Charities Outpace Business in Social Media – Again

We recently reported that US businesses ranks ninth – behind several countries with much smaller economies – in profiting from social media strategies. A new study reveals that – for the third year running – US businesses lag behind academia and large charities in social media adaptation. Perhaps the most discordant finding is that in 2009, 93% of the top charities monitored their names, causes or other pertinent information and 73% of US colleges and universities monitored buzz online about their school – while only 68% of the Inc. 500 monitored their brands.
The new report is the outcome of a study of the nation’s 200 largest charities in the United States based on a list compiled annually by Forbes magazine. The study was led by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., Senior Fellow and Research Chair of the Society for New Communications Research and Chancellor Professor of Marketing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite Inc., a Seattle-based research firm. This is the third year that Barnes and Mattson have tracked social media adoption by the nonprofit sector, and theirs is the only statistically sound valid longitudinal study of its kind.
In 2007, the first study of this group’s use of social media was released. It revealed that these large nonprofits were leading large and small businesses as well as universities in their familiarity with, usage of, monitoring and attitude toward social media. One year later, in 2008, the second study showed that they led in knowledge, adoption and positive attitude about the importance of social media. This new research shows that these charitable organizations are still outpacing the business world and academia in their use of social media.

The study’s key findings include:

97% of charities responding report using at least one form of social media, including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging, wikis and Twitter. This represents an eight percent increase over 2008 and a 22% increase over the 2007 study.
93% of the top US charities now have a Facebook profile and 87% have a Twitter presence.
65% of these nonprofits are blogging, making this group the most prolific bloggers of any sector – 22% of the Fortune 500 are blogging and 45% of the Inc. 500 are blogging, while 55% of college and university admissions departments have blogs.
The use of video blogging was the fastest-growing social media tool between 2007 and 2008 among these successful charities. This year, the use of video dropped, while the use of social networking and Twitter increasingly dominated nonprofits’ social media activity.
79% feel that social media is at least “somewhat important” to their future strategy.
Regular social media monitoring by the charities 18% increase over last year’s study, with Google alerts the most popular automated method among these nonprofits.


“The largest US nonprofit organizations continue to outpace businesses and even academic institutions in their familiarity, use, and monitoring activity. These top organizations have found a new and exciting way to engage employees, volunteers and donors,” stated Barnes.
“The nonprofit sector is connected and prepared to use social media to react quickly, as evidenced by responses to recent disasters. They have truly embraced social media tools in a way no other sector has. It will be exciting to see where the most innovative among them lead us to next,” added Mattson.