My Problem with the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report

Well I guess that something had to ignite the fire enough within me to finally come back and write a blog post again in the midst of dissertating. I’m nearly done with the dissertation and plan to post many results here on my blog. This is also the reason for this post, or the fact that NTEN/ Blackbaud/ Common Knowledge just released their 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. There is a wonderful Infographic, which sums up the report nicely and the link will also help you download the full report.

I have to say that the information is great. I am so glad that this data is being compiled and I have built a survey instrument using similar questions to these folks for my dissertation. I also compiled my data during the same time period, but with a much smaller sample that was focused on Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. I focus on these unique organizations because of their important roles in society and NO research has looked at how they use social media.

The Benchmark report and my dissertation have many things in common. This makes me smile because it indicates that my findings are generalizable. However, I do have some problems with the recent Report. The main problem is around their methodology. I understand they only solicited and primarily reported descriptive data, but they do not explain this in the report. They have a small section on their methods but nothing beyond that. This is critically important because of how the data is being used in practice. For all we know, the methods they used could be based upon incorrect statistical principles which would nullify all of the findings. I don’t think this has happened, but in a sector which promotes transparency I would think they would have no problem in divulging their methodology.

This is also important considering the new statistic they are reporting around the cost of a follower on Twitter and a Like on Facebook. They indicate that these numbers are based upon self-report and that respondents have different ways of calculating this cost. I would be extremely cautious when looking at this statistic and thinking about basing some budget decisions around this because there is no clear indication of how the number was developed. It is a good statistic, just not one I am very confident in.

I am defending my dissertation in a little over a week and will likely begin to disseminate my own findings after that date. This is mostly to help the community where I collected my data, but it will also help many other nonprofit human service organizations think about their own social media strategies, planning, and implementation.


About jimmysw
Associate Professor of Social Work with a focus on the Future of Social Media, Social Work Education and all things technology.

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