Social networking communities are migrant communities. They move with you to The Next Big Thing i.e., from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to Foursquare. Social media skeptics often say that it’s a waste of time to utilize social networking sites because they are here today, and then gone tomorrow. While it is definitely true these sites could be here today, and gone tomorrow, your supporters will indeed migrate with you on to The Next Big Thing. The trick is to know when to begin to encourage your supporters to move on.

I first got on MySpace in February 2006 when I created a portal to Nonprofit Organizations on MySpace. The community was red hot. It was vibrant, active, kind and generous. Then in September 2006 Facebook made the move to open their community to everyone (before you had to have a “.edu” e-mail address to use Facebook). This is when the MySpace vs. Facebook debate began to rage in the blogoshphere. It was ugly. I was loyal to MySpace and the community there, and honestly quite offended by all the MySpace bashing. I was very reluctant to move over to Facebook. I just didn’t see how a Facebook Group could ever compare to a MySpace profile in terms of power and ROI (Return on Investment).

Then Facebook launched Facebook Pages in November 2007. It was then that I had to make an important decision. Stay loyal to MySpace or expand and embrace something new. It’s a good thing I did or this blog and my communities on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and now Foursquare would likely not exist. Even though I didn’t know anything at the time about Facebook Pages, I knew that the buzz and excitement on the blogosphere was strong enough, and obvious enough that Facebook Pages were The Next Big Thing.

So I launched the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page and started promoting the Facebook Page to my MySpace community. A couple thousand moved over within the first six months. That was enough to jumpstart the “Nonprofit Organizations” brand on Facebook which led to a pivotal “Aha…” moment. Social networking communities are migrant communities. There is always a portion of your community that’s tech savvy enough to embrace the The Next Big Thing with you.

At the same time I created the Nonprofit Organizations YouTube Channel. Then in June 2008 I launched the @NonprofitOrgs profile on Twitter. By this time I could tap into MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and my e-Newsletter to build my Twitter community. That made it a lot easier, faster, and ultimately resulted in the @NonprofitOrgs account being placed on Twitter’s Suggested User List. That brought the “Nonprofit Organizations” brand to a whole new level (Thanks Twitter!). Building the Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations LinkedIn Group was primarily done through Twitter, and the @NonprofitOrgs Foursquare account has more than 1,500 friends in less than a few months – again, thanks mostly to Twitter, but Facebook, MySpace, this blog, and my e-Newsletter helped too. Social media in many ways is a numbers game. The more profiles, friends, followers, and Likers you have, the higher your ROI – and the easier it becomes to migrate and build new communities when The Next Big Thing comes along.

Five Lessons Learned

1) Your organization’s social media campaigner should be passionate about the Internet, social media, and flexible, and most importantly willing to experiment with new tools.
2) Being an early adopter helps increase your numbers. Early adopters watch and follow other early adopters. It’s a real skill to act on instinct, to sense what is coming next, and to think outside the box.
3) Read Mashable to know what The Next Big Thing is.
4) The nonprofit community needs to understand how race, class, and age play out on social media and be sensitive to it. The MySpace example is one we should all learn from.
5) Never abandon your communities. Supposedly, MySpace is dead, but I still get about 100 friends requests and 20 wall comments a week.

Related Link:
Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofit Organizations