Social media engagement of nonprofit organizations

At the International Public Relations Research Conference last week in Miami, I presented results from two research studies that analyzed the social media engagement of nonprofit organizations: “140 characters for better health: An exploration of the Twitter engagement of leading nonprofit organizations” and “To Tube or not to Tube: An analysis of ethical guidelines for the YouTube engagement of nonprofit organizations.”

The study “140 characters for better health: An exploration of the Twitter engagement of leading nonprofit organizations” was a collaboration with my colleagues Dr. Yan Jin, Vivian Medina-Messner, Shana Meganck, Scott Quarforth and Sally Norton from the Center for Media + Health at VCU. This study analyzed the Twitter activity of nonprofit organizations in the health sector. In a content analysis, tweets of the 20 leading nonprofit health organizations in the United States based on the Forbes magazine list of the 200 Largest U.S. Charities were examined over a constructed two-week period in the first quarter of 2012. On each of the days in the sample, each tweet by each of the 20 nonprofit organizations was included in the analysis. This led to an overall set of 948 tweets for the data analysis. To determine the Twitter engagement level of the nonprofit organizations, each tweet was analyzed for the use of other Twitter handles as indicators for direct communications with other Twitter users as well as for use of retweets or modified tweets and hashtags. Finally, it was also analyzed whether a link was used in the tweet and where it was leading to. The results will be published in a chapter of the forthcoming book “Social Media and Strategic Communications.” To receive a copy of the conference paper, please send an e-mail.

The study “To Tube or not to Tube: An analysis of ethical guidelines for the YouTube engagement of nonprofit organizations” was sponsored by a Legacy Scholar Grant from the Arthur W. Page Center at Pennsylvania State University, which allowed me to hire my doctoral student Shana Meganck who built a national database of nonprofit organizations. The study used a Web-based/e-mail survey of 2,000 nonprofit organizations that was carried out in December 2012 and January 2013. The organizations were sampled from the “200 Largest U.S. Charities” list by Forbes magazine as well as the website Nonprofitlist.org, which allowed sampling from all 50 states. While all of the 200 largest charities were included, non-profit organizations from each state were selected through a stratified random sampling technique. For a summary of the results, please send an e-mail.

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