Third Sector and Social Media


  • Ryan Deschamps Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School for Public Policy
  • Kathleen McNutt



Social media, Communications, Social networking, Strategies, Best practices / Médias sociaux, Réseautage social, Stratégies, Pratiques d’excellence


While social media has become a mainstay of communication in the twenty-first century, many organizations still struggle to include it in their operations. This is no less the case for organizations in the third sector. However, evidence-based practices tying social media activity to social media success are still elusive in the field. Examining the Facebook and Twitter presence of 45 Canadian organizations concerned with education, disaster relief, and environmental advocacy, the authors evaluate social media practices used by third sector organizations. Borrowing from Mark Granovetter’s (1973) work on the strength of social ties, the authors found that disaster relief organizations tended toward activities to build emotionally intense, or “strong,” relationships, while educational organizations offered more informational means to build “weak” relationships based on common interests. Environmental organizations used both strategies, but were less likely to broaden their activities beyond Facebook and Twitter. The authors propose identifying organizations’ weak-tie/strong-tie strategies as a tool for evaluating social media activity in the not-for-profit sector. They argue that co-ordinating both types of strategies is necessary for successful social media campaigns.


Bien que les médias sociaux soient devenus omniprésents dans la communication au 21ème siècle, plusieurs organisations tardent à les inclure dans leurs opérations. Ceci n’est pas moins le cas des organismes du troisième secteur. En même temps, la recherche établissant un rapport entre le recours aux médias sociaux et le succès d’une organisation demeure peu concluante. Dans cet article, les auteurs évaluent l’utilisation de médias sociaux par des organisations du troisième secteur en examinant la présence sur Facebook et Twitter de quarante-cinq organismes canadiens se spécialisant en éducation, en secours aux sinistrés et en activisme écologique. En recourant à l’œuvre de Mark Granovetter sur la puissance des liens sociaux, les auteurs ont trouvé que les organismes de secours aux sinistrés tendaient à effectuer des activités axées sur des relations intenses d’un point de vue émotionnel, donc « fortes », tandis que les organismes éducationnels avaient une approche plus informationnelle afin de construire des relations « faibles » fondées sur des intérêts communs. Les organisations environnementales quant à elles employaient les deux stratégies, mais elles étaient moins enclines à élargir leurs activités au-delà de Facebook et Twitter. Les auteurs proposent d’identifier les stratégies d’attaches faibles et fortes comme outils pour évaluer le recours aux médias sociaux dans le secteur sans but lucratif. Ils soutiennent que la coordination des deux types de stratégie est nécessaire pour réussir les campagnes de médias sociaux.


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Author Biographies

Ryan Deschamps, Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School for Public Policy

Ryan Deschamps is a PhD Candidate at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School for Public Policy.

Kathleen McNutt

Kathleen McNutt is an Associate Professor in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina and a faculty associate in the department of political science.


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Table One: Disaster Relief Organizations