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BLOG Charity Facebook Followers Prefer to Share

4 August 2015 at 12:14 pm
Xavier Smerdon
A significant percentage of charity Facebook followers much prefer to share content than comment on their favourite causes, writes researcher and public relations lecturer, Karen Sutherland in her latest Blog.

Xavier Smerdon | 4 August 2015 at 12:14 pm


BLOG Charity Facebook Followers Prefer to Share
4 August 2015 at 12:14 pm

A significant percentage of charity Facebook followers much prefer to share content than comment on their favourite causes, writes researcher and public relations lecturer, Karen Sutherland in her latest Blog.

Sometimes people in charge of a charity’s social media contact me feeling frustrated.  They try and they try to create discussions between their Facebook followers and the response is equivalent to, “cue the crickets sound now”.

While some organisations have really mastered this community engagement skill, many have not, so my response is always: “Don’t worry, you are definitely not alone”.

In fact, an interesting theme emerged from my recent research with the Facebook followers of charities which may shed some light on this. Namely, a significant percentage of charity Facebook followers much preferred to share content than comment on it. After analysing the data from surveys, interviews and content analysis, the following became apparent.

Sharing = caring

By passing a charity’s message on to their own network, some followers felt as though they were helping that organisation, and in a sense they were. While sharing content does not equate to a donation or volunteering effort, it is providing the charity with access to a new network of people. In my interviews with charity Facebook followers, many described sharing a charity’s post as “doing their part,” or measured it as a way to “show their support”.

To charity Facebook followers, sharing equals caring.

Commenting can be scary

Commenting on a charity’s official public Facebook page was described as a daunting prospect to some followers. My research also showed that usually the same people liked to comment on charity Facebook pages, usually for their own entertainment. Others will post if they have a direct question to ask and they usually expect a quick reply.

Hesitation  in relation to commenting stemmed from a fear of writing the wrong thing, being judged on their comment by people that they didn’t know and/or they wanted to avoid (as they perceived it) “putting themselves in the spotlight”.

On a sadder note, some followers indicated that they did not believe anyone would be interested in their opinions. Instead, liking and sharing were deemed as much “safer”, more worthwhile and humble responses to a charity’s Facebook posts


Study participants were very discerning in relation to the charities that they followed and what content that they shared. It was rare for anyone in the study to follow more than three charities on Facebook. Also, a fear of judgement extended to the content that followers shared within their own networks.

Followers believed that the content they shared with their Facebook friends was a reflection of themselves and that their personal network would judge them as a person according to their posts. Apparent, was a strong intention not to “annoy people” by filling up their newsfeeds with negative and/or depressing content or posts continually seeking donations.

Followers were more likely to share brief, positive, humorous, and entertaining stories that were compellingly visual than other content. Content that had wide appeal was logically deemed as shareable.

So, what does this mean for charities?

  1. Don’t be too disappointed by a lack of comments on your charity’s Facebook page. Remember, a conversation needs at least two people. Little engagement of this kind may be due to issues from both sides of the equation. By all means test out content to see what works and what doesn’t and do some of your own research to see what other organisations are doing. There really isn’t a magic formula because your followers will never be the same as another charity’s. Just keep experimenting, measuring and improving. Don’t give up.

  2. Focus on creating shareable content. If this is what followers are more comfortable with, then go with it. The upside is that your message will reach people that your charity may not already have access to and you have made the person sharing it feel warm and fuzzy for doing so. Remember: brief, positive, humorous, entertaining, and compelling visual stories are preferred. Include a strong call-to-action fitting within these elements.

  3. Ask followers to share your message. Not every post, just the really important ones. The research shows that followers are open to sharing quality content within their own networks, so why not give them a friendly prompt to do this? A greater number of followers may be only too happy to oblige and again, your message will reach even further.

What type of Facebook content works best for your organisation to generate interaction?

About the author: Researcher Karen Sutherland has completed almost 2 years of 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. She is now a Public Relations lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast. You can follow her on Twitter @kesutherland777 or LinkedIn or email


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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