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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Getting Started with Social Media: A Guide for Nonprofit Organizations and Government Agencies: The Case for Social Media

Guide to resources and information about making a case for social media and developing a plan for which tools to use.

Data Driven Decisions

You can make a stronger case for social media by incorporating data into your decision-making process. See the Social Media Statistics section of this guide for resources.

For Further Reading

Why Social Media is Important

Nearly 80% of adults 18 and older are online. Libraries are being innundated by people who need Internet access to research and apply for jobs or apply for government assistance. Teens are even more connected. 93% use the internet. This graph, from the The Pew Internet and American Life Project, illustrates the change in Internet usage in the last decade.

Furthermore, people are using social media to share content. Some statistics:

Pew Internet's Generations Online 2010 summary of findings illustrates the popularity of internet activities by internet users in each generation. Some highlights:

  • Social media is most popular with younger adults, although 10-19% of those 74 and over also use it.
    • While the youngest generations are still significantly more likely to use social network sites, the fastest growth has come from internet users 74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has quadrupled since 2008, from 4% to 16%.
  • Reading blogs consistently ranks lower than using social media sites across all generations.
    • The takeaway: If you’re blogging, you should also be syndicating posts through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.

The internet has become deeply embedded in group life and is affecting the way civic and social groups behave and the way they impact their communities. Pew Internet has correlated information about group affilation and connectivity to show the percentage of American adults in each tech user group (those who use the internet, those who connect to the internet wirelessly, cell phone users, etc.) who are active in various organizations. You can view the chart here.

Social Media and the Workplace as explained by Common Craft is an excellent video introduction to why social media is important for companies. It works equally well for non-commercial organizations too.

Making the Case for Social Media in Your Organization

What are some of the benefits of social media?

  • Low cost -- Most tools are free or inexpensive
  • Build trust and community -- Social media gives your organization a human voice. Producing useful content builds loyalty and improves viral marketing. Learn what’s important to your customers/clients by listening to what they have to say. Build social tools into your web site and encourage people to comment on and share your content.
  • Become a thought leader and improve your reach -- Go where the people are and engage them. Build your reputation as an expert in your subject. Web pages are static and reactive. Social media is fluid and proactive. Use tools like Facebook and Twitter to push content from your web site to a broader audience.
  • Staffing advantages --You probably already have people in your organization who are using social media tools. Enlist them in your effort. Demographics are in your favor and you'll likely improve their job satisfaction

The bottom line: Social media is another avenue for telling your organization's story and finding a wider audience for your web content. Why would you not use free marketing tools?