Social Media on the Go: Apps for Social Networking

New social media startups are appearing all the time, and the lines that distinguish existing tools blur more each day. Facebook is still the dominant channel, but even there, usage is on the decline. Is your organization’s social media presence still cutting it?

Unlike Facebook, many of these new tools are primarily accessed through smartphones and other mobile devices. If you’re interested in reaching a mobile, youth audience, here are a few of the rising stars you might consider:

  • Instagram. Users share pictures taken with the smartphone-centric Instagram application, and that photo-sharing is at the heart of the social tool—an Instagram page without a steady stream of photos simply isn’t an Instagram page. Though usually described as a photo sharing application, a Nielsen study showed more than one million teens visited Instagram during a one month period to stay in touch and form a deeper relationship with the things they were passionate about. Instagram is a great example of how social media tools can be used in unexpected ways by select groups of users. People on Instagram can search for photos and users simultaneously using hashtags, so it can be a great way to connect with people who have shown previous interest in your cause.
  • SnapChat. Snapchat is unusual in the social media realm in that it isn’t based around profiles and sharing but on brief messages and chats. Users can send photos, videos, and messages to others who have the smartphone application, but there’s a catch: anything shared on Snapchat is deleted within 10 seconds after being viewed. An organization could, for example, use Snapchat as a way to communicate with younger volunteers in the field, or to quickly answer questions about the organization. Snapchat users can also send “Snaps” to groups, so an organization could send out reminders about events, volunteer opportunities, and fundraising without being overbearing to their youth audience. Facebook has recently released its Poke app, which shares many features with Snapchat but lacks the dedicated user base. An organization with a strong Facebook presence considering branching out with Snapchat might find it valuable to test the waters first with Poke.
  • Location-based apps. Many organizations will by now have heard of Foursquare, which has been around for a number of years. With Foursquare, users “check in” at a particular location, and are sometimes awarded with incentives for doing so. There are now a number of other apps that encourage users to interact with or explore the area around them. Two new apps, Moveable Feast and Google Field Trip, integrate with Google Maps to function as a “Virtual tour guide”, prompting users with information about locations around them. These tools won’t be helpful for all nonprofits, but could be suited for cultural heritage organizations or museums. For example, a historical society could create a “tour” in Moveable Feast that guides users through places of historical significance in your city.
  • DeHood. DeHood is designed as a social network for neighborhoods. Users can choose to see local news, deals or check ins, and other updates about their community. It also offers features to let you connect with people locally, and promote events. DeHood could be particularly useful if you’re located in a major city, and want to reach a particular neighborhood. It can either be the neighborhood your organization’s headquarters are in, a neighborhood where you do a lot of work, or a neighborhood you have a lot of connections in.
  • Blasterous. Blasterous is an app that lets users send “blasts” to others in their area. Blasts can be local updates, event notifications, or just locally pertinent discussion topics up to 240 characters in length, with up to five images, and can include links. Users can comment on blasts, creating an interesting dialogue within a community. Blasterous may appeal to some users because it claims to deliver messages only to the targeted audience, and no one else. As a marketing tool, this can make it a challenge since a great deal of communication takes place in these specialized circles.

Tools like these can help you reach a smaller-but-more engaged user base. Traditional outreach methods like a strong website and email marketing approach remain critical to nonprofits’ communication strategies, but these platforms into your communications mix might allow your organization to keep a presence on tools that are still widely used while offering select constituents a more intimate, engaged experience.

For more information, download Idealware’s free report, Cutting Edge Social Media, at http://idealware.org/reports/cutting-edge-social-media.