Guide to Social Networking (How to Create A Network and Key Resources)

Dear Colleagues

Greetings. I receive many inquiries from people about how this site was created, what is the technology, etc. Given the strong interest in social networking, here is a short guide to some key steps and resources for how to create your own social network and/or do more effective networking.

First, if you would like to see how your organization can use the Peace and Collaborative Network to share information on your programs, start sub-groups to bring together members, post opportunities the organizational guide. A number of institutions and organizations from Rotary International, to universities, to NGOs have created sub-groups on the network to bring together alumni, supporters and more.

Here are some key steps in deciding on a social network:


There are many reasons for setting up a social network. These can include providing a space for members or supporters of your organization to interact with one another, sharing of expertise and experiences, building a community of knowledge, distributing information, allowing individuals and organizations to connect with peers, etc. Being clear about the purpose of your work is an important first step. One way to do this is by doing some brainstorming, talking with colleagues, and also reviewing other networks online to get some ideas.


In order to begin your own social network one of the most important decisions is what is the software platform/format that will be used and what type of functionality is provided, are there any costs, is the platform flexible, scaleable (can it grow as membership increases), etc.

There are also many platforms on which you can create a social networking site, some might require some programming expertise, while others are largely accessible to anyone who has a basic understanding of how a content management system functions (which is similar to using any of the main word processing software programs in which a web page can added/edits relatively easily).

Some companies offering community management sites include  and there are many others.

There are many also open source contentment management systems that are available for free online. Some of the most reliable include (integrated with,,, You can find a great deal online by searching and there are also aggregate sites that compare contentment management systems, such a CMS review or idealware/techsoup has a good review of some sites.. For an open source content management system, one of the steps that is required is finding a site or place to install, run and host the software (basically a server). This often requires some technical knowledge or there are some companies that will provide this service for a fee, which you can find by searching. Some people also choose to setup groups on Facebook or to setup parallel groups on Facebook.

Note if your goal is only to distribute information to your members, then signing up for one of the free listserv or group software platforms can be an effective and free way to do this. For example, YAHOOGROUPS or GOOGLE GROUPS allow anyone to setup a listserv and each provides some features where members can interact.

Also many organizations choose to build their own community sites by hiring expert IT companies or consultants (or hiring some to modify an open source system).


An important question while creating a network is if the site should be open to anyone, moderated or a private network. This a vital decision that will affect who chooses to join the network.


Once you a clear goal and platform, one of the next steps is beginning to work on content. Even if you create the best site, unless you have strong content, the amount of traffic the site receives will be minimal. There is no magic recipe for creating content, but in general my recommendation is try to follow your passion in terms of creating content that fits with your own interests. But it equally important to try and ensure that you're not duplicating already existing content/resources. Try to see what is already available on the Internet and fill gaps, develop new areas, etc.


Building a member base is another key component of launching a network. Obviously one of the first places to recruit members is through your own colleagues and networks. Craft a short and clear e-mail inviting people to join the network (perhaps you might invite a few people to test the site before you launch the site publicly). Another valuable way is to post information about your site on other relevant sites/networks. For example, some key sites that might be appropriate for posting information include,,, There are hundreds of other sites and lists where it is often possible to post free.

Another means of attracting members is to work out partnerships with like-minded sites/organizations and engage in cross-promotion of one another's networks.

Of course, starting a Facebook group or a Twitter account can be other ways to attract members.


Some additional resources that maybe useful include:

TECHSOUP - offers nonprofits a one-stop resource for technology needs by providing free information, resources, and support.

NPOWER - NPower is a network of locally based nonprofit organizations that provide comprehensive, high-quality and affordable technology assistance to other nonprofit groups nationally.

CASE Foundation Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits - Gear Up for Giving is series of social media tutorials, to help nonprofits and their supporters understand how to use key tools and techniques to create awareness, catalyze civic action and cultivate new supporters and donors for their causes. We've also scoured the web and compiled our favorite resources on some of the most popular social media tools, so you can learn more at your own pace.

CHARITYFOCUS - Since its inception in 1999, CharityFocus has partnered with hundreds of small nonprofit organizations (NPOs) to build custom web-solutions. CharityFocus' unique model enables volunteers to deploy a broad array of expertise to help NPOs better deliver services to their beneficiaries and more effectively reach their target audience. CharityFocus is completely volunteer run, and the services of its volunteers are absolutely free.

NETSQUARED - Today the global community stands witness to a momentous time in history where progressive change is not only necessary, but imminent. At NetSquared, we recognize that mandate and believe the social Web is key to making change. NetSquared works toward this goal by mobilizing individuals and communities, providing Web-based tools, and awarding financial support to leverage social action projects.

NETHOPE - NetHope is a nonprofit IT consortium of leading international NGOs serving tens of millions of endbeneficiaries each year in 150+ countries.

ICT for PEACEBUILDING - Exploring the use of information and communications technology for conflict transformation

ASHOKA's CHANGEMAKERS - Has published several useful guides for developing and promoting social networks including: A guide to social media, starting online groups, publicity and more.


Views: 13730

Tags: Community, Content Management System, How To, IT, Resource, Social Networking


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Comment by Susmita Barua on January 24, 2011 at 9:41pm

Thank You Craig for this great info which we can use to develop our novice organization and peace network!


Comment by People Serving Girls At Risk on October 13, 2010 at 10:43am
Craig, This is very important information. You have offloaded details which are up to the mark. Although I am not one of those who asked you about, I am sure will benefit just as much as those who did ask.
Comment by Angelo Ben Ingi on October 12, 2010 at 9:41pm
Thank you for this elaborate steps to networking. It is going to be very useful for the new emerging nation of South Sudan especially on issues of peace,reconciliation and development.
Comment by kjantin on December 22, 2009 at 1:10am
Thanks for this guide, Craig!

For New Tactics, we decided to start an online community when we realized that our in-person workshops were really creating a space for a new kind of peer-to-peer exchange, and also realized that in-person workshops were not sustainable. Since we already have a community of human rights practitioners that have participated with New Tactics in one way or another (shared tactics, written tactical notebooks, used our trainings tools and other resources, participated in workshops) we thought we'd just bring them all together online! Well, obviously it is not that easy.

The tool that we chose is drupal, and we couldn't be happier with it. We especially like the fact that it is open-source software. It fits in well with our values of sharing knowledge and collaboration to strengthen the movement across the board.

The hard part is getting people to take a few minutes out of their very busy day to add a few comments to our dialogues (we have used our online dialogues to engaging online community members in conversations about human rights tactics). It's tough, but it's well worth the effort! We have already hosted over 20 featured week-long dialogues!

Online communities can be a great way to achieve peer-to-peer information exchange (like New Tactics) and collaboration. However, do not underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes into building and maintaining this community! Look at Craig - he's sending our emails and adding contact ALL THE TIME!!

Kristin Antin
New Tactics in Human Rights Online Community Builder
Comment by Rubayat Ahsan on August 31, 2009 at 7:43am
you wrote all about technical features so elaborately that a high school student can now start up a social networking site using those free or for fee 'content management services'. But you did not write about leadership, which is very much important either in physical space or in the cyber space. I have seen for last couple of years that how passionately, consistently, and kindly you have been operating, maintaining, and disseminating worthy information and knowledge through this 'social networking site'. It appears that you are growing your kids feeding all essential nutrition, cloths, education, and affection. My point of argument is, a certain level of enlightenment is the primer for creating a social space either physical or cyber to provide with illuminating information and share a common space to breath. Therefore, a confident leadership can deal with the desires, needs, wants, frustrations, disappointments, and hope of the members of a community either physical or cyber towards achievement of a common goal.

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