Social media isn’t as prevalent as we all think it is

Photo by Matt Hamm

The 2009 Massachusetts Non-profit Social Media Report was recently released by Talance, a web design and development company that focuses on helping organizations understand technology better. While the report focuses on Massachusetts, I would bet that it’s findings could be generalizable to many if not most states. Here are some highlights:

  • The most popular form (26%) of social media that organizations used was social networking (facebook, linked in, etc), while the least popular was microblogs (3%)
  • 80% were unfamiliar with microblogs (like Twitter)
  • Not everyone thinks social media is important for donor engagement, 48% said it wasn’t important
  • No one (79%) has an internet marketing plan

Monique Cuvelier, CEO of Talance took a few minutes to answer a few questions I had about the report and social media.

1. A very small percentage (0 – 5%) received individual gifts through online solicitation, why do you think that is and how can nonprofits change that?

This question about online solicitation was designed to uncover if respondents had any kind of formal programs designed around social media, and we chose fund development because it’s comparatively easy and accessible to set up an online campaign. The fact so few are accepting online donations is a very clear indication that non-profits aren’t quite sure what to do with social media. They’re not thinking in terms of application: creating a Facebook Cause to raise funds, sending out Twitter alerts for blood drives. There are many programs and services out there that make accepting online donations easy and affordable – it really doesn’t have to be any more sophisticated than making a big red button that says “DONATE” and linking it to a PayPal account. Of course there are more sophisticated tools out there, but this would be a solid first step.

2. If a nonprofit only has time to do one thing online, to only use one form of social media, which would you recommend and why?

You have to be where people are looking. If you sell mattresses, you want to be listed in the local yellow pages. If you have a young constituency, then you probably want to be on Facebook. It’s very hard to think of a one-size-fits-all solution, but if a non-profit is willing to make the time investment, a blog is the way to go. Good bang for the buck. It’s a way to deliver messages, open up communication and increase online presence.

3. What was the most interesting thing your report found? What was the most shocking?

The most interesting thing we found was the dichotomy between how valuable people believe social media is and how little they use for real programs. For instance, 80% consider social media either very important or somewhat important for peer-to-peer networking. By contrast 31% find social media unimportant to their business and marketing strategy. Without a doubt the most shocking thing was how 79% of the respondents said they had no Internet marketing plan at all. They’ve got to start thinking about using the Internet as a way to communicate with the public.

Please share what form(s) of social media your organization uses, and why you think it is important.

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