Last updated: 12.12.13

Social media 'a valuable tool' for non-profit organisations

Not-for-profit organisations ought to stop being so apprehensive when it comes to using social media, as the tool is actually a highly effective way of communicating with the public.

As many as 24 million people in the UK alone go on Facebook each day, while 15 million use Twitter, showing how central it is to a modern society that's becoming increasingly dependent on digital platforms.

This is the view of business writer David Benady, who argued in a post for the Guardian that not-for-profit companies in particular are well-placed to thrive on social media websites, due to the fact their activities are in the public's interests.

He pointed to organisations like Save the Children UK, which has 276,000 likes on Facebook, and Oxfam International, which has racked up 465,000 Twitter followers.

Despite these success stories, too few are capitalising on the benefits offered by social media networks, with many put off by the outrage an ill-judged Tweet or Facebook post has sparked in the past.

"Social media can be a powerful tool for fundraising, a cost-effective way of gathering data about your supporters and a gateway to strong engagement with stakeholders," Mr Benady said.

A panel of experts gathered together by Grant Thornton and the Guardian met to discuss whether social media is primarily a help or hindrance to non-profit firms, with many agreeing that these businesses must clearly decide what they want to achieve from websites like Facebook and Twitter and use those goals to devise a clear strategy. It was also decided that such major online platforms cannot be ignored.

Social media consultant and trainer Jennifer Begg said firms need to have training guidance in place for staff to adhere to when they are posting on behalf of their employer, which must be simple, encouraging and fill employees with confidence.

Her advice comes after a recent survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development revealed that only one-quarter of workers use social media for work, but half of this group said they have noticed real benefits.