Last May, Grey Matter Research and Harmon Research published a report of their findings after surveying social media users about what types of people and organizations they are connected to in the digital space.
Although it seems like social media is everywhere and that everyone is constantly connected, the findings in this report can help ministries and non-profits understand who is actually connecting with them on social media and what opportunities they have to leverage social media to spread their messages.
About 8 in 10 adults in the United States have a social media profile, but how many of these users are actually connected to charities and religious organizations online? And is social media fostering diverse relationships or acting as an ideological echo chamber? Understanding answers to questions like these helps ministries and non-profits reach their audiences more effectively.
The Opportunity to Increase Ideological Diversity
This research shows that the majority of social media users are not connected to anyone who holds very different religious or political views from themselves. While 42% of survey respondents said that they are connected to someone with very different political views, only 37% of respondents said that they are connected to someone with very different religious views from themselves.
52% of respondents said that they are not connected to a single person or organization that holds very different religious or political views than themselves. Political liberals are more likely than moderates or conservatives to connect with people who have very different political views, and younger social media users are more likely to be connected to others with very different views than users in an older generation are.
All of this research shows that social media users tend to connect with people and organizations who hold the same or similar political and religious views that they do. This only becomes exaggerated among older users.
Although theoretically social media provides people with opportunities to learn new perspectives, broaden their experiences, and understand more about what others believe, many people are instead using social media to create protected chambers of like-minded people and organizations.
Many Christians and Christian organizations are missing opportunities on social media because it is being used to build more barriers than bridges.
The Opportunity to Build Relationships with Donors
The research also showed that charities and non-profits are missing opportunities when it comes to connecting with charitable donors on social media. Although charitable donors who use social media are active across a variety of platforms, most aren’t connecting with charitable organizations on any of these platforms.
Only 38% of respondents said that they are connected to a charity or non-profit on social media. More than 6 out of ten social media users in the United States are not connected to a charitable organization on social media.
52% of people who are connected to a charity or non-profit on social media are already charitable donors, and 28% are non-donors. With so many non-donors connected to charitable organizations on social media, these organizations have significant opportunities to build and maintain these relationships and hopefully create new donors.
Generationally, younger people are far more likely to be connected with a charitable organization on social media than older generations. While that may be encouraging for the future, most organizations are still dependent upon donations from the older generations.
The Opportunity for Churches to Connect
Few social media users are connected to people who hold different religious beliefs than they do, and even fewer users are connected to a religious congregation or congregational leader online.
Only 30% of social media users are connected with a church or other place of worship. In fact, only 55% of those who regularly attend a congregation are connected to that congregation online and only 42% are connected to a leader from that congregation.
This research reveals that pastors and churches have a great opportunity to use social media to connect with people both from within their congregations and from outside of their congregations.