Chapter Facebook Examples
In searching “Audubon Society” on Facebook, one can find several dozen Chapter Fan Pages, Groups, and Causes*. Chapters are posting events, photos, videos, articles, and bird sightings, inspiring discussions, building membership, encouraging attendance at meetings and programs, and raising awareness about conservation issues.
Facebook utilization varies widely among Chapters. Stella Miller, President of Huntington Audubon Society (HAS) in Huntington, NY, created their Chapter Fan Page in Spring 2009, and it has thus far attracted 165 fans. Miller spends about two hours a week updating the Page, by posting wall content, events, photos, and field trip reports. A good number of the Page’s fans have attended field trips and programs based on the information gleaned from the Page. One new birder said she uses HAS’ posted birding reports to look up birds in her field guide so that she can familiarize herself with the birds spotted on HAS field trips. To generate additional interest, Miller wrote a book review and received positive feedback from fans.
HAS also created a Facebook Cause called "Save Our Raptors" (SOR) to raise awareness about injury and death to birds caused by perching atop methane burners at landfills. SOR has attracted 660 members, and provides a link to an online petition, which has been signed by nearly 5,000 individuals. How did Stella hear about the petition website? Through networking on Facebook, of course!
Andrea Ritchie, Community Relations Associate for Houston Audubon Society (Houston, TX), created a Chapter Group page on Facebook in January 2009 that now has 315 members. Andrea states, “While Facebook has not directly brought in new members or donations, I feel like it has introduced Houston Audubon to an audience that would never have been reached. In addition to a younger audience, some of our members include influential Houstonians, people in the art community, and politicians.”
However, Stella, Andrea and other Chapter leaders have identified several limitations in using Facebook as a Chapter outreach tool. Eric Larson, Webmaster with Great South Bay Audubon Society (Sayville, NY), feels that a Facebook Page can be a good supplement to—but not a replacement for—a Chapter’s website. He does appreciate that Facebook is useful for providing a means to disseminate important information quickly if a Chapter is unable to post updates to the website in real time. However, he finds that Facebook Pages are not as customizable as websites, where one can generally create a unique design that is aligned with the Chapter brand. Eric also feels that Facebook seems to change its layout frequently, which may be a hindrance to more novice computer users.
Recognize the benefits and limitations of using a social networking service such as Facebook for Chapter outreach. Social networking sites are about building community and/or awareness around your Chapter or particular issue. Utilize Facebook in combination with Chapter websites, newsletters, and other communication tools. Research the the size and demographics of the population you are trying to reach, and consider how much time you’re willing to spend updating the Page or Group. New content should be posted daily, or at least a few times a week, otherwise people will find little reason to join, interact, or invite others to join. To increase your fan/member numbers, be sure to invite as many people as you can to join. Also don’t forget to upload a Facebook Badge to your Chapter website and link back to your Facebook page. Promote your Page or Group with links at the bottom of emails you send to your members, in the newsletter, and in advertising. And make sure there is something interesting to see—events, bird sightings, videos of birds hatching, links to relevant news articles.
* “Causes” is a Facebook application through which users can create causes, take donations, and recruit members. Whenever someone creates a cause or joins one, it shows up in their news feed for their friends to see. Information about the cause is also included in the user’s profile, including total amount raised by that user and new users recruited.