Getting Started, social networks

Why Would You Go to a Party?

1 Comment 16 December 2008


Why do people go to parties? They are invited, of course!

A simple question, and one that has implications for organizing your online community.

Parties are places where you expect

  • to meet up with friends and acquaintances
  • to meet new people with whom you might have something in common
  • to enjoy yourself
  • to have a new experience

If you’re invited to a party by a friend, and you’re free, you might go. Same with online communities. Your organization has friends, and they might want to be at the party!  Everytime you meet someone, whether online or in person, invite them to your online party.  Wouldn’t you like to hear form your friends “I’m going to be out tonight at this great party. Want to come? ”  That’s how you get your party started. It’s basic community organizing, and it works.

In the US, the leading social networking sites are (in order): MySpace, Facebook,, and LinkedIn. Together, these four sites are the major social sites on the web, according to a 2008 survey by Rubicon Consulting, Inc.  What do these sites have in common? They are large online parties with primarily social functions.

A community organizer’s job is to encourage friends to join. People join because their friends do, and they want to share expereinces. In the “old days” we called this “relationship organizing.” This meant that we organized communities based on finding leaders and their friends, and their friends, and so on. It worked in the community, and the growth of social sites proves that it works online. Relationship organizing is social networking.

Further, according to the study:

“most adults will approve someone as a friend on a social site only if they already know them. Many teens will approve someone as a friend as long as they have even a vague idea of who they are. This means the two groups use the friends list in different ways. To adults, the friends list confirms relationships that they already have elsewhere. To teens, the friends list is an entry point for a relationship.”

As a non-profit manager, it is important to be aware of how your members will view invitations to your party. The online student coalition at a local college, for example, will grow dramatically because its adopters tend to accept invitations casually. However, the online professional networking community in a US suburb will grow slowly until enough connected networkers invite others to join them. You have to know the community you are organizing, and decide your strategies based on how willing they are to join social sites and networks.

Now, time to get your party started…and let me know all about it!

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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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