Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nonprofit Marketing; Know Thy Audience

Great MessageYou’ve got a great message. Anybody would support it.  Right?  You want to launch fast, using any and all media available, while the issue is still hot. Throw crumbs on the water; wait for the flood of responses to come pouring in.

Not so fast!  I don’t want to pour cold water on your plans, but you need to slow down.

New research released by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communications and Ogilvy PR studied the difference in responses between black, white and Hispanic adults to nonprofit, charitable and political causes on social networks.

The study finds that ethnicity plays a huge role in how people perceive messages and influences whether they get involved further.  Depending on your message and your media, you could get widely divergent responses.

Let’s plunge right in.

First consider your media.  Are you using traditional direct mail, print, radio and TV or hipper social media?  The media you use can affect the response you get.

70% of blacks and 61% of Hispanics say they are more likely to support causes presented in direct mail, print, radio and TV rather than online; 76% of whites agreed.  That’s an overwhelming vote of confidence for traditional media.  But as our population ages, the traditional media may lose ground to social media.

It’s happened so fast, that it’s hard to remember, but just a few years ago there was no social media.  Today, 62% of blacks and 64% of Hispanics said social-networking sites made it easier to support a cause. But only 54% of whites agreed.

Social MediaOf those who do use social media, Blacks and Hispanics were also more favorably inclined toward Facebook, Twitter and blogs as vehicles to “spread a message” at 58% and 51%  respectively.  Whites lagged at 34%.

Whites are also less likely to use Twitter at all. In another study conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International just 9% of white internet users said they used Twitter, but 25% of blacks and 19% of Hispanics said they Tweeted. 10% of black internet users Tweet on a typical day, compared with 5% of Hispanics and 3% of whites.

Feel like you’re drowning?  It gets worse!  An earlier study shows that women and men use social media in different ways.  Women like FaceBook; men like YouTube.  Women look to interact and share information with others; men want to get information.

Putting aside the gender issue, there are solid demographic reasons why these three ethnic groups react so differently.

African-Americans and Hispanics tend to be younger and more technology-aware.  Because they may also be less well off, they may use mobile devices to access the web.  Having the smaller platform makes Twitter more attractive to them.

White donors, who are typically older, Tweet less, which is consistent with other findings that tweeting declines with age.  They are more comfortable with traditional media.

Finally consider your message.  The three demographic groups respond quite differently.  For instance, among donors: 

  • 46% of black online contributors gave to feed the hungry, compared with 38% of Hispanics and whites.
  • 34% of black donors online gave to fight diabetes, compared to 32% of Hispanics and 24% of whites. 
  • 31% of Hispanic donors support groups that fight global warming, but only 25% of whites and black donors do.

So what are you to make of this sea of statistics?

Don't put all your eggs in one basketDespite the tsunami of interest in social media, social networking and blogs, these new media are a distant second to the traditional media of direct mail, newspapers, radio and TV if you’re looking for where your audience is getting their information.

As Julie Dixon, deputy director at the Georgetown Center, reiterates “what the study shows... is not to put all your eggs into the social-media basket.  Instead organizations should tailor their communications strategy based on how their audience is likely to engage.”

It all comes down to know thy audience before you launch.

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