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‘How Not for Profits Deter Donors on Social Media’


Thursday, 24th October 2013 at 9:32 am
Staff Reporter, Journalist
A study of donor, supporter and volunteer responses to the content posted on social media by Australian Not for Profits may surprise. In today’s Hot Topic, PhD researcher Karen Sutherland reveals how some social media practices employed by NFPs are putting them off.

Thursday, 24th October 2013
at 9:32 am
Staff Reporter, Journalist


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‘How Not for Profits Deter Donors on Social Media’
Thursday, 24th October 2013 at 9:32 am

A study of donor, supporter and volunteer responses to the content posted on social media by Australian Not for Profits may surprise. In today’s Hot Topic, PhD researcher Karen Sutherland reveals how some social media practices employed by NFPs are putting them off.

I am currently conducting an exploratory research study with charities and current and prospective donors, supporters and volunteers in relation to their social media activities and attitudes. As part of my study, I have asked donors, supporters and volunteers about their responses (or lack of) to content posted on social media by by Not for Profits and what particular social media practices employed by NFPs deter them.

Here are three of the themes coming out of my research:

1.       Posts  are too long

Obviously this cannot apply to Twitter, but the participants in my study have said that Not for Profits posting large slabs of text on their Facebook pages are a huge turn off.

They want succinct yet informative posts, so that they can understand your message quickly as they scroll through their newsfeeds. If you want to include more detail, include a link to more information on your website.

Trying to include too much may result in followers not reading anything at all. This finding reinforces that the theory of TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) is definitely alive and well.

2.       Being too negative

Participants in my study identified Not for Profits who focused on the negative more than the positive as a strong deterrent for them. They highlighted the importance of telling stories illustrating how an organisation has made a positive impact on a person or a cause rather than focusing on showing the plight of the person or issue needing assistance.

They want less of the before and more of the after. In a survey I conducted with 112 people, 58 per cent said that social media has not prompted them to donate to, volunteer with, or support a charitable organisation because they use social media to connect with friends and family.

Some of the people that I interviewed considered their newsfeeds to be a very personal space where they can escape life for a while to catch up with their friends and family. Not for Profits need to consider this when developing content. It’s important to be user-centric, so keep it light and positive rather than killing the mood for someone on their own newsfeed.

3.       Too many posts and too frequent calls to action

Not for Profits that jam followers’ newsfeeds with content were rated by study participants as an annoying social media practice. Even worse were Not for Profits who appealed for assistance (goods, money and/or time) or to sign petitions too frequently.

A combination of these activities was considered to be even more off-putting. As mentioned previously, social media is not traditionally viewed as a vehicle to engage with Not for Profits by its users.

Don’t wear out your welcome with your followers by bombarding them with information and requests for assistance too often. Only post when there is something important to say; and by important, I mean important to the people following your organisation not solely important to your organisation.

Social media is about relationships. Remember that it is social and it is about sharing interesting content between people. You don’t want your organisation to be viewed as a needy friend who constantly takes over the conversation to talk about their problems. Instead, be the inspirational and positive influence that your followers admire.

About the author: Melbourne Researcher Karen Sutherland has completed 18 months into a doctoral thesis at Monash University where she is exploring how Not for Profit organisations are using social media compared with what their donors, supporters and volunteers actually want.

The research is expected be completed early in 2015. Karen Sutherland can be contacted via email to karen.sutherland@monash.edu

 


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