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Charities have doubled social media engagement in a year, says report

Howard Lake | 24 September 2012 | News

UK charities have doubled the number of followers they have attracted on key social media channels, according to the 2012 Social Charity Index, published today by Visceral Business.

The top 100 charities now have

• 3.7 million followers on Twitter, up from 2 million in 2011


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• seven million followers on Facebook, compared to 3.5 million a year ago.

• one million followers on Google+

This is the second year that the Social Charity Index has been published. Visceral Business describe it as “the biggest and most comprehensive study of the state of social business in charities conducted in the UK”.

This year it has been “co-created in collaboration with over 50 charities” and involved studying 300 charities and their use of social media. It has been published in association with JustGiving.

Ranking charities by use of social media and impact

Visceral Business have also produced a Networked Power Index (NPI) that shows how charity income, supporter engagement and fundraising impact are becoming increasingly intertwined. It ranks charities by looking at at the relationship of income to social activity, calculating which charities are most connected to, and able to derive income from, supporter engagement.

Top of the list this year is UNICEF UK. Laila Takeh, Unicef UK’s Head of Digital Engagement attributes this ranking to the charity’s aim to “deliver experiences where the supporter is part of the story and not just an onlooker”.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has show the most rapid growth in the past year, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Children in Need, British Royal Legion, The Samaritans, and Girlguiding UK have all performed well compared to last year.

Source: fundraising.co.uk via Howard on Pinterest

Which channels do charities use?

• The number of channels that charities use is increasing.

• Facebook and Twitter still dominate, with YouTube established as a secondary platform.

• Google+, Vimeo, Instagram, Pinterest and Storify are emerging as popular platforms for some leading charities.

• Eight charities have built a strong presence of over 50,00 followers each on Google+.

• LinkedIn is still be under-utilised compared to the other platforms.

• Similarly charities are not as a whole making much use of location-based tools like Foursquare.

How are charities using social media in 2012?

A growing number of charities are investing in their own digital communities: 33% of charities now have their own community, up from 21% a year ago.

According to the report, “smaller, more networked charities in which people feel involved, and where there’s less of a perceived difference between the inside and the outside of the organisation, are doing particularly well”.

Charities perceive that owned and earned media are more likely to be effective compared to paid or promoted media. By developing these growing followings, they are, say the report’s authors, “developing a networked power to challenge conventional marketing methods”

Source: Uploaded by user via Howard on Pinterest

Because social media is now the norm for most major charities, it is becoming more important for all charities to differentiate themselves. “Charities now need to be able to pick and develop a portfolio of platforms that suits their brand”, said Anne McCrossan of Visceral Business.

She also considers whether these networks might lead to a change in how charities market themselves. “Will expenditure on not for profit marketing continue”, she asks, “to go through third party agencies in the way it has done, or should charities invest directly in developing their own capabilities as expanded, networked organisations, directly with their donors and supporters and by building the capabilities of their people?”

The study also suggests that many charities are still not yet realising the potential of supporters wanting to share their own involvement in fundraising activities using social media. For example, the report contends that “only nine of the charities in the Top 100 that do well on their strength of followings on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, are also charities that do well when it comes to standing out as being ‘shareable’ around fundraising.”