Social media competence: The top 12 Swiss NPOs

What about the social media competence of Swiss nonprofit organizations (NPO)? The environmental organizations WWF and Greenpeace stand out as pioneers of social media campaigns: They have been using social media specifically for many years to document their commitment, to mobilize their members and for fundraising activities.

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Operation Libero and the media project Republik are models for successful digital campaigns in Switzerland. Operation Libero, created in 2014 as a response by a young civil society to the mass immigration initiative and right-wing conservative isolationist tendencies, has been orchestrating political campaigns since 2015 with a well thought-out social media strategy: in 2017, for example, it helped both the asylum reform and the bill on easier naturalisation to succeed.

Journalists from the Republic set out in spring 2017 with the ambition of using 750,000 Swiss francs to create an independent online magazine - and raised over 3.5 million Swiss francs in a crowdfunding campaign! The project was successfully launched in 2018.

But what about the social media competence of established nonprofit organizations? A current rating shows that many NPOs still have some catching up to do.

Which NPOs are fit for the digital transformation?

In the meantime, NPOs, associations and campaigners have also discovered social media as an amplifier of political messages. Not only do they use it to promote voting and election campaigns, they also successfully collect signatures and donations via online channels. Nevertheless, only a few NPOs are really fit for the digital future: The WWF has had a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) since November 2016, who is responsible for leading his organization into the digital future. The following rating shows that the number of fans and followers of NPOs is still comparatively modest compared to digitally mature companies (as of April 2, 2018):

Swiss NPOs in the social media Status: April 2, 2018
NPO Facebook Twitter Instagram Rank
WWF Switzerland 65’794 40’798 2’637 1
Greenpeace Switzerland 57’625 25’965 4’622 2
Terre des hommes 57’286 21’795 2’187 3
Save the Children Switzerland 76’164 1’541 671 4
Amnesty International Switzerland 49’816 20’693 1’783 5
public eye 30’890 10’331 0 6
Swiss Red Cross SRC 33’753 1’790 3’182 7
Unicef Switzerland 26’496 911 0 8
Swiss Paraplegics Foundation 24’584 0 0 9
Swissaid 9’515 15’007 0 10
World Vision Switzerland 13’102 7’291 0 11
Solidar Switzerland 17’557 1’776 142 12

Source: Pluragraph.de (Analysis: Consign)

Strikingly, only five of the top 12 NPOs use the emerging channel Instagram, which attracts a younger audience that tends to be female. NPOs and associations will have to sharpen their social media skills in the coming years. They are challenged to increase their number of fans and followers, their reach and the number of interactions with a strategically planned use of social media.

Strikingly, only half of the top 12 NPOs use the emerging channel Instagram, which attracts a younger audience that tends to be female. NPOs and associations will have to sharpen their social media skills in the coming years. They will be challenged to increase the number of their fans and followers, their reach and the number of interactions with a strategically planned use of social media.

Touching storytelling creates attention

An important means of touching people and involving them in campaigns is storytelling. Touching stories make people concerned and receptive to appeals for help or donations. Social media is best suited for formats that fuse text and images to create moving and evocative stories. A successful social media strategy relies on relevant, regular and wisely distributed content. Strategically planned content marketing ensures that target groups are drawn to your own website via social media channels - and converted into convinced members, supporters or donors.

Successful "Free Giacobbo" campaign

A good example is provided by the "Free Giacobbo" campaign of the Swiss section of Amnesty International: The petition for the Burmese comedian Zarganar, who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison in his home country, is launched in May 2011 by a sensational Twitter campaign. On Sunday evening, 150 active Twitter users are asked to demand the release of the allegedly arrested Swiss satirist Viktor Giacobbo. Reason for his arrest: insulting the Federal Council. The tweets include a link to a video on YouTube showing Giacobbo in an alleged prison. The satirist explains the fate of his Burmese colleague and asks users to sign the Amnesty petition. Through retweets, the video spreads quickly and is also seen by journalists. On Monday morning, the topic is already the cover story on the online platform blick.ch ("Giacobbo goes to jail for colleague"). The YouTube video has 67,400 views, the Facebook page of Amnesty Switzerland gains 2,500 followers within three days - a doubling of the previous community. And last but not least: Amnesty Switzerland receives over 20'000 signatures via newsletter for the release of the Burmese satirist.

The campaign contains everything that makes for successful social media management: a surprising idea, a prominent influencer, drama and a moving appeal that touches people and calls them to action. And above all: it conveys a user promise that is designed to last and can be repeated for similar actions. Finally, an important success factor is the fulfillment of the promise: Zarganar is released by the Burmese rulers together with other political prisoners in October 2011.

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