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Using social media in community groups – opportunity or silver bullet?

Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) has recently published its research on ‘community action and social media: trouble in utopia?’

The research found that:

  • very little research has been carried out on the use of social media by community organisations.
  • Social media has not been adopted as widely by community organisations as might have been expected.
  • There is a gap between the claims for the transformative power of social media and its use by grassroots community groups and organisations. The report challenges the assumption that social media is of value to all kinds of organisation and groups, as well as to individuals, and that non-use is irrational.  It claims that people may just need training and guidance to overcome apprehension.
  • It also found that non-use or lapsed use was often due to insufficient capacity, lack of organisational ‘fit’, and lack of expertise, but also because an organisation failed to appreciate the resource demands of social media, had had their fingers burnt previously by not appreciating the risks involved in not taking ownership of a Twitter or Facebook account and had other, more appropriate ways of communicating within a group or outside it, or could not see an easy way to assess impact.
  • The report claims there is a market for a practical tool to help groups and organisations measure the impact of social media use.
  • It also claims there needs to be clarification about what is meant by ‘engagement’ and whether that can be translated into meaningful impact.
  • The report concludes that the majority of community organisations interviewed for the research are not using social media because it makes too many demands in terms of skills, time, and the demonstration of impact, to make its adoption sufficiently straightforward for them.

Read a 4-page briefing about the report.