Report Card: Which Groups Use Social Media?

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Being tech savvy is a prized credential among the nation's top political organizations. As new social media tools have popped up over the past several years, the myriad activist coalitions and trade associations have started to use them to stay in touch with members and generate buzz. If you're a political activist, chances are someone has tried to reach out to you online.

But which groups use the most online media tools? And which tools get used the most?

In a contest among 102 of the nation's top pressure groups, cause organizations, and trade associations, the Sierra Club and Facebook are the winners.

The tech-oriented communications specialists at 2nd Six, Tribe Effect, and Chris Lisi Communications have just published a study on the matter. They surveyed 102 groups to see if those organizations used 14 online media tools, including: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, e-mail, online action centers to let visitors get updates and calls to action, LinkedIn, blogs, Digg, SumbleUpon, widgets, blog badges (logos that bloggers can download and feature on their sites), and SlideShare.

The top five organizations were left of center: Sierra Club uses 10 of the social media tools examined, SEIU uses nine, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the American Wind Energy Institute, and Human Rights Campaign all use eight

The lower rungs of the tech-savvy ladder tend to be filled with industry associations that aren't particularly active, politically--groups one doesn't necessarily associate with activism. The Grocery Manufacturers of Amerca, the Dairy Farmers of America, and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America used none of the 14 tools examined.

The most prominent groups in the bottom tier (and their scores out of 14) were the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (2), the American Council of Life Insurers (2), the American Petroleum Institute (2), the Biotechnology Industry Organizatino (2), the American Medical Association (1), America's Health Insurance Plans (1), and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (1).

Prominent groups from the top tier included Business Roundtable (7), the League of Conservation Voters (7), the U.S. Telecom Association (7), the National Rifle Association (7), the American Farm Bureau Federation (6), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (6), and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (5).

It's hard to break down the field demographically, since it was saturated with industry associations. On the whole, however, big liberal groups like Sierra Club and Human Rights Campaign, as well as some of the top business groups, fared well. The bigger unions did quite well, too, with the smaller ones, less involved in national politics, at the bottom.

On average, the 102 organizations utilize 3.36 of the 14 tools available.

So which tools are getting used the most for online advocacy? Here are how they rank. The most basic tools--online action centers and e-mail--are used the most. But among independent social media forums, Facebook is the most popular

    -82 percent have online advocacy centers linked from their homepages
    -54 percent use e-mail
    -36 percent use Facebook
    -34 percent use LinkedIn
    -33 percent use Twitter
    -31 percent have a blog
    -24 percent have a YouTube channel
    -24 percent have a SlideShare account
    -9 percent have a Flickr account
    -8 percent are on MySpace asd
    -3 percent have downloadable/embeddable widgets
    -1 percent have a StumbleUpon account
    - and none of them had deployable blog badges

The full report, fittingly, is available on SlideShare.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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