Facebook and Twitter Prove Helpful with Nonprofits

Photo by the Seattle Red Cross

I wanted to find out more about the effectiveness of communicating with social media. As I have an interest in health public relations, I wanted to find out if social media really benefits nonprofits and organizations in the health industry. Are health nonprofits using Facebook and Twitter to better their relationships with primary publics? I read an academic journal article this week for my public relations class. I chose the following article:

Briones, R.L., Kuch, B., Liu, B.F., & Jin, Y. (2011). Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 37-43.

After analyzing research about nonprofits and social media, the authors developed the following research questions:

1.  How does the American Red Cross use social media to strategically build online relationships with its primary publics?

2.  What barriers does the American Red Cross face in using social media to strategically build relationships with its primary publics?

3.  What opportunities are there for the American Red Cross to build relationships with its primary publics through social media?


  • 40 in-depth interviews with American Red Cross employees
    • Conducted over the phone, then transcribed
    • Lasted about 23 minutes each
  • Different chapters of the American Red Cross were chosen to participate from all around the United States. Urban and rural areas were represented in the study.


1.)   Social media for relationship building

a. Two-way communication is beneficial. An organization must listen to what followers have to say and learn where the organization can improve.

  • Having a conversation instead of just sending news releases is important.

b. Facebook and Twitter are the most important platforms to target when using social media.

  •  These platforms are most helpful when alerting an audience about volunteer opportunities and how to donate.
  • They are also helpful in contacting media since most local media in each city follow the American Red Cross on Facebook and Twitter.

c. The more there is posted on social media, the better chance there is of someone important seeing the content.

2.)  Barriers social media causes in building relationships

a. Time and staff are resources needed to moderate social media; however, board members do not understand the importance of social media. Most of them are from an older generation and do not understand the digital age.

3.)  Opportunities for social media to build relationships

a. There is an opportunity between the national headquarters and regional chapters of the American Red Cross because both outlets can share ways they use social media and teach one another the best techniques.

b. There is also an opportunity to develop better relationships with donors, the community and potential participants by informing them about volunteering and becoming more involved.


  • The results are specific to the American Red Cross.
  • Having a small sample size of 40 people is hard for comparison with other American Red Cross chapters.
  • A survey could have been created.


In the future, the authors plan to interview journalists who cover American Red Cross events to analyze their views of the American Red Cross’ social media usage. The authors also plan to compare the American Red Cross’ social media use with other organizations that involve a national headquarters and regional branches.


As someone from the digital generation, I believe it is important that organizations gather the resources needed to maintain social media accounts. An extra person and salary will eventually be worth the while and create value for the organization.


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