Charities 'failing to make the most of social media and news' outside major crises

A report concludes that charities should focus on engagement with their brand on social media, not on the number of followers they have

Social media: charities 'should do better'
Social media: charities 'should do better'

- This article was amended on 9 November 2017; please see final paragraph

Charities are missing opportunities to engage with the public on social media and through news coverage outside major news stories and crises, according to a new report from the consultancy nfpSynergy and the media intelligence platform Meltwater.

The report is based on analysis of online news and social media coverage for the top 10 charity brands in the UK and Ireland carried out by Meltwater between 1 July 2016 and 1 July 2017.

The charities that featured in the top 10, which was compiled by nfpSynergy, were Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, the RSPCA, the British Red Cross, Macmillan Cancer Support, the British Heart Foundation, the NSPCC, Save the Children, Marie Curie and Barnardo’s.

Charities that deal with crisis situations, such as the British Red Cross, experienced overall increases in coverage, mainly because of world and national events, but the report says these charities are not maximising their social media potential between their crisis appeals.

The report concludes there is "weak link" between the number of likes or followers a charity has on social media and the number of times it is mentioned on social media platforms or in editorial media.

CRUK and Macmillan both had the most followers across all social media channels, the report says, but did not have the highest share of coverage in social media.

"When comparing share of voice on social media to news coverage, it would seem having a high or low total number of followers had little to no link with number of social media mentions," it says.

The report says that charities should instead focus on engagement with their charity’s brand on social media, not on the number of followers they have.

There was also no correlation between advertising spend and online mentions of a charity, the report says, because of a lack of trust in advertising among younger generations and the rise of ad-blocking software.

The report says: "A lesson here is that spending lots on advertising isn’t the key to online brand engagement. Instead, we must first focus our efforts on creating great content to encourage our audiences to engage with our brand."

The report says there was an 84 per cent reduction in press coverage of "aggressive fundraising" a year after the fundraising scandals of 2015/16, but warns that this could be because other long-running political dramas captured the media’s interest.

But the majority of journalists – 82 per cent – think that negative coverage of the charity sector will remain or increase in the year ahead, according to the report.

There was an increase in social media and news coverage for charities in December, and specifically the Christmas period, which the report says shows the month is an important time for charities to engage with journalists and the public.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said charities should "move from being policy process and protocol-obsessed to being people-obsessed".

He said the social media coverage of many charities was "devoid of the personalities that make the social media world go around", and many charities were struggling to use video, which was a major factor in social media coverage and engagement.

- The article was amended to make it clear that it was a joint report between nfpSynergy and Meltwater

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