Are you listening Facebook? Did you hear nonprofits?
That’s what it looks like after the company, home to 1.59 billion monthly active users as of the end of 2015 announced its new website for nonprofits. If you judge it on looks, it’s well done and inviting. The “Learn More” buttons entice using buzzwords near and dear to nonprofits, from “Raise Awareness” to “Raise Funds” to my favorite, “Build Your Community.”
But does this site truly help my wonderful little nonprofit? Or any of us in the nonprofit world? Not really. There are some useful things there and it’s a very good 101. But Facebook doesn’t seem to have overcome the biggest hurdle it put in front of nonprofits last year. It’s still treating nonprofits like businesses. And this site seems to be a smoother way for Facebook to help us better spend our marketing money on its advertising.
Let’s face it. Last year was rough. Facebook told businesses, which includes nonprofits, they weren’t really welcome on the platform and then abruptly switched algorithms — or so it seemed. Apparently, Facebook explained, we were asking too much and too needy for Facebook user’s tastes, so Facebook stepped in to stop businesses from clogging up people’s feed. The new law of Facebook land read that only 10 percent of those who “liked” your business page saw its content, unless they chose to put that nonprofit or businesses in a special category via an elaborate liking process. The end result. It felt like we vanished — or rather, banished.
For us, it rendered our Facebook marketing campaigns all but useless. And left me feeling more than a bit betrayed. I enjoy and have enjoyed Facebook, whether it’s for work or myself for all the reasons we all enjoy it. I’ve reconnected with old friends and colleagues. I’ve reignite my passion for journalism and issues by learning from a variety of virtual friends. Plus, I get my news there, curated by people I respect. After I joined 23 other journalists to teach a national program about reporting on race, police and community, we formed a closed Facebook page for them. They’re still using it to support one another, find sources and improve storytelling.
In our classes, many people in nonprofits tell us they’re way to busy to put social media on the top of the to-do list. But we told them, nay nay. This is not an option. You must find the time. Social media is where the parties are at, we say: Facebook being the biggest party of all. In other words, we promoted heavily the importance of the platform to other nonprofits.
And our marketing strategies were strongly played out on Facebook after I arrived at Public Narrative two years ago. It worked great — until it didn’t. In March last year, we had a waiting list for our three-part Social Media Bootcamp class. We made an unprecedented move, offering the series again in May. That class filled and had a long waiting list as well. In fact, all are classes were filled. We had a 43 percent jump in enrollment year over year as we pushed aggressively on Facebook.
Then came the cruel summer of 2015 and the algorithm switch. Suddenly, our classes were cut in half because fewer people could see or hear us. And it was not just us.
“In the midst of a pivotal moment in patient engagement and empowerment, our microphone has been turned off,” Seth Ginsburg of the Global Healthy Living Foundation wrote in Non-Profit Quarterly in August. “We recruited an audience to fill the room and then suddenly, only those in the first few rows can hear us.”
For us, it took about five months to retool our marketing strategy to bring our classes back up to being filled. That’s a lot of time in a nonprofit.
And as I combed through the new Facebook site, I was looking for some sign that don’t see that issue being addressed. I don’t really see nonprofits being acknowledged as different than businesses. So I’m taking my time here.
Yes, of course, we’re still on Facebook. We have no choice. And I will spend advertising money, that’s a given for now. But these days, I have one eye on my “Insights” page and another on other platforms, especially Google. Where once my loyalty was steadfast, I’m shopping for emerging leaders, waiting to find a better booster for nonprofits, who understands a dot org, is not a dot com.
Interested in learning more about Facebook’s new website for nonprofits? Join us tomorrow in a 101 workshop on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at Columbia College Chicago here. Need something a little more advanced, join us for Social Media Bootcamp, March 2 here.