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Jamie Myrah - Blog 2: It's Time to Make Friends with Facebook

Jamie Myrah - Blog 2: It's Time to Make Friends with Facebook

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Moving to India has reinvigorated my love affair with Facebook. It has become a lifeline to home - the easiest way to share pictures and updates of my adventures abroad; to chat with friends and family; and to generally stay in touch with the people and issues I care about. Email, phone calls, and even video-calling still play a role, but the interactive nature of Facebook, combined with it's functionality and diverse applications, easily make it the most important communication tool I have at my disposal. Without it, I imagine I would have experienced much more homesickness than I have during my time here in India. 

And it's not just about staying in touch with the people at home; Facebook has also provided a great way for staying connected to my fellow CAPI interns. It makes my day when I can take a few minutes to check in and have a chat with Cassana in Quezon City or when I see the link to Marguerite's latest blog posting from Dakha. It brings a smile to my face when, through the pictures we've posted, I can relive the fond memories I have of trekking through tea plantations in Munnar or playing Holi in Delhi with Victor. Interning in a foreign country is a unique experience and no one can ever relate to its joys and challenges the way another intern can. Your fellow interns become one of your most important social supports and when they're far away - as in my case - it's not as easy as just getting together after work to relax and debrief. Once again, technology - and Facebook in particular - comes to the rescue, making reaching out to one another and growing the relationships we have been developing over the past many months possible.

The very fact that I'm writing this blog is an indication of the prominent role social media now plays in the way we communicate and share information in the world. While most of us understand that on a personal level, it is just as relevant to our professional lives. Just as CAPI recognizes the power of using the internet to share the experiences of its interns with others, civil society organizations around the world are increasingly aware of the need to tap into the potential of social media. Here at PRIA, the staff have been using social media in a variety of ways for quite some time; there are Twitter feeds and Facebook groups; LinkedIn profiles and multiple blogs. However, it takes more than setting up a profile and posting a few photos, articles, or documents to make the most of what social media has to offer. 

Therefore, one of the things I've been working on at PRIA is helping them to think more strategically about how to use social media to advance their various projects. This means thinking about social media - in its many forms and functions - as more than simply a marketing/campaigning tool, but also as a vital means for connecting to and building relationships with current and potential allies and stakeholders. In addition to accessing the vast knowledge that exists on the web regarding best practices for NGOs using social media, I also capitalized on my own experiences and - perhaps most significantly - tapped into my own social network for advice and recommendations. The result was a best practices document that focuses on four key recommendations:

  • Be Strategic: have a measurable plan that builds towards specific goals & objectives
  • Monitor Your Market: in order to grow your audience you must get to know your audience
  • Maximize Engagement: it's not enough to post regularly, what you post must be useful
  • Build Relationships: success depends on building & maintaining personal relationships

The document outlines a range of tips and tricks related to these four recommendations, including everything from the optimal length and timing of a Facebook post, to the "Four Rules" of generating word of mouth interest in your posts. Specific tips related to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a special note on developing online Communities of Practice were also included. 

Whether spreading a campaign message, sharing relevant articles and learning materials with colleagues, or doing an environmental scan of participatory development organizations across the global south, social media has become a standard part of my work life in the non-profit sector over the past five years. There's no getting around it... social media is here to stay and as activists, advocates, and agents of social change its only going to become a bigger and more essential part of the way we work in this globalized world. So, if you're not already in love with Facebook, perhaps it's time to find out what all your friends are talking about, break the ice, and introduce yourself to the brave new world of social media.