There was much talk made of the changes to how Facebook shows posts from Pages at the end of last year, you can see my thoughts here. If you missed it, the short story is that Facebook is now making increasingly clear that in order for posts produced from Pages (not individual personal accounts, but Pages) to be shown in supporters' feeds you will need to pay through their promoted post system. For non-profits who have used Facebook as a key part of their digital communications strategy, having to pay for what previously was a resource that only cost time, could have a significant impact on already stretched budgets. (For the record, the same impact will be had for business Pages, and in particular I've had a lot of similar conversations with small businesses who have not previously had budget for boosting Facebook posts).
I've been keeping on top of blogs, comments and thoughts on this topic and thinking about it a lot over the past few weeks. We work with a number of our clients on a strategic level to advise them on how to use their digital resources, (where resources = money and staff time), and for most of our clients stronger returns on site traffic, donations and measurable forms of engagement happen through Facebook activity over other social networks like Twitter, Instagram, GooglePlus, etc. over the past few years. As such, this shift toward a paid system for Facebook enagement will certainly have impacts. As I'm starting the new year meeting with clients and planning out for 2014 and upcoming budgets here's what I'm advising with regards to Facebook's place in your digital strategy.
- We have always maintained that while undoubtedly powerful, Social Media platforms like Facebook need to be thought of as what they are: someone else's playing field that, to date, we've all been invited to join. And, as long as it is someone else's playing field, they actually don't owe their users anything. Should they be giving their users services, courtesies, etc as a part of their implied social contract or to build a solid business model? You could argue yes, but from a purely business point of view, they are not obligated to provide much. We always advise our clients to ensure that they are capturing supporter's contact information and data off-platform whiel they grow the community within the platform. This latest change is a great reminder to work a strategy focused on capturing supporter data into systems you own into your plans for this year.
- One of the greatest impacts of social media is in the social referral/connections aspect. Specifically, being able to find your spheres and people of influence via social media and connect to them. This latest change to Pages doesn't impact individuals posts, that is, individuals' posts will still show up in their networks' feeds without paid promotion. Of course whose posts show up where is a factor of other Facebook algorithims, but still it does not require a payment to make happen. Find real live people who are passionate about your cause and your organization and reach out to them. Reach out to them on social networks, but also see if you can't actually reach out to them in real life (either by direct email contact, or if they are geographically local by inviting them to connect in person). This kind of outreach is a new form of donor/supporter stewardship and making genuine connections with these people will help ensure that they spread your information through their networks. It may not have the same direct measurable impact of watching how many Facebook referrals lead to donations during a campaign, but it will help to build knowledge and trust amongst networks of real people who can become your supporters.
- Finally, don't panic. Facebook is changing. Twitter is changing. Biz Stone, one of Twitter's founders, has launched a new social platform (only for use on the phone) Jelly and no one yet knows what impact it may have on the landscape. It wasn't that long ago that Google Ads played an important role in some of our client's digital outreach strategies, and now most are seeing little/no return in that area as eyeballs and interests shift. Things will shift from Facebook and/or things at Facebook will continue to shift. A good digital strategy has core objectives and some tools in place to measure impact, the execution needs to be nimble enough to shift over time.