Social networking

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Social networking refers to a variety of techniques for building online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Internet-based social networking has been used to develop viral marketing campaigns to sell products and promote political candidates and causes.

Leading social networking websites include MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi5 and LinkedIn.[1]


  1. Huge Audience: Millions of people are on social networking sites
  2. Reach New/Different People: Reach people who you may not connect with via other traditional means of communications
  3. Viral Component: If you tell your friends, they will tell theirs, and so forth…
  4. Greater Exposure: This is immeasurable, but very important. Even if people are visiting your site or taking action, they are still learning about your campaign.
  5. Engage and empower activists: Social networking is another way for activists to engage with your organization and promote your campaigns.


  1. Information Overload/Competing Interests: People aren’t necessarily on social networking sites for organizing purposes, but rather social.
  2. Building Networks: You need a large base to start with, or else it is very difficult for the site to take off.
  3. Where do you start? They are so many different sites, where do you start?
  4. Controlling the message: It’s very hard to control the message on these sites, especially on things like the wall, discussion boards or blogs.

Getting Started

  1. Build a base of friends. Don’t use persuasion or negative advertising.
  2. Find people with the same interests and communicate your message to them.
  3. Use search tools to find folks with similar interests.
  4. What you put in is what you get out. Social networking sites are a component of any campaign – need to answer questions, post new information, etc.
  5. Advertise your social network sites. If you do not share with your networks - online, offline, e-mail lists, etc - then you will not be successful.
  6. Link back to your Web site and simple online actions to get e-mail addresses to communicate with these individuals in other ways.
  7. Provide an open network. Even if you don’t always like what people have to say, you should allow an open dialog.
  8. Be bold, passionate and funny – or else people will not forward it.
  9. Don’t get stagnant. Continue to communicate, update information and build a community, or your site will stop growing. Post new blogs, ask for input from the community, add video, take action, and change your page layout frequently.

Examples of social networking sites


  1. Michael Arrington, "Modeling the Real Market Value of Social Networks," TechCrunch, June 23, 2008.

External links

Wikipedia's article on social networking

NOTE: Some of the information in this article was developed by Free Press in the form of a handout for the 2008 National Conference on Media Reform.