How should local nonprofits respond to Facebook changes?

Last week, I posted about the recent bevy of changes to Facebook and shared four thoughts about the implications.  Today I suggest what nonprofits should do in response – along with some suggested do’s and don’t’s based on a recent “small N” survey of Sacramento-based nonprofit pages.*


1.  Right now, make sure that your Facebook “like” button is prominent on your website. Not a small share button somewhere at the bottom of the page but sizable and somewhere “above the fold.”  In the example below, the Child Abuse Prevention Center does a nice job of putting it in the context of “how you can help.”

2.  Ask people to help you reach the next milestone in friends by posting the request on their wall, which will distribute it to their friends’ walls.

Research suggests that direct requests to “like” you work.  I noticed two nonprofits that have done this recently.  WIND Youth Services posted an “ask” on August 12 to help them hit 300 friends; they hit that number on August 16 and were at 366 friends as of last week.  I’m not sure Effie Yeaw’s “ask” is going to work because it’s not direct enough and too distant from where they are: at 621 friends, they say they are “slowly inching their way to 1,000 likes.”

3.  Cross promote.  Although there is some evidence of audience interest decline (and despite SPAM filters that are making life ever-more difficult to reach people), your e-newsletter should link back to your website and promote your Facebook page… any printed materials should include the Facebook like button logo and your URL… if sales are a part of your business model you should distribute flyers at the cash register and/or put a message on the bottom of the sales receipt (as Nordstrom does).  And so on.  (Though not discussed in this post, Twitter has a powerful cross-promotional effect across platforms; it’s time to consider it as part of the mix – but do it right!)

4.  Don’t forget the basics: Make sure you have customized your Facebook URL to make your page easy to find, and take advantage of landing pages so that you convert those who check you out.  Try this test: have friends use the Facebook’s search function to find your organization’s page.  Did it come up in the list of options?  If you don’t have many friends and you’re not easily found via FB search, consider renaming or starting over.

5.  Now more than ever: customize your landing page (use a free tool like Pagemodo).  I checked out one nonprofit Facebook page last week that had me land on a flat-out request to donate.  Hey, we’re not even dating yet and you’re asking me to get married!  On the other hand, WEAVE has the perfect handshake:

6.  Post more photos!  If you really chart which of your posts get the most impressions and engagement using Facebook’s administrative Insights tool, you’ll probably find that photos are among your top performers.  But now when your cursor hovers over any of the Ticker features at the right of the page, you’ll see that photos really pop. Instead of a thumbnail, the photos are several inches wide.  They have a “wow” effect that they didn’t before… and photos are a great way for most nonprofits to tell their stories. (The same hovering action also shows you comments related to the photo, so you really feel like you’re interacting in a community.)

7.  If you post a link to an article, make sure you include at least a sentence of introduction.  Your recommendation is valuable to your followers, and if you include some keywords, it will improve the search position of the item – which, on an organization page, is public.

8.  You may need to reassure people about how much of their private information is public when they “like” you.  In an op-ed titled “Facebook Murders Privacy” on Mashable, Ben Parr comments, Everything can, and eventually will, get posted. Facebook has done something nobody has ever been able to do at scale: It has enabled passive sharing.

Not long after the Children’s Receiving Home created its Independent Living Program page in April, it felt it needed to post the following message.  I thought it was a little crazy and that it might have raised more questions than it answered.  In the new context of everything-is-public, however, people may have questions about how much of their content becomes public when they “like” your page (a person’s profile operates differently than an organization’s page):

I just want to remind you all that “liking” this page will NOT make your profile visible to the world. Only the administrators can see who has “liked” the page, unless you post a comment or “like” a someone else’s post. Even then,( unless your privacy settings are set to “public”), they will only see your name and picture. Also, if you are “friends” with other people who have “liked” the page, they will see you. :0)


1.  Resist the temptation to splinter your audience with more than one FB page. 

In my small survey this week, I found three nonprofits who had started additional pages.  If an event has a following, for example, should it have its own page separate from an event page that you create?  Or if a nonprofit has a retail location, should that location have its own page?  None of the three examples I found were accruing big numbers.  Having all of the content in one place — even event or retail promotion — may make the content more interesting for your entire audience.  Unless a nonprofit has the resources to promote more than one brand (and I don’t know of any that do), you’re increasing the work and diffusing your impact.

*I’ve been keeping an informal tally of local nonprofits’ Facebook growth since March 2010.  This week I enhanced that effort by using United Way’s certified nonprofit partners list as a starting point, checked about three dozen websites, and threw in some nonprofits of interest to me.  I’m now watching 42 organizations.  Among other things, I was surprised at some large nonprofits that have very poor websites and no Facebook presence (not necessarily the same organizations, by the way).  We have work to do, Sacramento nonprofits!

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