Facebook changes: opportunity or threat for local nonprofits?

Everybody and their mother has written about Facebook changes this week (here’s an overview from Mashable) but I feel compelled to jump into the fray with a few thoughts about the implications for local nonprofits with limited resources.  Are the current changes good or bad for local nonprofits trying to build a channel for engagement and communications?

  • Thought #1: Change is good if it helps preserve and protect the “cool, fun” factor of Facebook;
  • Thought #2: For the truly engaged, nonprofits’ updates may receive more attention because of their placement in to top news stories….
  • Thought #3: But visibility may suffer among friends-of-friends as people pick and choose what they want to read more about from the news ticker (at right in image above);
  • Thought #4: Anytime Facebook changes anything, people worry what FB has done to their privacy settings, breeding an environment of distrust about “friending” nonprofits’ FB pages.
As more small nonprofits jump on Facebook, there will certainly be more competition for attention.  If the average person has 130 friends, and they’re involved in one cause or another, then you’re going to see more and more stuff coming through about nonprofits. Eventually people may tune out.
But for now, I believe that Facebook still represents one of the best opportunities that nonprofits have to reach and engage an audience.
Back to thought #1: if people are having more fun on Facebook, or it’s more central to their lives, it will continue to be very important for nonprofits to be good at communicating in that venue.  In fact, I still consider it the second most important tool in a nonprofit’s integrated communications toolbox (with the website being first).
In a world where traditional communications channels have splintered, and people are receiving news and information based on their preferences, Facebook continues to provide an important means to be introduced to new potential supporters through peer networks. People who like Facebook may be just as likely to consult your page on Facebook as they are to pull up a new window to check out your website; it’s easier.  And, although it’s hard to play the SEO (search engine optimization) game on Facebook, your page may well come up in search results.  Facebook matters.

More reason for nonprofits to focus on Facebook:  If you “like” a nonprofit page this week (here, try River City Food Bank), you’ll see that you are prompted to recommend the page to others.  So once someone likes you, there is now an easy, obvious action that friends can take.

Finally, Facebook reported last week that a half a billion people were active on Facebook in a single day.  As I tweeted, half a billion here… half a billion there… and pretty soon you’re talking really big numbers.

Tomorrow: Facebook do’s and don’t’s for nonprofit in the wake of the new changes


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