Monday, March 23, 2009

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

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.


Peggy Hoffman said...

I'm finding this report curious because my experience is somewhat different. The difference could be though simply that I'm more connected with membership nonprofits rather than service nonprofits (think assn vs charities) but I'm still wondering though if maybe it's the sample that is skewing the results. No where did I see the sample size or territory or any reference to demographics of the study - can you fill us in? Also, wish the surveyers would post a white paper with the demographics instead of charging us $99 to view that portion.

With the groups I'm working on, blogs are not my first recommendation simply because volunteers are less likely to commit to that time, but we are finding success in working with Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

frank said...

In my opinion nonprofits are CRAZY not be be involved in social media and blogging. There are all kinds of reasons you could say this is a bad idea and you could argue that it's a case by cases determination, but the fact is the internet is here to stay and it will only continue to grow.

Kids are growing up with 'social media' so you tell me where today's high school students will do their giving in 10 years.

Please go check this out: Don’t Fall Behind, Fundraising is Moving On ... and please do chime in on the conversation.

I know these are not the norm, but in my opinion it's the future.

monique c said...

Hi, Peggy. Thanks for your feedback. We saw a difference with the kind of non-profit we surveyed. Professional associations certainly felt more comfortable with technology than those focused on humanitarian aid, for instance.

I still think a blog is better bang for the buck (assuming you can commit the time), but I'd be interested in knowing some specifics about the success you're finidng with Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. Are these for the associations?

Nonprofit SOS said...

Thanks for commenting! The sample was taken of MA orgs, and they said the sample size was 150. Here's the other demographic info she sent me:

Talance solicited participants from non-profit listservs, blogs, in-person events and colleagues in Massachusetts, with most respondents from Boston and its suburbs. Talance targeted executive directors, campaign directors or other decision makers. The survey was distributed both in an online format to appeal to more tech-savvy groups, and a printed version to capture thoughts of those less aware of technology.

Participants ranged from volunteer-run peace action groups to organizations working on youth civic engagement to national environmental groups. A few had annual budgets over $100 million, but the vast majority had annual budgets less than $1 million.

Demographic responses show that:
- Survey respondents work across the spectrum of non-profit industries, including education, the environment, healthcare, youth issues, economic justice and professional associations.
- 69% of respondents operate on a budget of $1 million or under, and 28% operate on a budget of between $1-5 million.
- Respondents have a small number of paid staff with many run entirely by volunteers.

Lindsey said...

What I find most interesting about this report is the lack of having an internet marketing plan. Social media, while it looks easy, does require proper strategy in order to be effective. l

monique c said...

For sure, Lindsey. We were really surprised at how many people said they didn't have an Internet marketing plan. Plus, another 14% said they didn't know if they did, which could mean even more than that don't.

The lesson here is pretty clear: give some thought to strategy, otherwise your social media experiments can be a big time sink.

Cheryl said...

I also find the lack of internet marketing strategy to be surprising. In honestly, my organization does not have one yet but I am currently developing it (hence interest in blogs like this one). Also, I'm surprised by the blog as the one place to be. We are only on Facebook and the reasoning was to go where people already are instead of trying to bring them to a new place. All very interesting.

Mark Horoszowski said...

I think one of the biggest factors here that the report misses is WHO is doing the "social media". While Nonprofits are historically behind the tech curve, volunteers are much more "aggressive".

The key point is from #2 - you have to go where people are. And nobody is better at being where the people are, then the people themselves. Engaging and empowering your base is the best way for nonprofits to tackle social media.

How you do that, of course, varies vastly from organization to organization. But certainly listening to what people are saying in the various social media channels will point all organizations in the right direction.