Although the number of social media users, including NGOs, continues to rise worldwide, studies focusing on how NGOs use social media are limited. Previous research is generally quantitative in nature and focuses more on whether NGOs use social media and less on how they use it. Further, these studies generally focus on the larger NGOs in the West. Therefore, there is a gap in existing literature about NGOs in the developing parts of the world, such as Africa. As poaching continues to be a serious and imminent threat to some of the world’s most iconic animals, it is particularly interesting to research this understudied niche of NGOs focusing on (anti-)poaching in Africa. More precisely, this research investigates in what ways NGOs communicate about (anti-)poaching in Africa on Facebook and Instagram and what content is most salient on their social media platforms. In addition, this study examines how these NGOs invite engagement on their platforms and what posts elicit more engagement. As this research looks at how NGOs use social media, focusing on the NGOs Facebook and Instagram content, a qualitative research approach was chosen. A thematic content analysis of 653 Facebook posts and 354 Instagram posts, from six different NGOs focusing on (anti-)poaching in Africa, was done. This study contributes to existing literature on how NGOs use social media by adding valuable knowledge about an understudied region and cause. It builds on existing theories by pointing out that these NGOs use five different communication strategies, ranging from information to activating, community building, asserting effectiveness and eliciting emotion. Although most posts are related to information, messages trying to activate and build a community were also frequently used. In addition, more in-depth knowledge about social media content is provided by discussing what content is most salient on these NGOs platforms. In concludes, these NGOs use visuals in nearly all their posts and use popular language and online trends, as well as digital features. Moreover, by examining how NGOs invite engagement, this study enhances knowledge about online stakeholder engagement in the NGO context. The research shows that, contrary to existing literature, most NGOs use different ways to invite engagement, such as appealing for donations via the special donate feature on Facebook and try to elicit online dialogue via questions and comments. Lastly, this study deepens the understanding of what types of posts elicit more engagement. It demonstrates that posts which try to elicit emotion receive significantly more engagement on Facebook than the other categories and – surprisingly – that posts which are informative in nature elicit most engagement on Instagram. This knowledge could potentially be interesting for NGOs wishing to create more engagement on their social media. Lastly, the limitations and directions for future research are mentioned.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, business, Africa, NGOs poaching, social media, stakeholder engagement.
Thesis Advisor V. Chaudhri
Persistent URL
Series Media & Business
R. Aitken. (2019, June 7). #AntiPoaching NGOs’ social media use in the battle against poaching in Africa. Media & Business. Retrieved from