Age Breakdowns for the Biggest Social Media Networks and What it Means for Your Strategy

More than half of America uses social media regularly and Facebook is still the king when it comes to number of users. And while the share might shift between social networks and demographics, there is no indication that use and growth of social media is going to stop any time soon.

For the full report from eMarketer and Adweek on who is using which networks, click here.

We frequently see reports and studies telling us how many people, in which demographics, use social media. But how can we take these usage numbers and apply them to our digital strategy? Below are a set of tips, based on data from the above eMarketer strategy, for the three biggest social networks — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Facebook is a behemoth of a social network with more than 1 billion people worldwide and more than half the U.S. population actively using the site. Facebook’s user base is getting older, but that’s more of an opportunity than a drawback for fundraisers. To understand why, think major gift work.

Did you know that:

The third point is from our work with clients at BWF_social. In our two most recent giving day campaigns, 42 major donors gave online gifts of $1,000 or more during one giving day, while 26 gave gifts of $1,000 or more during the second effort. In both cases, the gifts were unsolicited beyond the mass marketing work that reached all donors, primarily through email and social media.

In short — your major gift donors are online and the majority of them are using Facebook. Considering the above mentioned data about major donors and this eMarketer data which shows a large and growing number of older Facebook users, your major gift officers should know the network and be leveraging it to better connect with their major gift donors and prospects. Your communications team should be producing content that reinforces giving at all levels, especially the major gift level. Finally, you should be looking to Facebook and all social media as a way of prospecting for new major gift donors.


Twitter users are mostly a bunch of kids, right? Sure, nearly half of all Twitter users are under age 35, but more than a quarter are between age 35 and 54. And it might surprise many to learn that about 13 percent of Twitter users are over age 55.

But really, when it comes to Twitter, age doesn’t matter as much as functionality. For most people, Twitter is a news source. So a good Twitter strategy should be built around sharing a good deal of relevant content. Both relevant to your organization and, most importantly, to your audience. An aging but still accurate HubSpot study from Dan Zarella tells us Twitter users with the most followers are those who often post links in their tweets. Another study from Zarella and HubSpot tells us posting a picture via your tweet helps engagement.  In other words, don’t just tweet about your lunch — tweet about your lunch using a picture and including a link to the recipe.


Instagram is the king of social media networks when it comes to audience engagement.

Instagram is the king of social media networks when it comes to audience engagement.

On Instagram, it is (mostly) about the kids …and engagement. In fact, Instagram has, by far, the highest engagement of any major social media network. If you’re looking to connect with and market to people age 45 and under, Instagram is where it’s at.

You can’t post links on Instagram, so don’t bother using it as a direct marketing resource. Instead, think of Instagram more like traditional advertising. Can someone give a gift directly through a TV ad? How about a print ad? No. But both television and print have value for raising the awareness and improving the perception of your organization. At a minimum, Instagram — and all social media, for that matter — is no different. Especially if we’re talking about engaging the younger audiences who heavily use Instagram and who really don’t watch TV or read much print.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients build digital engagement strategies for every aspect of fundraising — from the annual fund to major gift work. Click here to learn more.

HOW TO Use Social Media for Stewardship

Think of online stewardship as customer service via the Internet.

Think of online stewardship as customer service via the Internet.

Good social media strategies often start with the question “how can we use these tools to provide something of value for our constituents?” In other words, how can your organization leverage Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and whatever else to better serve your supporters? …how can social media be part of your organization’s overall stewardship plan? Turns out, there are plenty of good examples of using online and social media for donor stewardship. In the video below, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware and Annual Giving Consultant Vanessa Chase share some of the best examples of social media stewardship they’ve seen to date:

Interested in building online and social media into your stewardship strategy? Have a look at BWF’s online and social media consulting services by clicking here.

@WorkingOrange – How to Manage a Higher Ed Twitter Account

@WorkingOrangeProfilePicIt’s an age-old (in social media time) and still relevant question – “what do we tweet?” The easy answer is, “something that’s useful, valuable, and fun for your audience.” For a specific example of a Twitter account that covers those three things and more, check out Syracuse University’s @WorkingOrange. The @WorkingOrange Twitter account is run by Syracuse’s Career Services department and is awesome, because…

First, it provides valuable information about a hot topic, especially for younger grads. Those of us who work in higher ed know there’s a lot more to a four-year degree than simply landing a job. That said, it is a big reason why many people attend college. Which means, finding a good and rewarding job is part of the “product” that colleges and universities offer. And successful brands provide adequate stellar customer service around their products. In large part, that’s what this Twitter account amounts to for Syracuse grads – a customer service channel to help fullfil that promise of meaningful work following graduation.

Two, it is highly engaging and interactive – lots of retweets and mentions. It might seem trivial to some, but to your most active and influential social media followers it is not – validation matters online.

When you think about it, we all like to be validated. Some of us at work, others by our families, others still by our friends and social circles. For those of us who spend a lot of time conversing on social networks, we also seek validation in our social media communities. @WorkingOrange provides that validation by truly communicating with the account’s followers. That activity matters, because it builds and strengthens relationships with supporters, which increases the likelihood of them becoming life-long supporters.

Three, it has personality! Most successful Twitter accounts have personality. Just have a look at the following tweets…

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Some Twitter accounts – @DeptofDefense, for example – need to be a bit more serious, most of the time. (Although even the Department of Defense can find appropriate ways of having fun on Twitter) But for the majority, it’s important to fit the attitude and style of the social network. For Twitter, that’s (hopefully) quick-witted, courteous, upbeat, useful, and timely. @WorkingOrange is all of those things and more.

Wanna talk more about social media for higher ed? Contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.

Twitter’s Analytics Help Guide Your Content Strategy

Twitter has now made its analytics platform open and free for all users. This is great news for nonprofit conversation managers who are trying to learn more about which content resonates with their followers.

Using Twitter’s analytics is about as simple as reading your own name. The dashboard lists each tweet and tells you how many times that tweet has been favorited, retweeted, or replied to. Most importantly, Twitter’s analytics shows a user the number of times a link they’ve posted was clicked on – whether that action happend directly from your tweet or when someone else shared the tweet doesn’t matter, the action follows the link.


There is more than one way to leverage the information from Twitter’s analytics, but one of the most obvious applications is tracking the popularity of your content. We recommend that a component of any online and social media strategy is a content sub-strategy. And that content sub-strategy should be dynamic and constantly changing based on what your audience(s) is telling you. Twitter’s analytics help show which content is most appealing to your audience …and that should directly impact your future content plans.

Wanna learn more about tracking online and social media analytics? Click here to connect with Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware.

3 Tips to Boost Online Fundraising – WEBINAR

On Thursday, March 14 BWF conducted a webinar that offered expanded details and advice behind what we believe are three things your nonprofit organization can do to dramatically increase your online and social media fundraising. (Yes, you CAN raise money through social media …quite a bit, if you do it right) Below is the full-length webinar that we’ve posted to the BWF YouTube channel. Below that, are the three tips. Below that is a link that leads to my LinkedIn profile, in case you’d like to talk more about increasing your online fundraising…

Three Tips for Improving Your Nonprofit’s Online Fundraising

  1. Improve your online infrastructure.
  2. Develop a comprehensive online ambassador program.
  3. Invest in (experienced) social media personnel.

Justin Ware is a fundraising consultant who specializes in online and social media engagement at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To contact Justin, click here.

Twitter’s Self-serve, Low-cost Advertising: Could it Work for Your NPO?

Twitter is launching a self-serve advertising option for small business. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this tool can also help your nonprofit organization. Here’s how it works, according to this writeup about the service in Mashable

  • Use your American Express card to purchase advertising credits on Twitter.
  • Twitter takes your more popular tweets (items that have been shared, for example) and posts them as “promoted tweets”.
    • Promoted tweets are posted to the feeds of other Twitter users whose online activity suggests they would be interested in your organization.
  • You account is charged only if those users act on your “promoted tweet” – i.e. retweeting it to their followers.

Why it’s good – In a word, exposure. Twitter’s new advertising tool takes your most popular tweets and shares them with other Twitter users who are likely, based on their activity, to appreciate what you’re posting. On top of that, you are not charged unless those Twitter users take action on your “promoted tweet.” In other words, they have to share or possibly “favorite” your promoted tweet. If they don’t, your account balance remains untouched and available for the next promoted tweet.

This tool should connect your message with new potential supporters, thereby expanding your exposure to an audience with little effort on your part. Of course, you do then have to cultivate those relationships once the initial impression is made (which is already be part of your social media strategy, right?).

Why it’s not good – The best relationships start organically, without prodding or promotion. You’re most likely to develop a relationship that results in support of your organization through good old-fashioned conversation and content-sharing on Twitter. That said, I could see promoted tweets as being a great step toward starting those conversations.

Like everything else, your communication strategy should be about more than a single tweet, or update, or blog post, or video. I believe “promoted tweets” or advertising on Twitter can be an tremendously effective tool for introducing new supporters to your mission. However, if you don’t have a strategy in place for keeping those new supporters engaged, then the money spent on advertising will ultimately be wasted.

For more on social media in philanthropy, visit

One-day Fundraising Campaigns – A Q & A with Second Harvest Heartland

Every year, Minnesotans take part in one of the world’s largest one-day online fundraising drives – Give to the Max Day. On November 16, 2011, Give to the Max Day recorded another enormously successful event when more than $13.4 million were raised online for Minnesota charities in a 24-hour period. One of the big winners from the 2011 event was Second Harvest Heartland. So we sent some questions to Lindsi Gish, Second Harvest’s Associate Director of Communcations and Media Relations, to find out how they used social media to promote the event…

Q: Second Harvest Heartland recently turned in the third-highest fundraising total during Give to the Max Day ($256,000) – how much of a role did social media play in achieving those results?

A: Truthfully, I always retract a bit when asked to correlate social media efforts to fundraising results. I think most people understand that we can’t directly attribute a tweet to a dollar raised—but that doesn’t mean the value of social is lost on campaigns like Give to the Max Day (GTMD). For us, Twitter and Facebook are mini communities of supporters—most of whom have made a donation, volunteered or interacted with us in some way besides just through the web. When we ask those communities what they want/need from us—and why they chose to become a fan or follower in the first place—they usually tell us they want to show their support in a public way, and stay up to date with what we’re working on and how they can help. As we’ve learned over the past three years of incredible results on GTMD—it’s a fun, easy and exciting way for people to help.  Facebook and Twitter are great ways to remind or alert people who’ve already demonstrated their support of our work in other ways—and sometimes, a way for them to share with us their personal experiences and motivations.

Q: How often did you reach out to your supporters in advance of GTMD and during the event? Is there a danger of asking too often? How do you avoid crossing that fine line?

A: Our primary promotional efforts included:

  • Promotional inserts with QR code for our GiveMN page with thank you letters (about 8,000 total sent)
  • 2-3 emails (depending on audience) to pre-promote
  • A sign-up option to receive a reminder email the morning of the event
  • Personal phone calls to a set of special individual donors
  • Social media promotion, primarily through our blog, Facebook  and Twitter

We know our donors really appreciate matching gifts—i.e., the opportunity to double their impact. Many of our supporters have come to expect GTMD as the time of year when we’re most likely able to offer matching funds—and some even plan their gifts accordingly. With that said, we encourage our donors to give in the way that is most meaningful for them. We are just one of so many deserving charities to which people designate their hard-earned dollars, and we’re honored to be the recipient of such generosity.

Q: What channels and networks did you use to reach out and ask for support? (Email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc)

A: At the risk of redundancy, our primary channels were mail/print, email, Facebook, Twitter and our blog. We did use an unlisted YouTube video to promote a specific reward for gifts of $100 or more. That can be seen here.

Q: What content were you sharing via online channels to encourage giving on GTMD? (Video, photos, links to a web site or blog)

A: In addition to the video mentioned above, we shared stories of motivation from some of our individual donors who provided matching funds, and spread comments that donors shared right on our GiveMN page. Overall, it seems people like to be a part of something “bigger than themselves” and seeing and hearing others’ stories really resonates.

Q: What impact do one-day events like Give to the Max Day have on overall giving? Does the awareness increase giving to your org? Is it detrimental to other areas of giving?

A: Give to the Max Day drives a significant percentage of our overall online giving—this year and last, the amount raised on Give to the Max Day was equivalent to about 20% of what we raise online through other channels. It’s a huge part of our year-end fundraising and also a great avenue to help raise awareness about the issue of hunger.  We haven’t experienced the “cannibalization” of dollars contributed to other programs—people just really seem to want to step up and help out.

Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you would offer an organization that is considering doing its own one-day fundraising drive?

A: I think Give to the Max Day differs significantly from any other general one-day drive, as proven by the results of other states (Vermont, for example) that have tried the same type of event and haven’t experienced the same level of success.

If considering getting involved in Give to the Max Day—just do it. Get creative. Leverage the power of the generosity of Minnesotans to raise visibility and funds for your organization. And whatever you do, find matching funds. People love to know their donations will be doubled, and you’ll get a greater impact that way too.

For more news and information on social media in philanthropy, visit

Finding Prospects with Twitter

It’s often said that interns shouldn’t be the ones leading your social media strategy. Especially for a larger organization, that’s true. But the following video is a perfect example of why anyone, at any stage in their career, can have ideas that transform that way your raise funds. Have a look at this simple, but brilliant idea from The Indiana University Foundation’s Hannah Cohen on how she used Twitter to find prospects with a likely affinity for her organization.