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I met Tim Smith, a business executive at Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) here in Massachusetts at a Social Media Breakfast here in Boston. He told me about his hopes and plans for using social media at Big Brothers Big Sisters. He wants to create a support and learning community online, and at the same time broaden the range of conversation points within social media, increase mentoring activity levels and measure that activity using social media. He wanted help in developing a social media strategy for his organization. While Tim already has a lot of good ideas, he is curious if the community can help him to refine his ideas about strategy and technology tools.

In order to help with strategy and technology suggestions I think it would be important to get a sense of the audience for BBBS’s social media efforts. Tim told me BBBS has six primary audiences, Parents, Children (little), Alumni parents & mentors, Current Mentors (big) and collateral service providers (mental health professionals).

If we defined the BBBS roles in a social network they would be called Big, Little, Parent, Match Support, Collateral Service Provider (mental health prof.), and there would be five different relationship levels: Family, Match (Friendship), Affinity Group, Community, Inter Community,....Universe.

To be successful Tim will need to develop two social networks, one, a secure social networking application for children to correspond with other kids and mentors. In addition parents will need to be able to oversee their child’s use of any social network, and BBBS will need to be able to moderate content. And two, Tim wants to develop a public facing social media community for mentors, and perhaps parents and mentor alumni. Both social networks may be integrated into the same system; there would be different levels of access for participants.

The public platform will have to rely on platform security that self-polices itself, or has agency moderation. The private platform will provide greater access control, but a finer inside-community control to ensure the safety of children and families. Lastly, to ensure privacy and keep children safe there is a need for the development of guidelines for the use of social media communities by all parties. 

The Internet/Social Media risks the project will most aggressively manage would be against:
-Unauthorized adults having Internet contact with youth on public or private platforms
-Unauthorized release of youth private identifying information in platforms we sponsor or control.
-Unauthorized release of private identifying volunteer, parent, or collateral contact information on platforms we sponsor or control.

Additional social network needs in terms of security access levels, the relationship between members, and their role include:

-A volunteer needs to be capable of having a private match-level messaging session with his Little Brother or Match Support.
-Volunteers, Moms, and Youth need to be capable of having community-level, and invited community sub-group public discussions.
-Match Support needs to be capable of having public conversations with the community
-User profile information needs to be private, disclosed with owner/grantor release event for information.
-Youth cannot provide profile information access outside of friendship or match-level relations.( e.g. Mom, Volunteer, Case Worker, Match Support).

Tim wants the social network to help with the process of recording mentorship activity, through a history of a relationship, and as a means of promoting the benefits of mentoring to potential mentors.  He believes that it is important to reward people within the social network on the basis of activity, and wanted help and discussion around what would reward participants. 

Developing a strategy of documenting mentorship activity in social media both as a means to recording the history of a relationship; and as a means of promoting the idea of mentoring is sensible.  I also like the idea of rewarding people based on activity, though I think we should discuss the differences between people in reward systems. Different people want different rewards, and you may have to develop different systems for different people.

Some technology ideas Tim has gathered include: “A simple case storyboard might show a volunteer texting a messaging server after each outing either from his mobile or from a service like Joopz.  A hosted calendar would be updated by the message transaction.” Tim thought that by making it easy to self-document he would help to sustain the mentor relationships and encourage more participation from potential mentors. As participants document their outings, BBBS would be able to “passively and affordably track outing frequency,” such outings would be rewarded with recognition point systems. With services like twitter and socialtoo BBBS will be able to add gather more feedback from surveys and generate greater awareness of what matches are up to "in the wild" out in the community.

Tim is asking the community what technology platforms should Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Massachusetts buy, rent or develop to meet their needs?

Update: 2/17/09 8:00pm - Taking the list of social networking platforms developed by Jeremiah Owyang I'm going down the list and contacting each company to see if they have any suggesitons or ideas about the big brothers big sisters post I made today.

Update: 2/18/09 3:30pm - Posted a question about BBBS on linkedin, so far I have received two private answers and one public answer.