The rise of social media and social networking as part of it brought both advantages and problems to eParticipation projects. On the one hand online time is limited for each potential participant of an eParticipation effort, which means the more time a person spends on Facebook, Twitter etc. the less time will be available for the eParticipation project. On the other hand social media has gone mainstream, which means that even more people are used to publishing their thoughts and opinions online, which in turn may also help to get people involved in eParticipation. It is not significant whether one or the other force is stronger as eParticipation projects need to find their audience where it is already active on the web. Keeping this point in mind the following information on the fastest growing social sites can help to plan and organize an online campaign to recruit participants for eParticipation projects.
Mashable.com regularly looks into the growth and development of social sites. They have identified the fastest growing social sites and also points out some trends besides the raw numbers. Facebook and Twitter are still growing at enormous rates. The year-over-year growth of Twitter in March 09 was more than 2.500 percent. Facebook attracted almost 70 million visitors in March alone.
Besides these top players the social network of social networks Ning is believed to be the second fastest growing social networking site, with now more than one million individual networks on it. Its traffic grew 283 percent year-over-year. On the business end of the spectrum LinkedIn reaches 15.8 Million people in the US where it the third largest network behind Myspace and Facebook. The full report can be viewed on the Mashable.com site.
Two of the named networks seem to be of special interest for eParticipation projects. The massive growth of Twitter and the fact that the rich ecosystem surrounding it allows for novel and targeted actions makes it an interesting choice for an online campaign. The online discourse about the Future of the University of Hamburg tries to make use of this potential. The second one would be Ning. This site is not one social network but a platform which allows users to setup their own ones. Therefore Ning hosts networks about almost any topic or set of persons. This circumstance can be used to directly address certain target and interest groups. Examples would be networks on Sustainable Urban Development or government related ones like govloop.
In summary social media sites should be part of the online campaigns done to attract participants to eParticipation projects and allow for targeted actions on a topic or regional basis.