“We are constantly looking for ways to interact with our millions of supporters worldwide. The explosion of digital communications platforms has been a game-changing opportunity for us to bring people along the conservation journey. Being transparent, authentic and inclusive has helped us move beyond digital broadcasting into digital engagement and we continue to look for new channels to inspire new audiences to help save our planet.”
Sid Das 
@SiddarthDas, Director, Digital Engagement at @WWF International

Executive Summary – Introduction

It is fair to say that without social media, the work of international organisations would probably go largely unnoticed. All 97 multi-lateral international organisations and NGOs in this study are actively present on the three main social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Twitter is by far the most popular social media channel for these international organisations. Greenpeace and the World Economic Forum have been active on the platform for over a decade – since April 2007 – and UN Secretary General @AntonioGuterres joined the flock when he took office on January 1, 2017.

In this study, we focus on the main accounts for each organization, although many organisations, especially UN agencies, also have bespoke accounts in the six official UN languages and large organisations also have a plethora of regional, national and even topical accounts. With 92 percent of all UN governments on the platform, Twitter has become the indispensable news wire for international organisations to broadcast their stories.

We also examine how international organisations use these platforms, which are the most followed and which are the most active. Beyond the number of followers, we focused on engagement and how these organisations capture eyeballs and screen time of their followers and fans.

The leaders of international organisations tend to favour Twitter, with 75 personal accounts on the platform, while only 16 have official Facebook pages and five of them are among the select group of LinkedIn influencers.

Twitter has been crucial in the election of Tedros Adhanom, the new Director General of the World Health Organization, and Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s new Director General. Most of the candidates were actively campaigning on Twitter. The new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was notably one of the few candidates who did not have a social media presence, but on January 1, 2017 he activated his personal Twitter account, @AntonioGuterres, which now has close to 200,000 followers and is among the most effective, in terms of average retweets per tweet, of all accounts of leaders of international organisations on Twitter.

However, international organisations have their biggest and most engaged audiences on Facebook and all but two have set up official Facebook pages. The median average number of followers for international organisations on Facebook is three times as high as on Twitter, with a median average of 139,274 followers on Facebook compared to 42,371 on their Twitter profiles. Facebook is the key platform international organisations focus on to engage audiences worldwide.

Almost three quarters of the international organisations have active profiles on Instagram, which is the visual platform of choice. More and more organisations are now sharing daily Instagram stories to win the hearts and minds of their followers or simply promote their latest blog post on their website.

YouTube is used by 88 international organisations to host their long-form videos and 50 have used Periscope, Twitter’s live broadcasting app. Eighty-three organisations have a LinkedIn presence, but only half of them are active and the engagement isn’t comparable to other platforms. Only a handful of the 82 organisations which have a Google+ presence and are active on the platform. Fourteen organisations have a presence on Snapchat.

Over the past year, we have witnessed a clear pivot to video content among the most successful organisations. Short videos, optimized for mobile devices, tend to garner the biggest engagement on each of the social media platforms analyzed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (@ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (@Federation), with support from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (@UNOCHA), have recently published a useful guide on how to use social media, namely Twitter and Facebook, to better engage people affected by crisis including the hashtag: #CommIsAid.

There is no right or wrong way for organisations to use social media, some are more active than others, some have more followers than others, some will promote their posts to a larger audience. The key challenge for each is to stay ahead of the social media game. Obviously staying relevant on social media requires resources and staffing which many organizations still lack.

Data for Burson-Marsteller’s latest Twiplomacy study about international organisations was captured on September 1, 2017 using proprietary Burson Tools and Crowdtangle. For more about the methodology and the full data set scroll to the bottom of the study.

We have also asked some of the organisations to share their recipe for success and you can read their blog contributions from learning how to weather a spam attack to going live on Facebook, from experimenting with Instagram stories to embracing the social messaging platform Viber and using Twitter to target key decision makers. …more