Looking for Friends, Fans, and Followers? Social Media Use in Public and Nonprofit Human Services

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Abstract

This article uses interviews and Internet data to examine social media use among nonprofit organizations and county departments involved in the delivery of human services in a six-county area in south-central New York State. Social media use was modest, with nonprofit organizations much more likely to use it than county departments. Organizations used social media primarily to market organizational activities, remain relevant to key constituencies, and raise community awareness. Most organizations either had a narrow view of social media's potential value or lacked a long-term vision. Barriers to use included institutional policies, concerns about the inappropriateness of social media for target audiences, and client confidentiality. Findings build on recent research regarding the extent to which nonprofit organizations and local governments use social media to engage stakeholders. Future research should investigate not only the different ways organizations use social media but also whether organizations use it strategically to advance organizational goals.

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