Richard Evans: Who's on top of the Twitter tree?

The National Trust has had a brilliant year on the social media site, writes our guest columnist, and the top 50 charities increased their followings by more than 800,000

Richard Evans
Richard Evans

It’s been a year since I’ve started tracking Twitter media audiences.

And, with the top 10 exactly the same as three months ago, I thought I would start the new year by looking at the charities that increased their Twitter followings fastest in 2017.

The first thing to highlight is the obvious – the National Trust has had a brilliant year on Twitter. Not content with starting 2017 with the biggest charity Twitter audience, it proceeded to spend the next 12 months accumulating new followers at more than double the rate of any other charity.

Overall, it increased its Twitter following by 116,979 during 2017. That’s almost 10,000 extra followers a month!

With its great use of photography, assured tone and interesting content, if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration then its feed is a good place to start.

So congratulations, National Trust social media team: you won Twitter in 2017!

But it's not the only charity to have seen large growth in its Twitter audience in 2017. In fact, 10 charities increasing their followings by more than 20,000.

A particular honourable mention goes to Mind, whose increase of more than 50,000 saw it claim a comfortable second place. And to Samaritans, whose 19,447 extra followers meant it increased its audience by a quarter.

Looking across the top 50 charities, they have increased their followings by a total of 846,786 – an amazing collective achievement.

It will be interesting to track progress over 2018 and see whether the charities with big increases are the same ones as last year.

It will also be interesting to see how the overall rate of Twitter growth changes. My guess, as nervous as I am of new year predictions, is that the top 50 will accumulate slightly fewer extra followers this year. We shall see.

Anyway, here’s the full list…

Increases in Twitter followers in 2017

National Trust: 116,979
Mind: 51,482
RSPB: 32,542
Rethink Mental Illness: 29,230
Dogs Trust: 28,905
Help for Heroes: 28,654
BHF: 27,220
Woodland Trust: 26,115
Cancer Research UK: 25,946
Stonewall: 25,401
British Red Cross: 22,743
Samaritans: 19,447
Amnesty UK: 17,957
Alzheimer’s Society: 17,614
Macmillan Cancer Support: 16,059
Shelter: 15,888
Royal British Legion: 15,744
Comic Relief: 14,734
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home: 14,717
Guide Dogs: 14,618
WWF: 14,337
NSPCC: 13,996
RNLI: 13,994
Save the Children: 13,082
Diabetes UK: 12,547
BBC Children in Need: 12,408
Crisis: 12,389
Barnardo’s: 12,237
Cats Protection: 11,989
Oxfam GB: 10,977
Marie Curie: 10,689
Age UK: 10,258
National Trust for Scotland: 9,802
Prince’s Trust: 9,250
Unicef UK: 9,153
Blue Cross: 9,145
Breast Cancer Care: 8,696
Scope: 8,251
Children’s Society: 7,810
Action for Children: 7,784
Stroke Association: 7,675
Great Ormond Street: 7,505
PDSA: 7,336
Breast Cancer Now: 6,852
Parkinson’s UK: 6,777
ABF (the soldier’s charity): 6,360
Prostate Cancer UK: 6,163
Plan International UK: 6,102
Teenage Cancer Trust: 6,053
Arthritis Research UK: 5,174

As always, it’s worth saying that looking at how many Twitter followers a charity has is only ever a finger in the air and comes with some big caveats. Not only is the number of followers just a single (and sometimes misleading) measure of success, but some charities will have causes and audiences that make it easier to build a big following than others. The results are also likely to be at least partly due to the resources – both staff and non-staff – committed to it.

The list of charities was based on the Charity Financials list of the top 100 fundraising charities, not including charities that were more cultural institutions than fundraising charities (such as Tate Britain and the National Gallery) or those without a significant social media presence. I also added nine charities not in the Charity Financials list that have famous brands or big social media presences. Mencap and the RSPCA are not included in this list because I added them only part way through the year. Data was recorded on December 30, 2017, and compared to that of 29 December, 2016.

Richard Evans is head of press and public affairs at The King's Fund. This article first appeared on his personal website, One Riot

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