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Social Investing Terminology: Google Search Trends And Usage

I researched, compiled, and analyzed the following material on Friday, October 18 – Saturday, October 19, 2019 as supporting evidence for a book dissection assignment of Lester M. Salamon’s Leverage for Good: an Introduction to the New Frontiers of Philanthropy and Social Investment (2014) for my ‘Role & Unique Nature of the Nonprofit Sector’ class at Columbia University’s Master of Science in Nonprofit Management degree program.

I approached this exercise through a narrative economics lens, recognizing that the words we use to describe monetary phenomena in society lend value and validation to those terms; in the words of Yale’s Robert J. Shiller “… stories motivate and connect activities to deeply felt values and needs” (Shiller, 2017, p. 2). I thought it useful to analyze how the words we use to describe social investment have changed over time, specifically in the years since Salamon’s book was published in 2014.

Methods: to do this, I took the following steps:

Step 1.) I took the most frequently used terms related to “social investment” from portions of Salamon’s book. as well as several additional commonly used terms that have emerged in the field since his book’s publishing (such as ‘SRI’, ‘Social Impact’, and ‘ESG’), and searched each of them in Google.com, recording the number of results for each (Table 1).

Step 2.) I then sorted those results to identify the terms with the highest number of results (Table 2). The top results were ‘Social Capital, Social Investing (and, related, Social Investment), Social Finance, and Social Impact.’

Step 3.) I then took the four most frequently used words from Table 2 (choosing to use ‘Social Investing’ over ‘Social Investment’), entered each term into Google Trends, and then included ‘Philanthropy’ as a baseline against which to visualize the results. The results of the trending are broken out into two categories: 1.) Web Search (United States – Figure 1, and Worldwide – Figure 2), and 2.) News Search (United States – Figure 3, and Worldwide – Figure 4).

I have self-published the results of my explorations here for self-interested simplicity of reference and citation, as well as for viewing by others who may be interested in the subject. Please note that this research is not exhaustive, only preliminary. As such, it should be recognized as an incomplete snapshot in time to be used as a reference point, not as an empirical standard.

This data is static as of 10/19/19, and will not update.

Table 1. Word Search Results: Unsorted – Google Search Engine

Table 2. Word Search Results: Sorted – Google Search Engine

Figure 1. Social Investing Terminology: Comparative Interest Over Time – Web Search (United States, 1/1/04 – 10/19/19)

Figure 2. Social Investing Terminology: Comparative Interest Over Time – Web Search (Worldwide, 1/1/04 – 10/19/19)

Figure 3. Social Investing Terminology: Comparative Interest Over Time – News Search (United States, 1/1/08 – 10/19/19)

Figure 4. Social Investing Terminology: Comparative Interest Over Time – News Search (Worldwide, 1/1/08 – 10/19/19)


All material, unless otherwise noted, © Benjamin Murphy, 2019. All Rights Reserved.


Image: Silhouette Head Bookshelf by geralt. Pixabay.

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