For all the time your organization spends on Facebook, how many people actually share a post, or comment on it? It’s well documented that nonprofits aren’t raising much money via social networks but is anyone actually reading your status updates or clicking on the links?
As any social media “guru” will tell you — or any teenager for that matter — it helps if you include a photo in your Facebook post. The 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study confirms it: Users were twice as likely to like, share or comment on a photo post than any other content on Facebook. Photos had the most “virality,” at 3.3 percent, and only video had above-average virality, at 1.6 percent.
Co-authored by M+R Strategic Services in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.-based Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), the seventh annual study analyzed online messaging, fundraising, advocacy, social media and mobile metrics from some of the nation’s leading nonprofits. This year’s participants provided data from 2011 and 2012 but may not have participated in previous years.
Virality is defined in the study as the percentage of users who seen a post on Facebook and then create a “story” on Facebook by liking, sharing, commenting, answering a question, responding to an event or claiming an offer.
Among 55 nonprofits in this year’s study, the overall average virality for an organization’s Facebook post was 1.4 percent. The lowest virality was 1 percent, for a question or a share, while a link produced just 1.2 percent, and a status update 1.3 percent.
Based on a nonprofit’s size, smaller organizations enjoyed higher viral rates (2.4 percent) than either medium (1.4 percent) or large organizations (1.2 percent). Among subsectors, rights organizations had the highest average lifetime virality (3.2 percent), while environmental (2.3 percent) and wildlife and animal welfare (2 percent) both were above average.
Organizations in the study posted about once per day (1.1) on Facebook, but large groups posted twice as often (2.1). International groups were the most active (1.7) compared with others, such as rights (1.2) or wildlife and animal welfare (0.8).
While Facebook posts with photos were by far the most popular among users to like, share or comment, they were not effective at driving traffic as other social media. Despite not generating as many comments, link, share and video posts were more successful in driving traffic and getting users to actually click to a webpage.
The social media analysis also examined the reach for an organization’s Facebook posts. Reach was defined as the number of people who are shown an organization’s Facebook page posts anywhere on Facebook; it only shows that the content is displayed for them.
It’s important to note that Facebook announced a problem in February 2013 in its reporting of Reach, which affected the 2012 data collected for the study. The issue has been corrected but the 2012 data has not, making it difficult to compare against any organization’s 2013 data.
The average 28-day reach as a percentage of fans was 327 percent. Highest among subsectors was rights with 431 percent, followed by wildlife and animal welfare, 414 percent. All other subsectors were below the average, with a low of 216 percent in health, 277 percent in environmental and 201 percent in international. The reach was inversely proportionate to the size of an organizations; small groups had a reach of 380 percent, compared with 301 percent for medium, and 230 percent for large.
The average lifetime link clicks, as a percentage of post reach, was 0.22 percent overall. For a link, that figure was 0.4 percent, followed closely by a share, at 0.34 percent and a video post, 0.24 percent. Other types of posts were nearly zero, with only 0.01 percent for a photo.
Social media continues to grow faster than email lists, with Twitter gaining steam now that Facebook seems to have caught on. Twitter grew 264 percent among nonprofits in the study last year, compared with 46 percent for Facebook. For every 1,000 email subscribers, an organization had 149 Facebook fans, 53 Twitter followers and 29 mobile subscribers.
The monthly growth rate for Facebook fans was on average, 2.6 percent, with range of 1.5 percent for rights to 3.2 percent for wildlife and animal welfare.
Small organizations continued to have the highest average number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers, with 273 and 175, respectively, for every 1,000 email subscribers, compared with medium (126, 49) and large (135, 44) organizations. Among subsectors, international and rights organizations led the way in both categories as well, with 283 and 257 fans on Facebook, respectively, per 1,000 subscribers, and 231 and 126 followers, respectively, on Twitter.
Overall, the average nonprofit in the study has 21,788 Twitter followers, with a high of 146,630 among international and a low of 18,936 for rights organizations, although other subsectors were within a few thousand of that figure. The average number of Facebook fans was 35,538, with a high again by international at 173,580, but followed more closely at 94,543, by wildlife and animal welfare, and 70,430, environmental.
Mobile lists are growing at twice the rate of email lists, albeit mobile programs are relatively small compared to email lists, and text messages are sent much less frequently.
The median list size for a nonprofit in the study was 31,538, with annual list growth of 32 percent and churn of 8 percent and 9 texts sent per subscriber. Among the 75th percentile, list growth was 90 percent and annual churn was 20 percent, while the list size was 47,016 and 13 texts sent per subscriber. At the 25th percentile, list size was 8,774, with annual list growth of 20 percent and annual churn of 3 percent, but just 5 texts per subscriber.
More than three-quarters of the new names to mobile lists were from web forms, integrating with CRM, with users opting in when they complete a sign-up, advocacy or donation form. “This suggests that there is an extensive overlap between mobile and email lists,” according to the study.