While there is much more to social media than number of followers, I thought it would be interesting to see how the size of the social media audiences varies across the charity sector.
So I looked at how many Twitter and Facebook followers each of the biggest charities have, and I’ve compiled a top 10 for both.
There are, of course, some big caveats. Not only is the number of followers only a single (and sometimes misleading) measure of success, but some charities will have causes and audiences that make it easier to build a big following than others. Also, the results are likely to be at least partly due to the resources – both staff and non-staff –committed to it.
But even with those health warnings, I think it is a useful finger-in-the-air exercise. And here are the results:
- National Trust, 661,460
- Macmillan, 622,891
- Help for Heroes, 489,929
- BHF, 291,195
- Cancer Research UK, 283,924
- Mind, 297,955
- Oxfam, 259,723
- RSPB, 246,977
- Amnesty UK, 233,749
- BBC Children in Need, 231,670
- Cancer Research UK, 1,360,544
- BBC Children in Need, 1,030,107
- Dog’s Trust, 975,674
- Macmillan, 672,842
- IFAW UK, 650,815
- Breast Cancer Now, 638,346
- Royal British Legion, 619,440
- Help for Heroes, 615,869
- Marie Curie, 589,250
- Battersea Dogs and Cats, 588,749
Obviously, the most obvious thing is that Cancer Research UK has the most Facebook likes and the National Trust has the most Twitter followers.
But looking across the lists really reinforce that there are now quite a few UK charities whose social media presence gives a low-cost way to communicate with really big numbers of people. The fact that there are now two charities that have more than a million Facebook likes is really something.
Another thing that surprised me was the difference between the two lists.
I’d expected that the charities with big Twitter followings would also have big presences on Facebook, but often that is not the case. Macmillan has many more Twitter followers than Cancer Research UK, for example, but the opposite is true for Facebook likes. And Breast Cancer Now ranks 6th for Facebook likes but 54th for Twitter followers, while RSPB ranks 8th for Twitter and 32nd for Facebook.
On the face of it, these big differences seem a good thing because they suggest charities are focusing on the channels that work best for them.
It is also interesting that the size of the charities is perhaps less of a predictor of the size of social media following than I’d perhaps expected.
Help for Heroes ranks 3rd for Twitter following and 8th for Facebook, for example, despite being the 57th biggest charity in terms of fundraising income. Likewise, Mind is not in the top 100 charities in terms of fundraising income but has the 6th biggest Twitter following.
The other thing that really stands out is that animal-related charities seem to do really well on Facebook, with top 10 places for the Dog’s Trust, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Battersea Dogs and Cats.
The list of charities was based on the Charity Financials list of the top 100 fundraising charities, not including charities that were more cultural institutions than fundraising charities (eg Tate Britain and the National Gallery) or those without a significant social media presence. I also added nine charities not in the Charity Financials list that have a famous brand or big social media presence. Data was recorded on 29 December, 2016. Data for Mind was added on 15 January, 2017.