will charities make money from social networking?

This is another blog post I drafted a while ago…

“With the social networking space being pandemic I know a number of charities in the UK are trying to work out ways they can capitalise on the phenomenon. It’s obvious that tapping into existing social networks and being available as a ‘friend’ that can be added to your MySpace/Bebo/Facebook, allowing users to wear their hearts on the web, meets many charities awareness raising aims. But how justifiable is it to spend the amount of time necessary to boost the profile sufficiently enough for it to take on it’s own viral life?

Someone said to me recently that the way to capitalise on the social web phenomenon is to get users to do something for you without them realising. But of course the condition of this is that it has to be something quite addictive, useful to the individual or integral to the way they live. Ok, so if that’s our criteria I can see a few charities will be able to come up with the ideas. But what about the others?”

Reflecting back on this I think the criteria (addictive, useful, integral) can be broken down more explicitly when it comes to charities. So here’s my attempt at a question list to help when thinking about if a concept is worth investing in.

  1. EMOTIVE: does it evoke an emotion? or ‘capitalise’ on an existing emotional state?
    Charities are by their very nature emotive. It’s where every charity starts – a belief that there is something that needs social change or support.  But today’s culture is soaked through with ‘asks’ and so you have to really evaluate if your idea will stand out and create awe/shock/fun/sympathy/pride.
  2. REWARDING: does it make someone feel empowered?
    For health and development charities this is a big one as many people feel dis-empowered by health problems or the state of the world. The social gaming industry has this factor nailed – i think there’s lots to learn from this area.
  3. CONVENIENCE: does it help you do something more easily? OR does it help you do something you couldn’t have done previously?
  4. EXCLUSIVENESS: does it make you feel one of a special few? is there a limited edition nature to it?
    This one is pretty hard with digital media as it’s expected, and needs to be, very open in order to be perceived as shareable – I’d suggest there needs to be some complementary activity offline.
  5. COMPETITIVE: is someone already doing it? is it popular? could you do it better?
    At BHF we created a recipe finder app even though there were quite a few out there already. However what this meant is we knew there was a market for the app and all it took was to spot our unique selling point – our expert heart health nutrition advice.

And of course you then need to weigh this up against the effort and costs.

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