South African Nonprofits and Social Media Survey (2015 – 2016)

The South African Nonprofits and Social Media Survey (2015 – 2016) shows that more than 80% of NPO’s do not allocate a budget for social media, close to 50% said that staff lacked the expertise to manage social media, and almost one-third said they have no communications plan to guide their social media work. Despite this, the vast majority of South African nonprofit organisations are seeing positive benefits through using social media.

surveyNPOs reported that they primarily use social media to promote events, communicate with clients and stakeholders, curate news, build communities, and improve their marketing and branding. Facebook and Twitter remain the social networks of choice for NPOs, followed by YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+. However, few LinkedIn and Google+ accounts were found to be active.

Animal welfare wins Facebook

The most popular NPO sector on Facebook is animal welfare. These organisations have a median following almost five times higher than any other sector on Facebook. They typically use their pages for fundraising and finding homes for animals currently in shelters. Their positive stories and appealing images clearly resonate with an animal-loving public.

Human rights rules Twitter

Human rights organisations have the highest median following on Twitter. Their content curation tends to have a broad appeal, and can more easily be tied to current events and news. Twitter is an optimal platform for this type of messaging.

Social media needs a budget

Several trends related to higher rates of social media success emerged from the survey. Having a budget correlated positively with improved success, even when those budgets were reported to be smaller than required. It is clear that even a small budget has a positive impact on social media work.

More time managing social media = greater success

Another clear positive correlation could be seen between time spent on social media and greater reported success. While the majority of NPOs invested between 10 and 20 hours per week on social media, those that invested 20 – 40 hours per week report significantly higher rates of success, and those that invested less than two hours per week were the least successful.

NPO managers need to use social media

When managers use social media as part of their work, NPOs report increased success. This is likely because on social media, managers are able to speak on behalf of the organisation, express opinions and engage in debates, which results in a more compelling newsfeed. When managers use social media, they are three times more likely to allocate a budget for social media, understand the power and limitations of the networks, and more effectively support the organisation’s online work.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”. - Margaret Mead

It is not surprising that only a small minority of NPOs have a staff member dedicated solely to managing their social media, or that this was shown to be the most successful method of social media management. However, this is an impractical solution for the vast majority of NPOs. Instead, more NPOs could adopt the second most effective method of managing social media: having multiple staff members contribute. A diverse group of people actively contributing and curating content based on their areas of expertise can result in a more compelling and engaging newsfeed, without burdening any one staff member with the responsibility.

Social media is an intrinsic part of the NPO

Apart from the lack of a social media budget, many NPOs cited the lack of time available to adequately invest in social media, as other work needed to be prioritised. However, this mindset is the result of seeing social media as work in itself, rather than as an intrinsic part of the organisational work. Social media could be part of any programme objective that includes an outreach component, such as advocacy or rights education. Social media could be part of fundraising, not just by soliciting donations, but as part of branding, marketing and community building. All organisations need to raise awareness of their cause on some level, and while raising awareness is not an end in itself, social media can be used as part of this strategy.

Social media is successful!

Over 90% of NPOs that use social media for promoting events; communicating with clients and stakeholders; curating news; building communities; and improving marketing and branding; as well as over 50% of NPOs using social media for fundraising, reported that they were at least somewhat successful. Instead of seeing social media as an extra task to add to an already overburdened day, NPOs need to start integrating social media into their core work. Indeed, if at least some measure of success is still possible in the face of major obstacles such as no budget, time, training and strategic planning, how much more could NPOs achieve with an actual investment in social media?

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