Social networking & web 2.0

You can use social network sites to build a list of 'friends' to whom you can send messages promoting your website. Social networks also have a viral aspect: people may sign up to your cause because they've seen it in a friend's news feed or on their profile on a social network site. You can make it easy to sign up by adding links to your Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or other social networking profiles to your website homepage. See N7nu and Aspiration for examples of how this can be done.

Social network sites work best when you put a lot of time into them: sending messages, responding to friend requests, commenting on other people's profiles. They are informal social spaces, so the more personal & friendly you can be, the better. People in social networks will tend to ignore corporate-style communication.

Think carefully about who you are trying to attract when using social network sites. In some societies social network sites are mostly used by a younger audience but they are gaining popularity with different demographics. It is important to remember that it may not always be good idea for people to associate with your cause openly on social network sites, where what you are doing may pose privacy or security risks; for example, where you are uncovering rights abuses, or promoting rights (such as same-sex marriage, for instance) for people whose activities are deemed illegal by repressive governments.

Be aware that different cultures tend to use different social network sites. The majority of Orkut members are in Brazil, and it is also popular in India. China has QQ, Japan has Mixi; Cyworld originated in South Korea. Youth in Kosovo and the Kosovan diaspora use Hi5 rather than MySpace or Bebo. Across the Middle East the picture seems varied: while there are Iranian MySpace and Facebook pages with thousands of friends, Saudi Arabians seem keener on Orkut, and there are MySpace look-alikes such as MuslimSpace.

Other types of social network sites include voting sites such as Digg and Stumbleupon. If enough people have rated your content on one of these it can lead to big spikes in traffic to your site, so one method of online promotion is to encourage your supporters to vote for your stories.

Promote & connect

Recent innovations in digital technology have produced a range of social networking tools (often called social web or web 2.0 tools) that you can use to publicise your blog, to network with other blogs and to add more content to your blog. All of the following are powerful ways to make your blog accessible to as wide an audience as possible:


Blogs can be syndicated by using Really Simple Syndication (Read more). This is done automatically if you create your blog using WordPress (Read more) or

Social Bookmarking 

Tools that allow you to save blog pages or webpages that you feel will be useful, and which you want to share with others. It is the same as using the 'bookmark' or 'favourites' feature on your internet browser, but this allows you to publish your favourite sites for others to see. Some examples are:

Blog Directories allow you to register your blog on sites that draw together communities of bloggers around issues of concern and interest, for example:

Aggregators are sites that automatically check for new posts from particular blogs, and list these in real time as they are posted. Some are topic-related; others are regional or issue-based.

Blog aggregators with a national and regional focus in Africa are:

  • Global Voices - provides lists of blogs and topics from across the world.

Online Communities allow you to publicise your blog and become part of a community with other bloggers:

Online Media Storage sites allow you to store, share and view a range of media such as digital photographs, videos and audio files such as podcasts:

Web-Rings are communities of blogs that you can join or create yourself. There are thousands of web-rings covering all sorts of issues. See

Social / Community News sites allow you to submit and share your blog posts or posts from other organisations or individuals.

Carnivals are weekly, fortnightly or monthly roundups on a particular issue or topic, such as the Carnival Against Racism or the Carnival of Positives. You can set up your own carnival and invite other blogs to join in. Don’t expect your carnival to take off immediately – it takes time and perseverance for it to gather momentum. Read more about Carnivals here.

See the Quick 'n Easy Guide to Online Advocacy for more information about choosing the right social web tools to meet your needs.

Comments & spam

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is not protecting their site from spam, or unsolicited, unwanted, irrelevant, or inappropriate comments and contributions, especially commercial ones. WordPress has an inbuilt spam protector that allows you to enter specific words that will filter out spam. It also allows you to use comment moderation, where any unwanted comments can be deleted. Comment moderation should really only be used if someone is using offensive language, not because you don’t agree with the comment; if you use it too frequently, you will deter participation.