What’s Next for Nonprofits and Social Media? (Part 1)

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Part 1: What’s next for nonprofits and social media 

It’s been a wild ride in social media this past year, hasn’t it? 

Scandals involving problematic hiring and firing practices, widespread ethics violations, and massive layoffs dominated the headlines, and made those in marketing take a hard look at the industry to determine if we even want to be a part of it. 

Meta axed 13% of its workforce on November 9 after Zuckerberg admitted he had over-invested in the company. This included their **entire** social impact department. Just in time for GivingTuesday and year-end fundraising! 

Over the summer, Snap Inc., the owners of Snapchat, slashed 1,200 jobs, roughly 20% of the company’s full-time workforce.

Also in November, Chief Twit Elon Musk laid off almost half of Twitter’s employees and 80% of contracted staff, with a significant portion of those working in the social impact department. I’ll dive more into the Twitter dumpster fire later in this episode. 

It’s no wonder that everyone started asking the question – What’s next for social media? And for us, we want to know – what does all of this mean for nonprofits? 

In this special three-part series I’ll review the current social media landscape as we enter 2023, important trends to consider, and the steps nonprofits can take to thrive, not just survive, in this culture of constant change.   

I want to start by addressing the elephant in the room, the big question – Does social media matter anymore? 

Let’s get to the stats first. According to Hootsuite, 4.7 billion people use social media, with an average time daily time spent of 2.5 hours. And according to the same report, Facebook and YouTube remain squarely at the top of the social media pyramid in terms of global active user figures. Google itself reported that nearly 40 percent of young people go to TikTok or Instagram to search instead of Google Maps or Google Search.

That’s the thing. The term social media, and the way in which we view it, has definitively changed. The old way is dead, that is certainly true. 

You know this if you’ve been on any of the big platforms in the last few years. Our Facebook and Instagram feeds have ceased to be unadulterated streams of posts from friends and people we’ve chosen to follow. Instead, the content and the posts that we are most likely to see are selected by algorithms, and can be bypassed by advertisers who pay to boost or promote their stuff.  

In their piece for Vice entitled “Social media is dead” Edward Ongweso Jr writes “For the most part, when it comes to the major firms that defined the term over the last few years, social media refers to platforms where user growth is leveraged into advertiser revenue, along with new goods and services to sustain user growth that is leveraged into advertiser revenue, and so on. 

These platforms allow for users to connect to others, and in the process of all that connection generate data which other businesses pay for and use to offer more relevant goods and services and experiences.”

The Atlantic soon followed with their article entitled “The Age of Social Media Is Ending”. Ian Bogost writes, “The terms social network and social media are used interchangeably now, but they shouldn’t be. A social network is an idle, inactive system—a Rolodex of contacts, a notebook of sales targets, a yearbook of possible soul mates. But social media is active—hyperactive, really—spewing material across those networks instead of leaving them alone until needed.”

Social media as we once knew it, is now not about connecting to those you know or even connecting with anyone in general. Connection as the platforms’ primary purpose for the most part has declined. It’s all about broadcasting and passive consumption – consuming content from content creators. 

Think about the platforms that are exploding in user growth: YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, and an endless number of streaming platforms. A creator and their audience. One to many, not one to one as originally touted by Facebook. 

This brings me to the first big trend that nonprofits need to understand. 

Social media is now not about who you know, and connecting with friends and family and sharing baby photos. Well some of it is. But the majority is about DISCOVERY. What’s new, what’s trending, what is everyone talking about? 

This means that more platforms are going to model the For You feed – everywhere you go online, you are going to see more and more content from Pages and people that you don’t follow infiltrating your Facebook feed, your Instagram feed, your LinkedIn feed. 

Zuckerberg himself has said this straight up, noting in a recent interview with The Verge that:

“What’s basically going to happen is that, over the next year or two, we’ll start showing more recommended content in the Feed. And we’ll know that we’re doing a good job because the content in the beginning is going to displace some other content, and either displacing that content is going to lead to negative feedback from people, and lead to people connecting with each other less in all the metrics that we focus on, or it will actually lead to people connecting more and being more satisfied with the product.”

This trend stems from TikTok, which focuses on showing you the best – meaning, most popular – posts from a wide variety of strangers, as opposed to pushing you to create and post your own content. 

This is the very trick that enables TikTok to maximize user engagement, because when you go on TikTok, you aren’t limited to just people you know. This also provides more exposure potential for creators, who are then able to have their posts seen by a lot more people, outside of their own audience. Kind of a win-win for everyone, and the world has responded. 

Nonprofits, you cannot ignore TikTok if you want to continually grow your audience with younger people.  And while half of TikTok’s U.S. audience is younger than 25, the app is winning grown-ups’ attention, too; the industry analyst eMarketer expects its over-65 audience will increase this year by nearly 15 percent. (AARP last year even unveiled a how-to guide.)

It is worth noting that some US lawmakers and others, who view the platform as a security threat because of its parent company’s roots in China, are working on an all-out ban of the app. In recent weeks more than a dozen US states and the US House of Representatives have banned TikTok from government devices. Some universities also are restricting access to the app.

But with more than 1 billion global users, TikTok may be too entrenched in our culture to be shut down. And, like anything super popular, this trend goes beyond just one platform. 

In their must-read article “How TikTok ate the internet” for The Washington Post, Drew Harwell writes: 

 “More than just a hit, TikTok has blown up the model of what a social network can be. Silicon Valley taught the world a style of online connectivity built on hand-chosen interests and friendships. TikTok doesn’t care about those. Instead, it unravels for viewers an endless line of videos selected by its algorithm, then learns a viewer’s tastes with every second they watch, pause or scroll. You don’t tell TikTok what you want to see. It tells you. And the internet can’t get enough.” 

I made the sad decision to leave Twitter in November. It was a long time coming, but I made the choice after the resignation of the company’s chief information security officer, chief privacy officer, and chief compliance officer. Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, has been welcomed back on the platform. And, according to Business Week, Twitter laid off 63% of women in engineering roles compared to 48% of men.

My blog posts still automatically tweet, but I don’t visit the site or engage with notifications. I am considering fully deleting my account, but I hesitate due to the amazing personal and professional connections that I made there. 

The president of the Barr Foundation put it best in a blog post for the Communications Network: 

We’re keeping a cautious eye on [Twitter]. Nature of the conversation there plus how algorithms changing to make it that much harder to reach our audiences (without paying) were already making us question how much time and attention Twitter deserved. Not pausing or exiting yet. Hard to walk away given historic efforts and audience we’ve cultivated. But we are really interested what others up to, watching for, thinking about, and what kind of guidance if any giving to colleagues. 

The Communications Network created an open source collaborative doc to help foundation and nonprofit comms teams share their plans for Twitter (and any related materials). 

Feel free to contribute and/or review this collaborative doc to help inform your thinking/decision-making. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1B_1q3uBa7y16S5-zIoSHFVWB3XxutUD-zgC3x-hIEIk/edit#gid=0 

Also the great folx at M+R put together a brief to help folks weigh their options — I’ll post that on the show  notes or you can check out their blog at https://www.mrss.com/lab/ 

I’ll also post a helpful article shared by Beth Kanter on how to download your data from Twitter if you are making the switch.  https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2022/11/18/how-to-download-account-data-twitter/10726966002/ 

Did you know that LinkedIn is the highest converting channel for nonprofits? That’s according to The Donor Engagement Report: How Nonprofits Build Meaningful Connections on LinkedIn, developed in partnership with Classy. 

Some key findings of the report: 

LinkedIn’s global network is made up of over 850 million professionals — and many of those professionals donate to nonprofits regularly. One in three survey respondents (33%) report donating to causes, individuals, or nonprofit organizations on a monthly basis, with 20% donating weekly. 98% of the LinkedIn users we surveyed say they donate at least once per year

They also found that LinkedIn members are 56% more likely to donate to nonprofits than the average internet user.

LinkedIn is investing heavily in new products and features, and a blog and resource center for nonprofits that is one of the best I’ve seen in the social media space. Eligible nonprofits can get up to a 50% discount on core talent, learning, and fundraising products. Learn more at nonprofit.linkedin.com 

Small is the new big. I know, I know. I just spent a good part of the episode talking about TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn, three of the world’s biggest social media platforms. But hear me out. 

More and more people are exploring smaller social media apps. Sick of narcissistic billionaires shoving the Metaverse and racist tweets down our throats, some tech start-ups want to give the power back to the users.  

The photosharing app BeReal became a huge viral craze last year. First launched in 2020, it exploded in popularity last year, and now it claims 10 million daily active users. BeReal’s biggest demographic group in the US is women aged between 18 and 24 years. They accounted for two thirds of the app’s unique visitors. 

According to the app’s description on Apple’s  App Store, BeReal encourages people to “show your friends who you really are, for once,” by removing filters and opportunities to stage, over-think, or edit photos.

Touted as the “anti-influencer” platform. What’s being pushed by BeReal is that there should be no editing or filters—just reality. And you have to participate, not just passively consume: In order to view your friends’ photos, you must share a photo first. Right now BeReal does not do any form of advertising or marketing which makes it attractive to those of us sick of seeing so many ads in our feeds. It went on to win the Apple award for Best iPhone App of the Year in November.  

Mastodon took over headlines when Musk took over Twitter, as many people made the move there. Mastodon for those who haven’t heard of it, describes itself as a “free, open-source decentralized social media platform” that aims to be “a viable alternative to Twitter.” Right now there are an estimated 4.5 million accounts. The benefits include 

No algorithm: Mastodon presents posts in chronological order.

No ads: Mastodon is largely crowdfunded.

People have asked if I’m on Mastodon, and while I am not opposed, I just haven’t had the time to explore it. I do like their mantra on their website: “We believe that your ability to communicate online should not be at the whims of a single commercial company.”

And if you want, this tool will make it easier to find your Twitter followers and friends on Mastodon. https://www.movetodon.org/ 

Communications app Discord has come up in the conversations around substitute platforms, especially among those in the gaming community who already rely on it to connect with others. It’s not exactly small, Discord has over 140 million active monthly users and 300 million registered accounts, but I haven’t heard of many nonprofits taking advantage of it. 

Discord works on computers, Xbox gaming consoles and mobile devices. On Discord, users participate in servers, which are similar to chatrooms you might remember from the AOL days. Many servers are private and invite-only. Brands, influencers and esports communities have their own servers, many of which are publicly accessible.

One main drawback is that for the uninitiated, using Discord is not very intuitive. It doesn’t have anything resembling a main feed in the way that other social media apps do. Users must check on the communities they care about and keep the conversation going. Still, like Twitter, Discord can be used to spread news, send announcements to communities and discuss news stories. It can be a quick way to get in touch with a lot of people at once, or to reliably communicate with a single person via direct message. Certain communities rely on Discord as a main form of communication.

The last platform I’ll highlight is called Post. This came to my attention via the Progressive Exchange listserv, a community I highly recommend joining. Noam Bardin, founder of Post, writes on the homepage of their website, Post will be a civil place to debate ideas; learn from experts, journalists, individual creators, and each other; converse freely; and have some fun. Many of today’s ad-based platforms rely on capturing attention at any cost — sowing chaos in our society, amplifying the extremes, and muting the moderates. Post is designed to give the voice back to the sidelined majority; there are enough platforms for extremists, and we cannot relinquish the town square to them.

If that sounds interesting, you can go to Post.news and sign up for the waitlist. 

There is no doubt that social media, no matter the platform, remains a powerful way for people to build communities and connect with the causes they care about. 

29% of online donors say that social media is the communication tool that most inspires them to give [email 27%, website, 18%, print, 12%, TV ad 6%] (According to the Global Trends in Giving Report).

In their “Future of Creativity” Study Adobe announced that “Creators are Key to Advancing Social Causes Online”. The report says: 

Creators embrace the opportunity to advance conversations around social causes online, taking action to support ones that are important to them personally.

  • Nearly all (95%) of creators take action to advance or support causes that are important to them.
  • Food and housing security (62%), social justice (59%) and climate change (58%) top the list of causes most important to creators around the globe.
  • By using their creativity and influence to advance social causes, creators believe they can drive awareness (51%), give a voice to those who otherwise wouldn’t have one (49%) and make it easier to voice opinions on social causes (47%).

Now, when I talk about social media fundraising, I tend to focus on Facebook and Instagram because no other platform has the Donate button and a full suite of charitable giving tools quite like they do. In November Meta announced that people have raised over $7billion through fundraisers on Facebook and Instagram. 

The Facebook fundraising experts at GivePanel wrote in a recent blog post that they believe 2023 will actually be the year to prove that the power of Facebook’s Giving Tools is here to stay… and grow. They write, “Monthly Active Users are still going up for the Meta family of apps, and they are taking share back from TikTok. We’ve already witnessed a number of updates being rolled out, including new features for Facebook Groups, donation matching for regular givers, and native Facebook Fundraiser Challenges for nonprofits.”

But other platforms are catching up, Twitch turned on their Charity Tool this year, allowing creators to easily fundraise on a charity’s behalf; and TikTok are continuing to explore how they can support charity campaigns direct from the video streaming platform. 

YouTube also has fundraising features. YouTube Giving allows creators to support the charitable causes they care about. Eligible channels can fundraise for nonprofits by adding a donate button to their videos and live streams. Viewers can donate directly on the video watch page or in live chat.

YouTube also has a Nonprofit Program that helps eligible nonprofits connect with supporters. You can direct viewers to an external campaign landing page using Link Anywhere cards, a special card type that lets you link to any external URL. 

If you’re not eligible for YouTube Giving: Use End Screens to link to an external fundraiser. End screens can be added to the last 5–20 seconds of a video. There are several approved third party fundraising sites (like GoFundMe, JustGiving) that can be linked to in end screens.

To check if your nonprofit is eligible to participate in the YouTube Nonprofit Program, go to Google For Nonprofits and register or check out the FAQ section. 

Whew – that was a lot to take in! In my next episode, I’ll share the steps that your nonprofit can take to make sense of the trends, and how to decide which ones to jump on, and which ones to ignore (for the time-being anyway). 

Remember, Marketing is always changing.

The digital world is changing.

The economy is changing–and so is philanthropy.

Do what makes sense for you – where you are, your capacity, your bandwidth, and your mission. I’ll be back soon with a brand new episode.

Right now I am inviting you to sign up to get notified when I open the doors to Social Media for Social Good Academy. Inside the Academy, I help you build an action plan and workable strategy to uplevel your social media marketing. You can get on the list at www.socialgoodacademy.com and I’ll send over the details very soon. Until next time, keep changing the world, you nonprofit unicorn!