The Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship is gearing up to celebrate both its first anniversary as an official global networking group and its 1000th member.
Inaugural chair Simone Carot Collins, an Australian Rotarian, is pleased with what the fellowship has achieved in its first year. "Although we initially focussed on Facebook, the largest social networking platform, we have expanded our support for a wide variety of networking sites," she said.
"The members section on our website at www.rosnf.net is itself a mini social network, providing a central hub for Rotarians and Rotaractors to meet, regardless of whether they like to hang out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other site."
The Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship was formed primarily to assist Rotarians to learn how to safely and effectively use social media, which is important for connecting with under-40s.
While the younger generations are prolific users of social networks, the over-55s is the largest growing demographic, particularly as grandparents join to keep in closer contact with children and grandchildren.
"Amongst our membership are 'Champions' who have nominated themselves to help establish social media presences in their Rotary club, District and/or Zone, and 'Experts' who are willing to assist others learn how to use specific platforms," Simone said.
Fellowship members played a large role in two social media webinars organised by Rotary International in February, with all four panellists in the first webinar and three of the four panellists in the second.
The benefits of social networking to Rotary clubs have been apparent in the rapid communication of information, from successful projects that can be duplicated around the world to the quick coordination of disaster relief.
Simone found Facebook invaluable with providing a quick response to the flood devastation in Queensland, Australia earlier this year. She kept her Rotary club informed with Facebook updates. Simone said: "If something significant happens, I'll see it on Facebook straight away."
The Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship promotes fellowship and service through:
- providing training on how to use social networks safely and effectively for maximum benefit for all areas of Rotary fellowship and service (and personal enjoyment), without compromising privacy or being seen to "spam" about Rotary. This includes alerting members about Facebook scams and viruses, and assisting Rotarians to tap into the social networks alumni build up themselves.
- developing and supporting open source applications (including Facebook apps) to further enhance the ability of Rotarians and Rotaractors to find fellow partners-in-service and conduct projects.
- promoting the existing Rotary-related applications, especially the official pages and causes of Rotary International.
If you're daunted by social media, start with these tips developed by a panel of Rotarians during RI's social media webinars:
- View websites and social media as part of your public relations and marketing budget. Your online presence should not be an isolated expense or something for the "techie" person of the club to work on alone. It should have the club's support, with several Rotarians involved.
- Go online before you start your own social media page, and see what other clubs and organizations are doing. Note what you like and what you think would work well for communicating to the community and reaching your goals.
- Develop a communications plan. This includes identifying an intended audience (e.g., prospective Rotarians, community leaders), goals (e.g., to let the community know what your club does, to find new members), and a message (e.g., "We're a club that has a signature project," "We're a club that offers fun fellowship and service opportunities").
- Update your page regularly (but not too often) with photos, videos, and text. Plan to update your Facebook page at least once a week, but not five times a day. If you update too much, people will become overwhelmed and tune you out. If you don't update enough, people will think your club isn't active. Ask several club members (perhaps your committee chairs) to share the responsibility of updating your page.
- Designate moderators. Check all social media sites for spam or other inappropriate comments nearly every day. Distribute the moderation duties among several people.
- Look professional. Social media pages are a reflection of your club. Check your spelling, and use the Rotary emblem correctly.
- Be genuine, conversational, and fun. Share items that will interest your audience.
- Reach out to other community organizations, especially potential project partners. Also connect with the news media and with local business and government leaders on Twitter and Facebook. Social networking is about building relationships.
- Promote your social media pages. Include links to them on your club's website, in e-mails, and in print publications.
- Be safe, but don't be afraid. You won't break the Internet! But remember that social media sites are public, so don't include personal information. Also, sites can frequently change their policies, so review privacy settings regularly.