The Real Reasons Why Non-Profits Struggle with Social Media Management
I’ve gone on assignment, digging into how non-profits use social media and more importantly — understanding what challenges they are facing with social outreach.
After meeting with a few local non-profits, analyzing report after report and running an endless number of Google searches, I’ve got a good idea of why they are struggling with social media and what resources they need to improve their outreach efforts.
Before we get in too deep, here are a few stats from the 2012 Non-Profit Social Networking Benchmark Report, a survey of 3,522 non-profits, to get an idea of how they are handling their social media outlets:
- 98% of non-profits have a Facebook page
- More than half, 66%, use Facebook as a means of building awareness
- 72% have a twitter profile
- 44% are on LinkedIn
- 23% are on Google+
- A whopping 46% had no budget ($0) allocated to maintaining their social presence
- Only 10% of NGO’s have one dedicated social media professional
Seeing as how nearly all organization that responded to this survey have claimed their space in the Facebook and Twitter communities, it is clear that creating those entities is not the problem — it’s maintaining and engaging supporters. How are those 66% of NGOs looking to raise awareness on Facebook supposed to succeed when they don’t have anyone to maintain their social outlets?
Here lies the problem. As confirmed by a recent sit down with Marcel Reyes, Project Manager of Health Sciences Development for the University of California, San Diego, and avid committee member and ambassador of several local organizations, most non-profits do not have the bandwidth to dedicate one person or even a half of a person to their social media efforts. Reyes says, “It’s known that most non-profit organizations are under-resourced, and that feeds right into: how do we best utilize resources?” — a question not so easily answered.
Another Southern California based non-profit confessed they spend “about 30 seconds” checking their Facebook page in the morning simply due to lack of personnel dedicated to that space. Like most NGOs in this situation, they rely on their staff’s personal experiences and interests in the networks to do their best to engage and build awareness.
“What we really need is a Swiss Army knife, a tool that we can integrate into our daily routine while still reaching a lot of our supporters at once,” Reyes said in response to what would make managing social media easier for organizations he is involved with. “A simple analytics dashboard with an easy way to measure ROI would help further our social efforts as well. Not only do we have limited resources when it comes to social media, but we’re also stunted because the people who allocate funds don’t understand the social media medium at all. From how much to pay a social media manager if they were hired, to the value of social outreach, it’s still uncharted territory for most non-profits.”
"We still live in an age where investing funds into social networking applications and social media positions can feel like a gamble for an organization with a tight budget," Reyes continues. "We have to bridge a gap that’s getting bigger. We understand the original purpose of these apps and the Internet itself as a way to access information for the purpose of getting it out there, but can we also see it a dynamic and effective channel to facilitate private support? We need to understand how these tools deepen our capacity to accomplish our objectives. We obviously sense we need to capitalize on technology, but from great to small non-profits, we need to be walked through this to capture the opportunity and to re-tool, pun-intended, an evolved vision.”
Another lesser known challenge non-profits face with social media is discretion. It is common for people involved with non-profits use two accounts, a business appropriate and a personal account under an alias, on sites like Facebook in order to avoid posting something embarrassing, or something that may conflict with the politics of their organization. “Some people people are afraid of social media,” Reyes said, “so we are looking for a safe method of outreach that wouldn’t cause internal or external conflict with what we share.”
So how can non-profits achieve social media nirvana when they don’t have the bodies, the know-how or the tools to do so? The tactics are endless depending on the structure of each organization, but staying active — even if that means you’re a 30-second a day social media evangelist — is better than leaving your communities abandoned. What tools and strategies does your non-profit use to tell their story? Does your organization face other social media management challenges not mentioned here?
Share your thoughts and social media tips in the comments! And stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll cover how to streamline your social media management so that you’re not wasting time.