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How the Top 50 Nonprofits Do Social Media: CraigConnects Gives the Scoop

By on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are the top nonprofit organizations using social media effectively and how are people responding? CraigConnects examined Facebook and Twitter postings by the top 50 nonprofit organizations in August and September 2011. All of the organizations in the study had net incomes over $277 million dollars.

Far and away, PBS had the most comments on Facebook with 17,205 comments during the two-month study period. It’s closest competitor was Planned Parenthood, with 6,577 comments, followed by the American Red Cross (5,336 comments), the Nature Conservancy (5,254 comments) and Susan G. Komen for the Cure (3,782 comments).

PBS was also the most “liked” on Facebook with 928,605 fans, followed by World Vision (656,152), the Metropolitan Museum (555,992), Susan G. Komen for the Cure (499,661) and ALSAC/St. Jude’s Research Hospital (476,270). PBS was a second in terms of Facebook postings with 211 posts in two months, compared with Food for the Poor’s 220 posts. Feed the Children made 209 posts, the United States Fund for UNICEF made 175 posts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art had 120 posts.

No surprise – PBS ranked #1 in Twitter followers with 840,653 and was the most talkative on Twitter with 877 posts over the two-month study period. PBS ranked second in following others, with 174,137, behind the American Cancer Society (200,522).

It should be noted that even the smallest organization in this study, had a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. So they potentially had the funding and staff time to learn social media technologies and hire consultants to help them as they built social media presences. Yet for all their dollars, that didn’t necessarily mean social media success. A number of the larger nonprofits have low numbers – with YMCA of the United States with only 176 Twitter followers and Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home with only 134 Twitter followers. Both didn’t join Twitter until 2010.

But for an early adopter like Operations Blessing International Relief, early adoption of social media technology didn’t necessarily mean followers in the hundreds of thousands. Even after 3 years on Twitter, the organization only had 2,306 followers – a far cry from the American Red Cross’s 534,006 followers. The American Red Cross joined Twitter only 5 months before Operations Blessing International Relief.

What’s the good news in all this for average, run of the mill nonprofits? First, money did not always equate to dominance, even among these larger nonprofits. PBS ranked 31st in funding, yet was #1 in Facebook comments and likes. The researchers noted when looking at Twitter activity, that quality seemed to matter more than quantity. The researchers note that a commitment to fostering conversations and interactions, matters more than money, when it comes to the social media space.

Because the researchers at CraigConnects only looked at the 50 largest nonprofit organizations (in terms of budgetary size), the results may seem disheartening to smaller nonprofit organizations, who may be doing quite well at engagement in social media. In some cases, smaller organizations may have higher rates of social media engagement, simply because they are working with smaller communities that care about a cause.

See the infographic summarizing the report.

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