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The Cause Marketing Blog Jumps on the Star Trek Bandwagon

The day was March 9, 1967 and NBC had a challenging ratings failure on its hands called ‘Star Trek.’

The conundrum for network executives was that bad ratings notwithstanding, the people who loved the polarizing series loved it with the fire of a 1000 Vulcan suns. And so after threatening to cancel the series after the first season, NBC executives felt obliged at the end of the show that March 9, to make an odd live announcement. “‘Star Trek’ will be back in the fall,” it went. “And please don’t write any more letters.”

Fans had in engaged in an adhoc letter writing campaign that buoyed the series through that first season and through three more. In total, just 79 Star Trek episodes had aired. But to the degree that Star Trek has become a science fiction franchise it’s because in 1974 a group of 10,000 like-minded geeks gathered in at the Americana Hotel in New York City to dress up like their favorite Trek characters, screen individual shows and extol all things Trek.

People with single minded devotion to a topic are called ‘fanboys.’ Every year fanboys of all stripes gather to celebrate everything you can imagine and a few things you don’t want to imagine. But the International Star Trek Convention was the Alpha fanboy convention.

To my readers who work at nonprofits and to marketers everywhere I ask, what would you do to generate fanboy-like devotion?

Increasingly one logical answer is social media.

A new survey of 980 nonprofit professionals shows that nonprofits have taken to social media with a vengeance.

The survey (registration required) asked respondents three groups of questions about their use of social media, their ‘house social networks,’ and the demographics of their firm.

The respondents came from nonprofits small and large and included charities, labor unions, associations, churches, and mutual banks. The survey was the work of the Nonprofit Technology Network, Common Knowledge, and ThePort.

Among the findings:
  • 74 percent have a presence on Facebook, 46 percent on YouTube, 43 percent on Twitter, nearly 33 percent are on Twitter and 26 percent are on MySpace.
  • Average number of followers: Facebook 5,391; MySpace 1905; Twitter 291; LinkedIn 286; and, YouTube 268.
  • On which social network are respondents fundraising? 38.9 percent said Facebook; 12 percent said MySpace; 8 percent on; 6.7 percent said Twitter; 5.6 percent said YouTube; 1.9 percent said LinkedIn.
  • 30.6 percent said that they have in-house social networks. The networks are mainly used for marketing and most have 10,000 or fewer community members. Nearly ¾ say they don’t use their in-house social network for fundraising, and more than 85 percent don’t allow advertising on it.
Social networks may not turn your charity into raucous scene like that first Star Trek Convention at Americana Hotel circa 1974. But they do give you an extraordinary way to reach our and connect with would-be fanboys.

Use social media well and your nonprofit or company might just “live long and prosper.”


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