Idealware just released a report on their survey of nearly 500 nonprofit professionals regarding their use of social media and their perceptions of the efficacy of various social media channels.
I think that the conclusions on page 13 are really the most important part of the report, I'm not sure any are earth shattering, but they are good reminders. Here are the headlines, with my thoughts, download the report for more detail:
Facebook was most used, but not necessarily most effective. Interestingly, a lower proportion of nonprofits using Facebook regularly update it than with Twitter which suggests to me that it is harder to keep a Facebook profile updated than a Twitter account. In my personal experience I find it very easy to ignore Facebook in general, and information from organizations I've "liked" on Facebook specifically. But I am not an average Facebook user.
Nonprofits found Twitter quite effective. The study reinforces my conclusion above that Twitter is easy to keep up to date, and the number bare that out, even though fewer respondents were using Twitter than Facebook, more of those that were using Twitter were updating regularly. I know that personally I learn alot about organizations I am interested in based on what they tweet, and have learned about many organizations from people I follow retweeting them.
Blogs were also effective. Particularly at connecting with existing audiences. I'd be interested to know how those audiences are driven to the blogs, via Twitter and Facebook? I know that is how I get to the blog posts of the organizations I am interested in. I rarely think, "I wonder what organization x is up to, let me check their blog."
Video and Photo sharing sites are worth considering. This conclusion was based mostly on the surprising number of organizations responding to the survey that were using them, though not based on a measure of effectiveness, or any costs/benefits analysis.
MySpace was not widely used, nor considered comparatively effective. NEWSFLASH MySpace is the sinking ship of social networks (in the US) unless you are a band, or a teenager. This could change if MySpace positions itself strategically against Facebook on the privacy issues, but that doesn't seem too likely, and I doubt that people would defect back from Facebook TO MySpace.
LinkedIn also does not appear particularly compelling for goals beyond fundraising. This one surprised me in a big a way. I have not seen any nonprofits using LinkedIn in anyway in my personal or professional experience, however, I think it could be the most underutilized tool in nonprofit friend- and fund-raising. I am certainly going to look into this more.
It is worth noting that the Idealware report is based on survey of perception, not on concrete metrics like funds raised via social media channels, or actual donor acquisition numbers. There were no questions in the survey about how many people or how much time the organization dedicated to the social media channels. With that said, the results are still useful in gauging nonprofit professional's opinions about social media, and it is good to see that so many are using these tools, and recognize value in them.
As strategic professions it is our job to ensure that organizations are using the right tools and actually getting value from them.