Nonprofit Social Media Savvy Outpaces Private Sector

Though nonprofits are often seen as late adopters on the technology frontier, a recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research indicates quite the contrary with regard to social media. Results shows nonprofit groups are actually well ahead of their brethren for-profit businesses in their use of social-media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. The soon-to-be-released study found that 89 percent of nonprofit organizations are using some form of social media. Fifty-seven percent report that they use blogs. Forty-six percent of those studied report social media is very important to their fundraising strategy.

It’s really not so surprising. Since the beginning of time, nonprofit leaders have been concerned with finding new ways to do more with less. They are necessarily lean and scrappy—so they recognized early on the cost-effectiveness of capitalizing on the interactivity, reach, and efficiency of social media tools to broaden their marketing efforts. It really makes sense on many levels. When I speak too nonprofits about embracing social media, I always mention the time-proven fundraising adage –“People don’t give to organizations. They give to people.” In a nutshell, that is the power of social media—harnessing the power of the personal appeal—in a new media paradigm.

Plus, any organization— from your local pet shelter to the American Red Cross can instantly establish a presence on many social networks, acquiring followers, fans, and benefactors it might never reach traditionally. The only investment is time. And a little expertise can help avoid the pitfalls and ramp up your presence more quickly and productively. The question is no longer, “Do you tweet?” It’s, “What’s your social media strategy?”

Face it, Facebook has a tantalizing appeal –even at first blush! It has an inherent attraction for development folks. Ideas such as “establishing a dialogue,” “engaging in the conversation”, and “cultivating interest” are all the very fundamentals of the development process. But alas, many organizations think it sounds great, but they never harness the real power. But, the truth our stories “sell” our organizations. It’s the emotional connection that makes social media magic.
Consider this – the cause-marketing consulting firm Cone Inc. has published the statistic—“93% of consumers now expect your organization to use social media. “ The University of Massachusetts study tells us that “89% of NPOs do. “ Perhaps, those for-profit companies wishing to remain so in these tough times should actually take a page out of the “nonprofit journal” to catch up to a whole new marketing philosophy that nonprofits are already embracing. The numbers tell all. Recent research reveals:

• Worldwide, 60% of execs and IT professionals “do not understand the potential social media offers employees or customers” (source: Avanade)
• Only 16% of the Fortune 500 companies have public blogs (source: US Web Central)
• Approximately 5% of small businesses use social media (source: eMarketer via Sage Research)

As a matter of fact, I discussed this issue just this week over coffee with a very high-powered business marketing exec in Dallas. We were exploring the nuances of the social media phenomenon, and he observed that the marketing concepts we all learned in business school are morphing in real time. It’s a completely different ballgame, and we need to rewrite the playbook. Whether you are a 501 (c) 3 or Sub Chapter S, now, it’s less about “building a brand.” It’s more about “creating a conversation.”

Do you have a nonprofit social media success story? Tell us about it.

4 thoughts on “Nonprofit Social Media Savvy Outpaces Private Sector

  1. Great article! Loved reading the study. Interestingly, there is much out there in noprofit social media…we are still learning and reading, but have found Twitter and Facebook extremely successful in getting our message out. Last year, we won the Case Foundation’s Giving Challenge and the full report was just published today. There is a whole section on how our little charity used Facebook successfully

    1. Karen, congratulations. What an amazing success story! And thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I work with nonprofits of all sizes to help them maximize social media. Thank you for sharing your strategy!

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