3 Niche Social Networks Utilized by Public Administration Professionals

A girl holding a paper with a smiley face

Social networks have made it possible for millions of people to connect and interact all over the world. While the best-known social media platforms get huge volumes of users, such as Facebook which has 1.94 billion users each month, other niche platforms also provide networking opportunities for civic-minded people. The following niche social networks are used by public administrators working in nonprofit organizations and public agencies to supplement their efforts using popular public messaging social media sites such as Twitter.

Second Life

Second Life is a virtual world where users create representations of themselves known as avatars and become residents in a virtual community. They take part in the virtual world in ways similar to the real world, interacting with other residents, travelling, socializing, and buying and selling goods and property. It is estimated that Second Life has 800,000 monthly users and anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of these participants are disabled. This means that people with physical, emotional, and developmental conditions have the ability to join and participate in ways that are not possible in the physical world.

Virtual Ability, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation providing information, services, and support to disabled individuals. The organization originated when a group of disabled Second Life users began meeting and interacting on an island they coined Virtual Ability Island, which eventually acquired nonprofit status. Their work now involves utilizing social networks, such as Second Life, to connect people with disabilities and train them to use assistive technology and computers, enabling users of the virtual community and even providing opportunities for disabled individuals to be hired for specific tasks.


Care2 is a social networking site that focuses on grassroots activism. Users create profiles and share their personal involvement in a variety of activist concerns such as social and environmental issues. Currently 40 million citizens are involved in the Care2 network who have amassed 570 million signatures for petitions. In addition to starting petitions and spreading information about their issues, users can donate money, volunteer, organize groups, and join nonprofits.

Many nonprofit organizations benefit from the Care2 social network and use the wide access and organizing capabilities to grow and fund their causes. According to their website, Care2 works with 2,000 nonprofit organizations focused on issues such as women’s rights, civil rights, animal welfare, and wildlife and environment protection. The nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife made use of Care2’s vast reach by providing them with a list of advocacy-focused actions that could attract new support. Within two and a half months of Care2 promoting the pledges, Defenders of Wildlife gained over 100,000 new subscribers, and received multiple additional donations. Another nonprofit that collaborated with Care2 was the Sudan Relief Fund. They worked together with the social network to send a time-sensitive petition to the President to help 89 boys who had been kidnapped by a militant group in South Sudan.


Nextdoor is a private social network where people share news and information with other users in their community. It is a place for neighbors to not only promote their garage sale or share gardener references; it can also be used in collaboration with local police as a form of neighborhood watch. Community members can alert each other of suspicious activities or crimes that have occured to prevent future break-ins or other crimes, making their neighborhood safer. This niche network fills a need for community awareness and interaction, which is the reason Nextdoor is currently active in 114,000 communities in the U.S. and hopes to reach 100 million users by 2020.

Hundreds of public agencies across the U.S. utilize Nextdoor to connect with their communities. Many of these agencies are police departments, fire departments and city communications, and public utility agencies. In San Francisco, there are multiple agencies using the network to gain information and share news with their citizens, such as the Department of Emergency Management, the County Transportation Authority, Department of the Environment, SF Water, Power and Sewer, and more. When the Sacramento Police Department adopted Nextdoor, more than 20,000 residents joined within a year leading to a 7.7 percent decrease in crime and a 30 percent decrease in shootings.

As a professional public administrator, close contact with people in the community is the essence of the work. In today’s technologically driven society, new ways to spread news and information are transforming community connections. Whether working in a nonprofit or a public agency, understanding the uses of unique social media platforms provides professionals with a way to stay connected, rally supporters, promote causes, and ensure the safety of the community.

Learn More

If you seek to change the world on a local, national, or global level, the University of San Francisco is a great place to start. By learning more about the University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), you will be taking an important first step toward pursuing your professional goals and commitment to social justice. Our program is designed for professionals who want to become effective managers and civic leaders who effect change through policy management and advocacy.

Recommended Readings

The Role of Performance Measurement in Public Administration
The Impact of Emerging Technology on Management and Public Administration
5 Tips on How to Find a Job With a Degree in Public Administration











call to action
Post a Comment or Question

Leave a Reply

4 − two =