Nonprofit Social Media: What’s at Stake

1 Nov

Reputations at risk

An article by Sanngeeta Haindl from Justmeans got me thinking about a topic I haven’t covered concerning social media: reputation.  Haindl wrote about a survey conducted in London in which

“A staggering 52 per cent were reluctant for their organisations to use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as they had concerns about reputational risk, which prevented many from making the most of the communications opportunities provided by social media trends.”

The main reason for distrust of social media within the various organizations was fear of negative comments in a public forum.  This may be a concern for many, since it’s easy to receive feedback that charities may not be happy with.  People now have the ability to express their opinion to a wide audience through social media, so the relationship between the organization and their supporters has shifted from a controlled line of communication and donation collection to a transparent, public conversation.  As discussed in the article, there’s not very much negative feedback toward non-profits, since public trust placed in charities is so high.  The problem is that these groups don’t always know how to listen and respond to the public conversation.

A look at what works

The article suggests that managers look at specific case studies to see the value of social media.  Some good examples can be found on Facebook and Twitter pages for LIVESTRONG, Hope for Haiti, or Campaign for Cancer Prevention.  These are groups that have grown their following base to thousands of people, and have run effective campaigns to spread awareness and raise money using social media.  They have realized the power of various networks and how they can help their respective causes.  Another benefit?  A new type of relationship between the charity and the supporter/donor.  Here’s an excellent quote from Haindl’s article:

“Previously, a charity’s relationship with a supporter would only begin when the person became a donor, yet now through social media trends a charity can begin its relationship with people well before the donor stage”

Advertising and charities

There’s a second component to this idea, and that’s the use of nonprofit advocacy by businesses.  Many companies are promoting charity projects (see Pepsi’s Refresh Project), or are sponsoring programs like Twollar’s (see my post).  While they’re making efforts to support good causes, the question of whether or not advertising starts disguising itself through advertising.  Let’s return to the Pepsi Refresh Project.  They’ve installed an application on Facebook  that allows users to discuss their ideas and try and gain votes for their projects.  While it’s a good use of Facebook, there’s advertising going on (note the main picture).  I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.  Why not combine viral interest with advertising revenue?  It gets the word out, and the bottom line is Pepsi is still donating money to various charitable causes.  There’s definitely going to be some scrutiny though, and companies that do choose to team up with charities should expect to be put under a microscope concerning their advertising.


2 Responses to “Nonprofit Social Media: What’s at Stake”

  1. Rick Hancock November 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Very thoughtful. Good.

  2. lindschristine November 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    Very interesting and insightful post! I just blogged about Proctor & Gamble’s efforts to donate clean drinking water to poor countries by developing a widget to be included on blogs. Take a look:

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