NGOs & Nonprofits, Social media & networking

NGOs and social media

Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting to Ross Monaghan at Deakin University about social media in general, but also about its use by NGOs and non-profits.

One point that came out of the conversation was that such groups seem to be jumping into the social media realm more readily than others (government and businesses in particular), and Ross asked what reasons I thought might be contributing to this.

Thinking about it on the spot, I came up with 3 reasons why I think social media is a great fit for non-profits which I thought I’d share here.

  1. They have “passionate users”: NGOs are often (though not always) working in areas that people are passionate about – human rights, the environment, youth services. Supporters are happy to help spread the word through their networks, and are also happy to “invite them in” to their space.
  2. They have a “remarkable” product: Seth Godin talks about “remarkable” products – that is products that people want to remark (i.e. talk) about – as being the first part of a strong marketing strategy. For the same reason that NGOs have passionate users, their product (the cause, campaign etc.) is often remarkable. Of course, not all topics that NGOs/non-profits work on are “remarkable” – and sometimes it takes some creativity to make them sparkle. But I think perhaps that the job is a little easier for NGOs than many businesses.
  3. They (often) have limited budgets: social media can be an extremely cost effective means of promoting a cause, campaign or organisation. Even if an NGO has a significant online budget (and research shows that budget does matter) it’s always great to be able to save some donor dollars. A Facebook fan page, or a free Ning social network, can be as effective (possibly more effective) than a campaign site costing tens of thousands of dollars.

The first two points really make a difference in the success of social media engagement. So with potential financial benefits to boot, I think social media can be a really good option for NGO/non-profit organisations, and I suspect that’s why uptake has been reasonably quick by this sector.