membership & social networking

A freelance journalist asked me a bunch of interesting questions about social networking and membership organisations. I've posted my answers here. I'll point him to this link - if you've anything to add, feel free to comment!

Is Facebook a great means of building online communities, or a fad?

Neither. It's a laboratory.
How can membership bodies exploit social networking sites to build online communities?
Via tools like Facebook groups and Facebook Causes, which can cluster like-minded non-members around the organisation.
Can social networking sites add value to membership organisations?

Yes, by providing a more sociable(!) environment where people can explore what brings them together as members.
What are the pros for a membership body to use a site like Facebook to host an online member community?
They've done all the technical work, and they deal with all the terms of service.
What are the cons/pitfalls? (isn't Facebook unpoliced, isn't it hard to co-ordinate discussion?)
It's harder to coordinate discussion. The main problem is the time-intensive nature of this work, and the uncertain return on investment. Other pitfalls include the terms of service (see also 'pros') and privacy.
Is there a risk for organisations that don't embrace social networking sites, and whose members actively do, that they become increasingly irrelevant? Could they potentially lose their grip on their membership base?
Yes!
Examples of membership bodies that have used Facebook as part of its member comms strategy, or even examples of where members have formed splinter groups on social networking sites.
Oxfam springs to mind. For splinters, see the famous Barack Obama example.
What lessons can sites such as Facebook teach membership organisations looking to set up/develop/improve their own online communications?
Start from the places where the people already are.
Is the technology behind Facebook something that can be adapted and adopted by membership organisations? If yes, how?
Yes, via the increasing trend for whitelabel social networks.
What are the positive ways in which the model can inform a membership body's web strategy?
The web strategy is no longer about the web site.
Are there any cautionary lessons that can be learned from Facebook?
Privacy.
I'm also looking for a pithy list of dos and don'ts – maybe 10 ways to make the most of social networking, and 10 ways to avoid cock ups.
Beth's interview with Carie Lewis has 5; and there's the Ten Commandments of MySpace Advocacy .
Also, not to neglect other social networking sites including Delicious, Digg, Reddit and StumbledUpon. How do they differ from Facebook and do they offer anything different to membership bodies?
They are social, rather than social networking as such (more 'collaborative filtering'). They can be useful .
Finally, what's next? As Friends Reunited has been superseded, what is the future for Facebook?
Twitter.