Wednesday, April 17, 2013

OMG Older People are on Social Media - Drop the Direct Mail Program!

Do you really KNOW who is on social media?

A recent blog by guest blogger George Crankovic on Future Fundraising Now (best fundraising blog in the world) brought to my attention a report from Pew Research about who is on social media. 
Titled Do you think you know who's on social media? the blog pointed out that older people who are online are on social media more than you may imagine.

I quote from George’s blog:
“But now for the unexpected findings:
  • 52% of Internet users between 50 to 64 are on social media.
  • 32% of Internet users age 65 and up are on social media."

Check this out (from Pew's excellently constructed and helpful website)

This use of social media by older people may well be unexpected, but what does it mean?

A couple of problems with this kind of research –

1. It is opinion and not transactional.  Looking at the scale of the research, and Pew’s credentials it is almost certainly statistically accurate in reflecting what people SAY but it is still not based on actual usage data; it is just what people said they did.  This is inherently flawed.

2. What is ‘on social media’?

They decided someone was ‘on social media’ if they answered affirmatively to a question like “Do you ever...use a social networking site like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus?”

There were six questions like that.  Answering that you ever use is a reasonable definition of being 'on social media' but it gives no indication of their involvement.  This will vary enormously by age, gender, education, job, real world social network and more.

My friend John Lepp in Canada accounts for perhaps as many updates from friends as all my other friends added together but he and my someone like my mum are both defined as the being ‘on social media’.

Mum may use Facebook for looking at photos of grand kids once a year, and nothing else.

Everyone is different, but you can rest assured that the average older social media user (mum) has a different level of engagement from the average younger user (John).

If the Pareto principle holds true, then 80% of social media activity will involve just 20% of people ‘on social media’.  In fact, I would bet that >64% of activity is conducted by perhaps <4 areto="" font="" of="" squared="" users.="">

Even if the numbers are not an exact 80/20 split, there is no doubt that the majority of activity will be conducted by a minority of registered users.  After all, 50% of my activity seems to be just one friend, John, and I doubt that is unique to me!

Generally speaking, charities have failed to achieve expectations from fundraising on social media.  

I think that there are four reasons for this:

1.     Charity expectations are huge because big stats like these released by Pew are exciting and overwhelming
2.     I believe younger people are much more involved in social media that older people (OK, belief is worse research method than even opinion surveys but come on, what do you think?)
3.     In all metrics on giving, older people in any 'type' of fundraising are better givers - better average donations and retention rates etc.
4.     Charities think it is free or cheap to fundraise on social media, when in fact it needs a program in place like any other advertising media

If you ever see mind blowing data like this, be really careful with how you interpret it. Ask the questions – ‘what does that actually mean?’ ‘How was this research conducted?’ and ‘What about my donors?’.

You are not going to be revolutionising your fundraising by using social media with your older donors for another ten years or so.  Don't get distracted by amazing 'data' about social media... yet.  Stick to what you know works, and look out for case studies of how people have made social media make more money for their cause.


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