July 08, 2011

Charities Explore Potential of Google+ Social Network

Kaboom on Google+Google+, the social network billed as Google's attempt to compete with Facebook, isn't yet fully open to the public. But it is already drawing a lot of buzz in the nonprofit technology world.

While it is still way too early to project whether it will be able to stand on its own next to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, Google+ has some potential advantages.

One feature nonprofit officials may especially like: the ability to lump certain types of people into different "circles" and screen what information each type of person gets.

For example, I've created a circle called "philanthropy" that allows me to share information that is of interest to folks who work in and around the nonprofit world. I can choose not to share that information with friends and relatives who might not be interested. And I can keep personal information out of that feed.

This has some clear benefits for those who work in the nonprofit world and who want to keep their professional messages separate from their personal ones. You can choose to share information about your organization with supporters—but not your college roommate or distant cousin.

One tip for early adopters: resist the urge to create a Google+ profile for your organization right away.

Google has built the network as a place for individuals to communicate. But it hasn't yet built ways for businesses and nonprofits to create pages and profiles.

That, however, is coming soon.

Some nonprofits, including KaBoom, have already created profiles on Google+ and will probably have to scrap them or maintain two profiles once Google creates pages that are designed for organizations.

Bottom line: The network is still in its infancy. So it is best for those who have received invites to spend some time exploring and listening before they begin investing heavily in building profiles.

In the meantime, some social-media experts have been testing the network and have already offered advice to those in the nonprofit world.

Beth Kanter, the nonprofit social-media consultant and author, has been sharing information on how nonprofits can use Google+ on her blog. She has also been creating a list of nonprofit workers who are already using the network on her profile page.

Amy Sample Ward, the Nonprofit Technology Network's membership director, also has some tips for people in the nonprofit world who want to use Google+.

We'll be spending some time in Google+, too, and plan to share ideas as well as case studies of nonprofits that are effectively using the network.

We'd also love to hear your thoughts. Do you expect to use Google+ for your organization? If so, how?