It's key to have not only two-way communication, but three-way, if you want to gain traction in a community. Triads not just diads. That's why social networking works so well in concert with more traditional forms of marketing and communication. When you peel back the onion a bit, that's the whole principle behind the new craze with "word of mouth" marketing. Good grief, there's even a "Word of Mouth Marketing Association."
We talk amongst ourselves at Care2 a bit as to how long marketers will get away with planting average Joe citizens as strategic nodes in the marketing Borg (apologies for the Startrek reference) who will be perceived as "experts" or leading edge gurus with the inside track on the latest gear. See, that is how the word spreads naturally, and the slimy marketing gurus are trying to tap that. Short-term strategy?
We ask people we trust about how they like their new hybrid or iPod or Masai Barefoot Technology shoes. So the conscious feeding of word-of-mouth is questionable, but here's my point: you want people to talk about your product, or in the case of nonprofits, your cause, and that doesn't just always happen. So that's where social networking systems, such as discussion boards or blogs, can create a context for your customers (supporters, donors, activists) to connect with each other. It's another way for the word to spread with your organization as the host of a conversation that is relevant to your cause. Email blasts are important, but for the most part, they're diads unless they're forwarded on. Social networks give your customers another angle and opportunity to do your marketing for you, and to build a community with the common element being, hopefully, you and your cause.
You might see what Care2's Neal Gorenflo has to say about diads and triads, two-ways and three-ways, if you will, in his recent appearance on TechSoup's forum about the benefits of Social Networking for Nonprofits on April 19 and 20. There are some interesting comments by John Lorance of Compumentor/TechSoup and the other participants as well.