The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Social media study: What drives digital support for causes

Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide just released a new study that delves into the perceptions, behavior and motivations for cause support (locally and globally) among digitally engaged American adults.

Here are some of the most interesting findings.

Passion and pride drive people to post on causes: People who talk about causes online mostly (76%) do so to recruit others to their passion. Looking like a nice or smart person were distant seconds to the desire to influence others in general, but when it came to Facebook users (see bottom of this post), the desire to publicly display support of a cause came in first.

Conversations about causes are occurring primarily online, whether people choose to support the cause online or off. Social media is a go-to source of cause information, especially for global and faith-based causes. More than 8 in 10 respondents agreed that social media is effective in getting people talking about causes and issues. Animals and children topped the list of popular causes on social media (of course – puppies and babies win every time!).

puppies and babies

People are compelled to action by social media – but nonprofits shouldn’t ask for too much. More than half of survey respondents (55%) who engaged with causes via social media have been inspired to take further action. The most common next steps are: donating money (68%), donating personal items or food (52%), attending or participating in an event (43%), and volunteering (53%). But before you plaster your Facebook wall with constant requests for help, keep in mind that leading reasons people stop liking a charity on Facebook are the charity posts too often or only asks for money.

As usual, good stories are your best case for support. What does work for charity is when people read a story that makes them want to do more. The majority of respondents said that factor most influenced them.

People are skeptical about causes, so instill trust. The biggest barrier to nonprofits realizing the full potential of social media is the skepticism people reported feeling about the legitimacy of causes they discover online. Most people verify the legitimacy of a cause by researching online – which goes to show how critical it is for your cause to build a trustworthy, transparent web presence that details how you use support and your impact on the world.

For the full study, go here. For a post I did on another part of the study profiling personality types who support causes online, go here.

facebook infographic

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About This Blog
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Caryn Stein
Vice President, Communications and Content, Network for Good

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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