Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hey Facebook: Change Whatever You Want! Our Networks Are Still Going Strong.

By: Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Ever since Facebook decided to switch up its algorithm, making it tougher for branded pages to appear in users’ news feeds, nonprofit advocates have been in a kerfuffle about what this means for their networking strategy.

Many organizations entered panic mode, worried they no longer would be able to reach their target audiences. Countless social media experts wrote articles listing strategies to fight the algorithm changes. Then there were the doomsday folks, arguing that Facebook essentially set up a pay-to-play system that will crush the little guy.

What everyone seemed to forget is that advocacy networks existed before Facebook, and advocacy networks will continue to exist after Facebook— and Twitter and LinkedIn and Pinterest, for that matter.

The reason? Smart advocacy networks do not rely on specific technology to survive. Instead, they use technology to achieve their larger advocacy goals. Social media websites such as Facebook are merely tools utilized by advocacy networks, not the backbone upon which the network framework sits.

Social media can serve as a Communications Grid for advocacy networks, allowing people to gather and discuss strategy in an easily accessible space. But before the rise of social media, many advocacy networks used technological tools such as email listservs or online chat rooms as a Communications Grid.

And before the rise of the Internet — which only happened two decades ago, keep in mind — advocacy networks communicated with more old fashioned means, such as letters, telephone conversations or regular in-person gatherings.

Rather than focus on specific technology to create a strategy, successful networks are built and empowered through a specific, focused framework. At Netcentric Campaigns, we believe that there are Seven Elements of a Successful Advocacy Network. Along with a Communications Grid, advocacy networks must create Social Ties, contain a Common Language, maintain a Shared Vision, Share Resources and allow for Feedback. And all successful networks have engaged Actors who oversee and take part in network activities.

The ways in which advocacy networks incorporate these elements doesn’t really matter; each does so in a unique way to meet its own needs. For example, some networks create Social Ties among Actors by hosting regular happy hours, while others might do the same by having Actors work on a research paper together. The method is different, but the outcome is the same.

That’s why smart advocacy networks will survive the rise and fall of various technologies. As long as networks are flexible enough to utilize new resources and abandon less successful ones, they will achieve long term success.

Social media websites such as Facebook certainly made it easier for people across networks to communicate and promote their efforts. But change is inevitable, and things that seem so integrated into our lives one day become relics of the past in the next. Smart advocacy networks will adjust to these changes and continue to move change forward in new ways.

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