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Facebook's Nonprofit Problem

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Mar 16, 2015 8:30:00 AM

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Facebook for Nonprofits

Facebook, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

Yeah sure, you’ve got 1.19 billion users. Sure, the company is valued at $210 billion. All that is fine and dandy I’m sure. This is a problem of reputation. A reputation of being a friend of social good.

If you run a Facebook page for a business, organization, or nonprofit, you’ve undoubtedly seen a drop in the organic reach of your posts (that is, the number of people who see your post on their newsfeed) across the last few years. In an effort to drive advertising sales, Facebook has throttled down the reach of pages, unless they pay to have a post boosted.

I won’t fault them for doing that. Hey, it’s a business, and businesses have to make money. They’ve worked hard to develop an enviably captive audience, and they should be able to profit off of that.

The problem arises with organizations who have relied on their Facebook pages to reach their supporters, and who don’t have a budget to spend on boosting posts. Animal shelters, community organizations, nonprofits, and similar groups.

One such page organizer is so fed up, they’ve started a petition asking Facebook to change their algorithm to give nonprofits their reach back.

Ironically enough, a lot of the material shared by these groups is newsfeed gold. It’s the exact kind of material young people love consuming on Facebook. Pictures of adorable puppies available for adoption? Heartwarming stories of people making a difference in their community? We eat that up!

But all of this still does not a problem make. Facebook is under no obligation to give away its product for free.

It does become an issue, however, when your industry peers are building a reputation for being champions of nonprofits.

Enter Google and Twitter

Google has long been a friend of the nonprofit community. Through their Google Grants program, nonprofits can receive $10,000 a month in free AdWords (Google’s paid search listings at the top of search result pages) advertising.

$10,000! Every month!

Google’s done more than just talk the talk. They’ve offered real, measurable support for nonprofits.

Then there’s Twitter. While they’re not giving out thousands of dollars of free advertising every month, Twitter does offer helpful guides to nonprofits to maximize their use of the platform.

More importantly, Twitter has developed a reputation for being a platform for social change. The Arab Spring has been referred to as “The Twitter Revolution.” Protests for social justice throughout the U.S. were organized on and closely watched by millions of people around the country on Twitter.

Twitter has become known worldwide as the place where the voiceless can be heard.

That’s the reputation problem Facebook has on its hands. Its two biggest peers in the tech world (and their biggest competitor) have built reputations for being champions of social good. Meanwhile, Facebook is viewed by nonprofit workers as the platform that throttled their once busy pages.

The Real Estate Problem

Unfortunately, this is not an easy problem to solve for one big reason: real estate.

Twitter has endless real estate. Tweets are small and fast moving. Twitter doesn’t have to worry about giving away that real estate for free, because there’s plenty to go around.

Meanwhile, Facebook real estate is much like New York real estate. Everybody wants it and there’s not much left.

Facebook posts typically have a much longer shelf life. You’re likely to see posts from several days back. They also take up a lot of room. Pictures and videos are displayed inline with the newsfeed and they’re much longer in length than tweets. Users are likely to see far fewer posts per session than they are on a platform like Twitter.

Giving that space away would be costly.

Costly Real Estate, Happier Users

While the space is costly and tough to give away for free, it might result in an improved user experience. As previously mentioned, the type of content nonprofits share is the exact type of material that people enjoy liking, commenting, and sharing on Facebook.

In the meantime, nonprofits can encourage supporters to share posts of their own promoting the campaigns, as the reach of individual posts is still healthy. On the WeDidIt fundraising platform, Facebook is still far and away the biggest social media traffic driver (though it lags behind email referral traffic), so it’s still a valuable platform to focus on.

But you may just want to sign that petition while you’re at it.

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Topics: Fundraising, online fundraising, social media

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