Why Facebook (Still) Matters for Non-Profits - Part One

Lou Kotsinis Lou Kotsinis wrote this on Jun 01, 2015

Lou Kotsinis co-founded BCS Interactive in 2011; he writes about digital marketing, user experience, business topics and client management. Follow him @bcsinteractive or @loukotsinis.

It’s always hard to feel sorry for a company that’s grown so large it’s become an inescapable part of our lives. Lately though, Facebook has been receiving an especially bad rap; first, in the notion that it’s no longer the “hip” social media platform. Second, and more importantly for anyone responsible for marketing, is talk of Facebook’s diminishing effectiveness as an audience-building tool.

If you are a non-profit organization that’s not using Facebook to build your on-line community, you’re doing your cause a disservice. Through a series of posts in the coming weeks, I’ll discuss some of the reasons why non-profits should be working towards growing as large a Facebook audience as possible. But first, I’d like to address one of several misconceptions that are feeding the “Who-needs-Facebook?” movement.

Myth - No One on Facebook Sees Your Content Anymore

In his recent post, These Six Stupid Marketing Metrics Need to Die, Larry Kim argues – and he’s by no means alone – that organic Facebook reach is trending towards zero and therefore, organizations shouldn’t rely on page likes as a factor in measuring digital marketing success. But that’s not the full picture.

Like any other social tool, Facebook wants to serve its users interesting and relevant content so that they continue to patronize the platform. And Facebook hasn’t been shy about their efforts toward this goal. If your organization is regularly posting self-serving, blatantly promotional content then yes, those posts will be seen by very few people. But this lack of reach might be a result of how you’re approaching social media, not necessarily a concerted effort on Facebook’s part to limit how many users see your content.

If your mission resonates, and you’re posting interesting, relevant content at the appropriate time, fans will share, like and comment on it, deeming it – in Facebook’s view – valuable; in turn, more people will see it. The organic (i.e., not supported through paid advertising) content we post on behalf of many of our non-profit clients is often served to 20%-50% of a given fan base, sometimes more. Call me conservative, but if an organization has 30,000 fans, and 6,000 to 15,000 of those fans are seeing and engaging with its content on a regular basis, that’s a success.

With over a billion users accessing millions of brand pages, the idea that Facebook can show every post to every user every time is ludicrous – there’s simply no room. So it chooses to show the content it deems “valuable” based on how many users engage with it.

But, isn’t Facebook purposefully suppressing organic reach to force organizations to pay for increased exposure? Possibly.  At the end of the day though, Facebook is a business, and it must make a profit.  But even here, it stays true to delivering the most appropriate content to an intended audience. Anyone who’s paid close attention to their own Facebook presence will note that Facebook plays up content it deems relevant to an audience, and plays down purely promotional posts – those are the ones it wants you to pay to boost. This is not just good business, but it ensures that users are getting content they actually want to read.

You don’t have to look far within your own Facebook page to see this dichotomy at work. Here’s an example from our own client, SpreadMusicNow, a Connecticut-based non-profit that provides individualized music instruction to underserved children:

Properly-timed and relevant posts such as this one in honor of B.B. Kings passing get major organic traction.

These posts were made within five days of each other. The first was intended to honor a music legend. The second mentioned an upcoming fundraiser. Looking at the organic reach of each example, which post do you think Facebook wants us to promote?

Due to the two factors I’ve mentioned above – a crowded platform and Facebook’s business requirements - we will never again see the days where every post, irrespective of content, will reach a substantial audience. This is just a matter of common sense and a non-profit should respond accordingly. But to downplay the value of a large fan base based on the blanket assumption that no one will see your organic content is, to borrow Larry Kim’s terminology, stupid.

Are you responsible for marketing a cause or non-profit organization? I’d love to hear about your experiences in growing and maintaining your Facebook audience. What are some of the successes you’re seeing? What are some of the challenges you’re up against?  Tweet at @bcsinteractive or leave us your thoughts below. 

 

Tags: non-profit, social media

comments powered by Disqus