Sponsors, support and social networking

Some friends of mine play in a hockey team and they have organised a fundraising trivia night. They put the word out and soon had some impressive donations thanks to a friendly neighbour who works at an electronics store. While the prizes will be great for runners up and lucky door prizes, it means that the pressure is on to find something suitable for the winners. Being a team effort it needs to either benefit the group as a whole or come in up to 8 parts. It got me thinking.

I’ve created three social networks through Ning.com in the last 2 weeks. Two still need a lot of work before I can launch them. However I whipped up one in a few hours and launched it live today.

sponsorswantedSponsors Wanted is a space for groups to pitch their sponsorship request to interested contacts. Sponsors can search by location, timeframe, investment or the purpose of the group and choose who they want to support. I think it could be a great way to facilitate the kind of basic connections that can make such a difference to the success of clubs, associations, teams and fundraising groups. The success of the network will rely on members making and sharing contacts, promoting the site and the concept of paying it forward. It also relies heavily on the honesty and integrity of both sides of the sponsorship agreement. Because I believe in people, I think it will be a positive experience and I hope that it will serve its purpose.

Creating the site was easy. Ning offers a range of themes and templates to use as a base and you simply format a page that suits your needs. Creating the network itself is a different story. Ning requires people to sign in and create a profile and unlike some of the more popular social applications, it’s unlikely that prospective members already have an account. So here’s my first hurdle.

Quick question:

My second challenge is to encourage interaction and develop a community of interest. I will need to commit to posting items of relevance and value. I can’t be shy about asking those who have joined to do their bit and promote the network. I’ll need to search for contacts that I think will benefit from the site and motivate companies to get generous, even on a small scale. Considering I’m not actively seeking sponsorship for anything and I’m not in a position to donate products or money to others I’m not entirely sure why I have taken on this project. If anything it will serve as a great case study for others, whether it succeeds or fails.

I know many businesses are quite naive in thinking that if they create a forum or space for social networking then the rest will magically follow. Unfortunately most people don’t care about their product and are not going to be interested in gushing about it in some unfurnished online space. And if they were to stumble across your network only to find old and unanswered posts from “Admin”, what kind of impression has your effort made?

I’m going to keep you updated on the progress of Sponsors Wanted. You’ll see it from my side which will include some alternative statistics to consider as I track the uptake including enthusiasm, time, priorities and other external factors that may not make the standard analytics reports. Hopefully together we’ll get a better perspective on exactly what it takes to launch your own network.

Got any tips? Please feel free to share them below!

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~ by mandi bateson on April 11, 2009.

One Response to “Sponsors, support and social networking”

  1. You have a fantastic blog, just been reading all your posts.

    I think to generate any kind of following or to build a network, takes a lot of time.

    It alos takes authenticity and originality. Most small businesses/ companies who join ALL the social network sites don’t update or follow up or read people’s comments … they just give the same old marketing spiel.

    I think small businesses who have one owner seem to master the authenticity. He/she makes the time to listen, to respond, to post original blogs, to answer questions.

    In terms of my social networking, I prefer using sites I only have to sign in, not join or join up to answer a question. I love Twitter becuse it is simple and Facebook. I use those two the most because I have learnt that even if a small business has sites everywhere, it’s hard to follow people, answer questions, make comments if you have 7/8 social networking sites.

    I don’t think any of this is magic, it takes time.

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