our community is still valuable.
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