ENTREPRENEURSHIP / NOV. 11, 2014
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How to Make the Most of the Web as a Social Entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurs use business and management skills to cultivate change for the greater good, rather than generate profits. It’s about providing a needed service or product to the community (local, national, or even global) rather than making money (although they do need to create revenue streams, often via fundraising and donations, to keep themselves going).

And like any business, the struggle is in getting your message out there. Spreading awareness of your company or initiative and what you’re trying to do. Making the world a better place is a noble, albeit exhausting ambition.

Fortunately, the majority of social entrepreneurs tend to be millennials. They’ve grown up in a digital realm, surrounded by computers, tablets, and smartphones. The internet has always existed for them. They know, understand, and are comfortable with the technological world we live in. And they use that to their benefit. Making the most of the web is crucial to any entrepreneur, and social entrepreneurs take that advice to heart.

The Website

A well designed and intuitive website is your calling card to the world. Social entrepreneurs typically do not have a physical space (unlike, say, a retail store). They need someplace accessible for people to connect with and read about them. Without a website, they are essentially mute and invisible.

Getting a decent website up and running has never been easier, and companies like Godaddy can do it all for you. To setup a website, you need a domain name (your web address), hosting service (space to store your files and pages), and a theme (the window dressing...how your website looks online). Companies like Godaddy provide and sell everything you need to get started.

But you want to go beyond the basics. Web surfers expect more than a “decent” web experience, so savvy social entrepreneurs create dynamic websites by hiring designers and content creators, or by crafting it themselves (many of them possess excellent tech skills).

A social entrepreneurship website needs a fantastic “About” page (introduce the idea and aim), methods and channels of communication (more on that in a moment), a news or blog page (to keep them informed of doings and events), and usually a way for people to donate to the cause.   

One of the most important elements of a social entrepreneur website is the email subscription opt-in. Email is still the best way to contact and communicate on a large scale, and all social businesses need to collect email addresses and create a master list of donors and people interested/dedicated to the cause. Most themes have a built-in email collection widget, or you can upgrade to any number of free and paid plugins (see 8 Best Wordpress Mailing List Plugins for a few popular choices).

A large and carefully curated email list makes spreading the word, updating people in a timely manner, and asking for donations ridiculously easy. It’s a social entrepreneur must-have.

Social Media

The world, it seems, revolves around social media now. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube (to name but a few) are popular, easy, and free ways to connect and spread awareness of a cause, initiative, or event.

Social entrepreneurs take full advantage of this, creating and maintaining profiles on the platforms that matter to them and who they need to engage with. All platforms are not created equal - some are frequented more by men, others by women, still others primarily by teenagers, or professionals. Identify who you need to connect with (check out Social Media Stats 2014 to see what is popular with who), go where they hang out online, connect, and engage. Social media is tremendously powerful when used properly - be honest, engage in conversations and discussions, and spread the word. Ideas can spread around the world, reaching millions of people, in mere seconds. Ask for help (time, money, etc.) when you need to, but don’t make it only about that. Share and give more than you ask.

You don’t need to be active on every platform, just the ones that matter to your intended audience.

Groups, Communities, and Forums

An extension of the social media platforms, as a social entrepreneur, you also need to identify and frequent the various online communities that share similar concerns and aims. Get involved. Participate in discussions and debates. Connect and engage with like-minded individuals.

You’ll meet people that care about the same things. People who can help. People who are driven to make the world a better place. You’ll get your message out there and become a known entity. This is all crucial to the modern social entrepreneur. So...mingle! Ask, answer, debate, discuss, meet, inquire…

Social entrepreneurs must use all the web has to offer if they expect to succeed in their endeavor. The web is powerful, affordable, and far-reaching...exactly what a social initiative needs.

Finally, check out the Top 25 Social Entrepreneurship Websites to see how the pros do it.

 

Image: iStock

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