Released as part of a report on Communicating Global Giving (50 pages, PDF), the rankings analyzed the social media accounts of the top hundred philanthropists globally in terms of dollars donated to charitable causes and ranked the fifty with the largest audiences on eight platforms. With forty-five million followers across all platforms, the Gateses and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had the broadest social media reach overall, ranking first on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Weibo, followed by Richard Branson and Virgin Unite (first on LinkedIn and second on Twitter, Instagram, and Google+), and George Soros and the Open Society Foundation (third on Instagram and Weibo). Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his Dubai-based foundation ranked first on Instagram and fourth overall, while Larry Page and the Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation ranked first on Google+ and twenty-eighth overall.
A full 100 percent of the philanthropists in the study had profiles on Facebook, while 94 percent were on Twitter and 88 percent had a presence on LinkedIn; the percentages for other platforms ranged from 64 percent for YouTube to 8 percent on Weibo. Only 4 percent of the philanthropists in the study had accounts on all eight social media platforms. The report also noted that some of them, including the Gateses, Michael Bloomberg (sixth) and Eli Broad (forty-sixth), used social media mostly to discuss their philanthropic work, while Michael Dell (eighth), Paul G. Allen (forty-second), and others tended to focus on promoting their corporate brands.
Christopher Williams, director of media and external relations for the Gates Foundation, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that social media is a "powerful tool to reach audiences that care about the issues that the foundation works on and to listen to what they have to say about those issues and our work on them."
"Historically and traditionally, philanthropy has been a private enterprise," said Mark Flanagan, senior partner for content and digital strategy at Portland Communications. "Now philanthropists are increasingly using social media to promote their work, to mobilize resources, and to shape debates."