Social networks have become an indispensable part of modern people’s lives as individuals want to feel connected. Companies have acknowledged the power of this communication and data collection platforms and have used social networking in their marketing efforts (Iosifidis & Wheeler, 2016). Non-governmental organizations (NGO) also employ this instrument to articulate their messages and promote their campaigns. Such social media as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, as well as a myriad of other channels, help companies to reach a wide audience, which is essential for NGOs. This paper includes a brief review of the current literature on the way social media affect the functioning of NGOs.
As mentioned above, the primary benefit of the utilization of social networks is their ability to reach people. Social networks are mainly used to share some information and develop relationships with different stakeholders (Adjei, Annor-Frempong, & Bosompem, 2016). It has been found that the communication strategy differs depending on the mission of the organization and its target population. For instance, Rodriguez (2016) claims that the purpose of approximately 55% of messages sent by NGOs addressing the needs of LGBT refugees are to inform people. Interestingly, more than 13% of messages were concerned with invitations, recognition, appraisal, which suggests that the establishment of relationships is an important function. Social networks assist NGOs in creating an environment where people feel a part of the community, which is pivotal for vulnerable groups (Rodriguez, 2016). Adjei et al. (2016) also note that the creation of social links and networks through various digital means is an important function of the social media that is instrumental in reaching NGOs’ goals. Wide audiences can be reached with the help of the social media, and NGOs benefit from using this property.
In addition to the informing function, the social media are regarded as a potent tool to shape people’s behaviors. According to Rodriguez (2016), over 12% of messages have an action function, as they encourage people to behave in a certain way. Individuals and companies may be asked to volunteer, donate, or spread data. Cyber-volunteering is another trend facilitated by the use of social media (Raja-Yusof, Norman, Abdul-Rahman, Nazri, & Mohd-Yusoff, 2016). Cyber-volunteering, although sometimes criticized as less relevant compared to conventional participation, has a substantial positive impact. Raja-Yusof et al. (2016) note that such activities as fundraising, knowledge sharing, problem-solving, and training are specifically beneficial for stakeholders and have led to positive changes in communities. It is clear that the social media are utilized as communication platforms that bring people together and help them unite their effort to address a specific issue.
Apart from the benefits related to the activities of NGOs, the social media contribute to the sustainable development of these entities. For instance, Chinese social media have proved to construct organizations’ group identities (Ruelle & Peverelli, 2016). WeChat is one of the most popular social networks in China, and it has a considerable positive influence on NGOs’ development as employees communicate and become more engaged due to the emergency of their group identity. Employees become more committed to the organization’s vision and mission, which affects their performance and their ability to inspire and encourage others. NGOs characterized by strong group identities tend to be more effective due to their employees’ commitment.
At the same time, it is necessary to note that NGOs fail to employ different types of social media to their full capacity. The social networks that rely on photo and video messages (such as Instagram or YouTube) are not widely used among many NGOs (Rodriguez, 2016). However, it has been acknowledged that visuals have the most impact on people (Iosifidis & Wheeler, 2016). Therefore, it is necessary to use varied channels to deliver messages, which will lead to the growth of the network involved in NGOs’ projects. Although the social media have already been used by NGOs for years, this platform is still new to many of these organizations. Adjei et al. (2016) state that the ownership of an NGO had a profound effect on the way social networks are employed. It is important to examine the factors affecting NGO employees and entrepreneurs’ choices regarding communication platforms. Another obvious gap in the current research is the exploration of the way people respond to campaigns facilitated by the use of the social media.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the social media have become a common communication platform enabling NGOs to deliver their messages and affect people’s behaviors. Moreover, the development of NGOs can also be shaped by social networks as these digital environments are effective tools to construct group identities. It has been acknowledged that these organizations do not fully exploit the social media in their operations. The review of the literature suggests that it is necessary to research factors affecting NGOs’ communication channels choices and the exact outcomes of using certain kinds of social media when delivering various messages. It is also important to pay attention to specific groups of social networks users as digital communication has a diverse impact on different people.
Adjei, D. K. A., Annor-Frempong, F., & Bosompem, M. (2016). Use of social networking websites among NGOs in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Public Relations Review, 42(5), 920-928. Web.
Iosifidis, P., & Wheeler, M. (2016). Public spheres and mediated social networks in the western context and beyond. London, England: Springer.
Raja-Yusof, R. J., Norman, A. A., Abdul-Rahman, S.S., Nazri, N., & Mohd-Yusoff, Z. (2016). Cyber-volunteering: Social media affordances in fulfilling NGO social missions. Computers in Human Behavior, 57, 388-397. Web.
Rodriguez, N. S. (2016). Communicating global inequalities: How LGBTI asylum-specific NGOs use social media as public relations. Public Relations Review, 42(2), 322-332. Web.
Ruelle, O., & Peverelli, P. (2016). The discursive construction of identity through interaction on social media in a Chinese NGO. Chinese Journal of Communication, 10(1), 12-37. Web.