The value of Twitter for non-profit organisations

November 7th, 2014 | Posted by ch_admin in Case Studies

By Panayiota Skouroumouni, MSc in Management and Organisational Innovation, Queen Mary University of London

For non-profit organisations, Twitter can be a powerful tool for network building and online engagement with key audiences. Since most non-profits operate with minimum resources, it is important that they have the necessary capacity to monitor engagement and make the most our of their social media presence.

As part of an MSc dissertation in Management and Organisational Innovation at Queen Mary University of London, Chorus tools were used to capture Twitter data from non-profits that focus on humanitarian campaigns related to children. With the help of Tweetcatcher, one years worth of data from July 2013 to July 2014 were captured from a selection of organisational accounts – the total number of tweets collected was 15,549.

Tweetcatcher was used for capturing tweets by children-related non-profits

Tweetcatcher was used for capturing tweets posted by children-related non-profit organisations

Tweetvis was then used to understand the patterns of users’ activity through examining structural characteristics of the tweets (e.g. hashtags, retweets, mentions), as well as keyword frequency and sentiment around specific events. Identifying the most frequent words was important as an overview of the most important topics discussed. Hashtags revealed how children-related campaigns were linked to other news and worldwide events.

The study’s main findings how non-profit organisations are trying to build their network through online relationships in several ways, for example:

  • Creating and heavily promoting tweets for causes that tend to receive a lot of attention (mentions, retweets).
  • Mentioning celebrities in their tweets, who receive a lot of publicity and can lead others to engage with their causes.
  • Mentioning/retweeting followers and supporters to involving them more actively in the organisations’ campaigns and possibly expand their influence through further networking effects. This can possibly enhance feeling of belongingness and connectedness among the audience, hence leading to more permanent connections and future action. A common reason of mentioning followers was acknowledgement of support.
  • Creating and promoting hashtags – Each hashtag usually represents an event, which forms a community of users with the same interests, involved in the same conversation.
  • Joining world-wide conversations about major events that attract the attention of Twitter users – During the time of this study, these included: the 3rd anniversary of conflict in Syria, the escalating war in Gaza, the abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria, the typhoon in Philippines and the World Cup of June 2014 taking place in Brazil. A more advanced tactic used to attract attention to was “newsjacking”, where campaign-related content is inserted into contemporary media coverage like popular or breaking news. For instance, this infographic was created by the charity Save the Children during the London tube strike and received a lot of attention as well as controversy. 

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