4 Netsquared Social Good Trends for 2010

500x_crowdmap.jpg
This Ushahidi Crowdmap visualizes the Haitian earthquake aftermath

The folks over at TechSoup/NetSquared have an end-of-year Net2Think Challenge is coming to a close on Saturday. People are submitting their reflections about the hottest trends from the world of innovation and social benefit in 2010. Here are some reflections — big and small — from the year.

1) The big news was the use of mobile as a legitimate grassroots platform in 2010. We first saw this with texting and the American Red Cross’s incredible fundraising drive during the initial Haiti relief drive. Then it continued with the DNC’s canvassing app on the iPhone, a new way to organize grassroots volunteers. And finally, we saw the Apple iPhone app donation issue (led by Beth Kanter) come to the fore at the end of the year, a sure sign of the medium’s importance to the sector.

2) Mark Horvath took the homeless issue and made it a favorite on the social web. One video at a time, one tweet at a time, whether it was walking the parties at SxSW or driving across the country, Mark worked it. His latest initiative WeAreVisible gives the homeless an opportunity to experience networked communities and the opportunities they bring, too. A big hat tip to Mark!

3) Widgets, gadgets and platforms like Crowdrise continued to evolve with sector specific solutions. Often overlooked by the main online space as a secondary market, seeing innovation for social good has been awesome. Grassroots tools are getting better every month, well except when Jumo launeches.

4) Ushahidi flowered this year and became a hot tool for visualizing geographic data. Oil spill, Russian wild fires, earthquakes, etc., all saw Ushahidi used as a tool to better manage situational crisis. Further, it was another example of how mobile, traditional social and geolocation can mash-up, and do it for good.

What are some of the trends you enjoyed in 2010? Don’t forget to submit them for the Net2Think Tank!

The Zoetica Salon and the Business of Free

Kami Huyse (@kamichat) & Beth Kanter (@kanter)
Zoetica Co-Founders Kami Huyse and Beth Kanter

Zoetica launched its Salon today on Beth Kanter‘s personal fan page on Facebook. The Zoetica Salon meets a nonprofit marketplace need for basic peer-to-peer conversations about social media adoption. The primary differentiators of the Zoetica Salon is Beth Kanter and her significant experience in the space, and that it is completely free of charge, and hosted on a common easily accessible social network — Facebook — that doesn’t require a new log-in identity (see press release here).

This begs the question why market a free service? After assessing the current offerings out there, there was no free service. The best educational offerings range from affordable services like the esteemable Nedra Weinreich‘s Social Marketing University series to TechSoup’s NetSquared community and the Nonprofit Technology Network‘s excellent professional membership services.

At the same time, the partners in the company believe basic advice and simple questions should be available free of charge to an industry dedicated to resolving society’s ills. With no organization formally serving that need, a clear opportunity existed. As more social media consultants enter the space, it’s important to remember that advice from bloggers and consultants do not equate to formal training. The Zoetica offering seeks to channel people who want to do more than spend time in the Salon into the capable hands of folks like Nedra, NetSquared and the NTEN team.

Lest a Robin Hood halo be painted, there is an end goal for the company, which is branding and demonstrative leadership. Simply put, by giving people a taste of the offering, the company builds a reputation for its consulting services, and gains new business opportunities. A vast majority of Zoetica’s business is through referral or direct client requests.

What Free Costs

There’s a real cost to free, which most people don’t take into account when they launch their services or blog. That’s the time it takes to build a quality reputation via free services. By assuming that giving away free time will monetize, Zoetica shoulders great risk. For example, in addition to the Salon announcement today, the company also announced the addition of Julie Pippert to the team (Welcome, Julie!). Deploying Julie’s unbillable time to the page is a significant investment.

It is a risk that all of the partners have successfully shouldered individually, so the leap is taken with faith. Perhaps the poster child of free intellectual property Cory Doctorow said it best:

“For me, the answer is simple: if I give away my ebooks under a Creative Commons liscence that allows non-commercial sharing, I’ll attract readers who buy hard copies. It’s worked for me – I’ve had books on the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) bestseller list for the past two years.”

Other online organizations have sought different methods of monetization, including advertising, sponsor programs, affiliate marketing, membership fees and subscription models. Every entity has to choose the model it thinks will serve its community of interest best, and ultimately serve its long-term business goals. And so with that, let the free experiment known as the Zoetica Salon begin.

A complete discussion on the economics of Free can be found in Chris Anderson’s book Free (which was available online for five weeks free of charge).