Tag Archives: Facebook

What’s “Good” Nonprofit Facebook Growth?

Being liked on Facebook isn’t enough, but it’s not a bad place to start. Facebook continues to be an important channel for building engagement with community members, volunteers, donors and potential donors.

In March 2010 I started tracking a sampling of Sacramento nonprofits to understand something about the growth of Facebook. By “sampling,” I do not mean that I constructed a representative sample; let’s say I taste-tested them to get a sense of average performance and growth. Though there were baseline numbers out there in the blogosphere, they were generally for big, national organizations. I wanted to know what a local nonprofit should be striving to achieve.

I’ve now got 33* organizations in my sights including a few that I added in this round and a few that I exclude from analysis as outliers.

Here are the highlights from an analysis of 24 local nonprofits:

  • In 2010 (when I was tracking a much smaller comparison group), the average number of likes was around 500. The average is now 973.
  • I was surprised by the continuing growth between June 3, 2012 and June 3, 2013. As the denominator gets bigger, it gets harder to achieve impressive growth. That’s just math. I was also concerned that Facebook’s changes have made it harder for nonprofits’ content to be seen as widely. Among the 24 nonprofits who had at least 500 likes last year, growth ranged from a low of 11% (People Reaching Out) to a high of 63% (United Way California Capital Region).
  • In the group with 500-1,000 likes last year, growth averaged 34%. (United Way fell in this group, with 501 likes as of 6/3/12 and 815 as of 6/2/13).
  • In the group with 1,000+ likes last year, growth averaged 39%. The “winner” in this larger category was Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which grew from 1,125 likes a year ago to 1,763 today. The growth of this larger category impressed me. It suggested that whatever “machine” they ginned up to get to the 1,000 mark is still accelerating.

What about the outliers?

I don’t know what’s going on with Stanford Youth Solutions (formerly Stanford Children’s Home). They started their Facebook page in 2011 and had 393 likes this time last year. Now they have 70. They’ve redone their website but their social link (singular) is buried (unobtrusively displayed on the right several screen swipes down).

Susan G. Komen, which experienced a dramatic drop in racer participants, has also had a huge loss in Facebook friends, dropping from 9,815 in 2012 to 6,948 today, a 29% drop.

I also exclude the Crocker Art Museum because of their size. But they should be feeling great about continuing growth, from 13,860 a year ago to 18,194 today, 31% growth!

How’d they do that?

Facebook doesn’t have to be a part of a nonprofit’s marketing strategy, but I’d be hard pressed to come up with a circumstance when it doesn’t belong in it.

One of the obvious differences between organizations that grew rapidly and those that didn’t is the placement of Facebook on their website page. I suspect that also carries over to other communications – printed materials, emails, etc.

For every rule, however, there’s an exception. Effie Yeaw is obviously doing a great job of promoting their Facebook page, but not on their website. If the link is there, I couldn’t find it!

I’ll do some more sleuthing to see if I can ferret out winning approaches in content as a driver of Facebook growth.

*The organizations I track – all local affiliates:

United Way, American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, Child Abuse Prevention Center, Children’s Receiving Home, Crocker Art Museum, Diogenes Youth Center, Effie Yeaw, Foodlink, Francis House, Give Local Now, Goodwill, Hands On Sacramento, Junior Achievement, Lilliput, Loaves and Fishes, Make a Wish, People Reaching Out, PRIDE Industries, River City Food Bank, Sacramento Children’s Home, Sacramento Steps Forward, Sacramento Tree Foundation, Sierra Forever Families, Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen, Stanford Youth Solutions, St. John’s Shelter, Volunteers of America, WEAVE, WIND Youth Services, Women’s Empowerment, The Y of Sacramento

Comments Off on What’s “Good” Nonprofit Facebook Growth?

Filed under Social media, Uncategorized

Arts Day of Giving Made History! Way to Go Sacramento!

Final Results Arts Day of Giving Give Local NowOn April 29, Sacramento held its first online fundraising blitz and generated $411,907 for ~80 arts-related organizations with programs spread across the region from Davis to Roseville, Placerville and Stockton. Even though another big local news story threatened to eclipse the attention being lavished on the event — the vote of the NBA Committee not to allow the sale of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, posted by the Bee at about 2 p.m. —  Sacramento proved it could multi-task. People tweeted about the Kings while the Arts Day of Giving continued to generate email, Facebook and Twitter traffic.

The event was a big darned deal for a number of reasons:

Looking at the experience of other cities that have deployed similar technology, it also successfully demonstrated how much more opportunity we have. I’ll blog some thoughts soon about where we might go from here.

The Technology

There’s no doubt about it: many people want charitable giving to be dead easy. But technology costs money. Even if you acquire off-the-shelf technology, as our local organizers did, it takes a ton of time to wrestle a project like this to the ground. The software has to be modified, and nonprofits have to agree to participate and create profiles, all of which takes more time. Susan Frazier of Give Local Now credited the Sacramento Region Community Foundation with contributing resources – time and money – to build the engine of Arts Day of Giving. No doubt the collaboration with the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and For Arts Sake made a difference, too.

Give2Max home pageBut the results seem to be worth it for communities taking advantage of this new approach. In 2011, I blogged about Give2Max Day in the Washington DC area, which raised over $2 million in a 24 hour period from nearly 18,000 donors. Online giving blitzkriegs are picking up steam with events in places as far flung as Seattle (Big Give upcoming event on May 15), North Texas (Get Up and Give! which raised over $14 million from almost 28,000 donors) and Columbus, OH (The Big Give raised $8.5 million from over 10,000 donors).

Arts Day of Giving home page with categoriesI decided to test the technology by making several small donations. Dead easy indeed. If you knew which organization you wanted to donate to, you used the handy search field. But what if you didn’t know and wanted to “shop” for an object of your affections? The brain trust behind Arts Day of Giving created easily-digestible categories of arts organizations from arts education to dance, music, arts education, visual art, media and more. In each of those categories, you might see as many as a dozen nonprofits. You could click on a profile and learn more about them; seeing them in a consistent, complete framework made it a cakewalk.

Philanthrophile tweet stream #ArtsDayofGivingAs you can tell from my tweet stream, I made a series of seven rapid-fire small donations between 8:05 and 8:28 p.m. At the bottom of my first purchase screen was a link to allow me to select another charity. When I selected one, all I had to do was re-enter my credit card. Within seconds, I had an email receipt in my inbox.

The reason I tweeted my donation (which I normally wouldn’t) was to help charities vie for a social media prize worth $1,000. They had to be mentioned on a public post or tweet along with the hashtag #ArtsDayofGiving.

Who benefited most?

The Leaderboard (which is still visible) allowed charities and donors to see exactly who was winning the donation race. Sacramento Ballet received almost $50,000.

My informal visual survey of the Twitter stream during the 24 hour event revealed that Sac Ballet was the most active. They may have done a bang up job of promoting the event to their members in advance of April 29, but I suspect that the event brought them new supporters, largely through Twitter. And this is strange: Sac Ballet doesn’t promote its Twitter “handle” on its website and doesn’t seem to have a Facebook page. My advance prediction was that the Crocker Art Museum would raise the most funds because of its highly public profile. After all, it’s a place — and a place has the advantage when it comes to building relationships. Drop in anytime! But the Crocker also has a big social media footprint with nearly 18,000 likes on Facebook and almost 1,000 followers on Twitter.

But in some ways I think the biggest winners were organizations with lower profiles. The technology provided them with a way to raise visibility that they never could have achieved on their own. Case in point: @DDSOorg noticed me tweeting and sent me a message thanking me for supporting the Arts Day of Giving. I looked at their Twitter profile where they turned out to be the Developmental Disabilities Service Organization which “champions the creativity & potential within the hearts & minds of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities using innovative strategies.” Then I looked them up on the Give Local Now event homepage. Then I gave.

Another surprising winner was the Sacramento Mandarins, a drum and bugle corps, which raised $16,000 from 78 donors.

Inquiring minds want to know

Twitter traffic Arts Day of GivingAn event like this leaves me salivating with more questions than answers:

  • Did Twitter have the most impact on traffic to the event page?
  • What happened to traffic on nonprofits’ own websites during the event?
  • Did landing pages like the one on Capitol Public Radio convert traffic to Give Local Now visits?
  • Did nonprofits mostly find new donors, as has been the case in other cities? Or did they see old friends come back in a new way?
  • What were nonprofit’s best practices (IMHO) on Twitter during the event?
  • Why weren’t more individuals engaged (as opposed to organizational tweeters)? There were a few voices out there but some of the most active social media adherents (some of whom work for public relations agencies) didn’t seem to be involved.
  • Where was United Way? In some other cities they seem to have been involved in giving events like this one.

Tomorrow (I hope): Opportunity knocks! How this online giving technology could become an even better thing for Sacramento nonprofits? (And I might throw in a little about the risks – like rising administrative fees,  wearing out the market with fundraising contests, or failing to let people know what happened with their donations, a leading reason that people don’t give.)

1 Comment

Filed under fundraising, Uncategorized

Benchmarking Facebook page growth among Sacramento nonprofits

We interrupt our series on strategic planning for nonprofits to check in on an important tactic. Although organizations like NTEN collect and report valuable benchmark data about online communication and fundraising by nonprofits, they usually survey nonprofits that are much larger than those in a community the size of Sacramento.

Starting in March 2010, I began collecting information about Sacramento nonprofits’ Facebook results. Initially I looked at a dozen or so. In September 2011, I expanded my efforts and started tracking more than 30 organizations’ Facebook pages. I took another snapshot today.

Since I have more data for the 9-month period, I’ll report that. Excluding three outliers, nonprofits here in Sacramento experienced an average growth of 38.6% in “likes” over the past 9 months. Among nonprofits who had between 500 and 1,000 “likes” as of September 2011, Effie Yeaw appears to be the winner. In September 2011, they had been liked by 621 people and now they boast 1,125. Good for you, Effie Yeaw, as you make the important transition to being supported by donations rather than funded by a governmental agency! We’ll have to check in and find out how they managed such great growth.

I excluded Sierra Forever Families because they had literally just launched on Facebook when I took my first data snapshot. I also excluded Stanford Home for Children, which has a new identity as Stanford Youth Solutions. Evidently they abandoned their Facebook page with the old identity and are now promoting a page with the new one.

I also excluded Susan G. Komen’s Facebook page. They either picked up a huge number of new likes after the recent Planned Parenthood funding controversy, growing from 2,167 friends in September 2011 to 9,815 today, or it’s possible that they have more than one Facebook page and I previously pulled numbers for a different one than I did today.

What gets you the most new likes, Sacramento nonprofits?

(The chart below is not the entire data set, so the math won’t work right if you try to calculate the average.)

1 Comment

Filed under Benchmarks, Social media, Uncategorized

20 questions from CSUS Graphic Design students

CSUS professor Gwen Amos’ “Visual Image” students have a tough assignment:  research and understand the scope of poverty in Sacramento, and develop a print piece, poster and campaign to assist a worthy nonprofit.  Today I met with four students — Biz Lemma, Charmian Mendoza, Jessica Ripley and Kevin Swaim — to discuss their preliminary ideas to benefit Women’s Empowerment, an organization that they see has having a vital mission and approach to helping homeless women. (Note: their work is not sponsored by Women’s Empowerment but they selected the organization and are busily working on ideas to advance its cause.)

They also came with a laundry list of questions – 20, to be exact!  More than a dozen were of general interest so I’ll do my best to answer them here.  Readers, do you disagree with me? Please comment.  I know the students would appreciate the input.

How can we, as designers, use social marketing strategies to influence the behaviors of the public?

How can’t you?  I know that’s not what you asked. Social marketing literally means influencing attitudes and behaviors to accomplish a public good. All causes have to “map” how they will get people from point “A” to point “B.”  They may have to create awareness first before getting people to take steps that will accomplish the good they envision. Or it may be that people are already aware of the issue and just need to know how they can get involved, usually starting with low-risk baby steps and progressing to higher involvement. Social media, which we discussed today, offers an important set of tools to get people to engage.

What methods have been used in “call to action” campaigns that would work on a local scale?

We discussed a variety of examples when we met, but I’ll share one here.  Some of the most successful campaigns address a problem that people immediately grasp, make it easy to support the effort, and have a short-term sense of urgency.  “Give to the Max Day” in Minnesota is an effort by that state’s nonprofits to come together and get people to give locally.  Last year, the effort raised more than $10 million from 42,000 donors in 24 hours.

What levels of interactivity do we need to reach in order to make an impact? How important is it for the audience to be able to interact with an advertisement as opposed to simply read information on a flyer?

I know from our conversation that you’re wondering whether a poster or flyer (which requires no interaction) is better or worse that some kind of communications tool that makes you take an action (like a tear-off pad).  Old school direct mail advertising used to favor pieces where you had to apply a sticker and send in for the free offer.  Asking people to do something yielded higher returns than just a plain old mail appeal.  But today, it’s important to remember that people have short attention spans.  Something tactile might work if it’s clever enough and makes sense, or it might get ignored.  Spend time thinking about where people are now in their decision process about involvement.  Do you need to spend time raising awareness as a “drip irrigation” method: delivering a steady stream of short messages through passive media like billboards?  Or do people already ‘get it’ and just need an easy way to act – like click a button on a website?  When it comes to interactivity, I’d think less about print, which has a substantial up front cost and may be risky in terms of return. Think more about online tactics.

For a cause like helping to alleviate poverty, is a magazine the right way to present the information we have?

It could be a way to present it.  First you have to reach an audience that wants to know more. Magazines have the luxury of multiple pages to tell the story, and the ability to present compelling visuals.  They might be a great tool for major donor prospects.  Another approach might be a video.

Do you think that social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is more successful currently than traditional billboards, print ads, mailers, etc.?

The metric for success here is return on investment.  For every dollar you spend, what do you get back?  Because social media are cheap or free, it’s hard to beat the return.  Plus you can experiment rapidly.  On the other hand, the jury is out in terms of social media’s ability to generate substantial donations.  As pointed out recently by John Kenyon at the Nonprofit Resource Center conference, email and even “snail mail” still play an important role in generating donations.  (Here’s an old presentation of his that explains the role of email in fundraising.)  Online donors frequently become snail mail donors.

Is there any gain in having volunteer organizations on Yelp?

Yelp is definitely a social medium, but people tend to go there for reviews.  It can be a good place to create events to attract new friends and followers.

Do you feel that QR codes are a fad?  Are these marketable to older crowds as well?  Are people more likely o get involved with an organization, or at least visit their websites, if there is a QR in the ad?

Old like me 🙂 ? I think they’ll be useful eventually but right now they’re mostly sizzle and no steak for nonprofits.  On the other hand, there is a small set of people who love new tech toys, and those people might follow a QR to a website.  If you’re trying to recruit programmers to work with disadvantaged kids near Silicon Valley, a QR code on ads might work well.  Think about your target audience first.  Do they have smart phones and use a QR reader app?

What is a good way to advertise for volunteers as opposed to donations?

Volunteering and donating are both behaviors.  As we talked about today, friends are a more influential source of information than paid advertising.  Think about how you can mobilize people to bring their friends into a cause, whether it’s as a volunteer or donor.  You might think of those as alternative paths for giving.  Some people might have more time or talent, while others have more financial resources.  Nonprofits need both.

What is a good length for a YouTube video campaign?  Would these be effective for groups such as Women’s Empowerment so that the target audience can put a face to the cause?

Watch TV news and you’ll get a pretty good idea about the optimal length of a video.  Keep remembering: we all have short attention spans!  I haven’t seen data about optimal length but I’d guess 2-3 minutes would be the maximum before you start to lose people.  Videos do need a story arc: something that engages you, depicts a struggle or a challenge, and releases tension by providing information about what you can do.  Video is ideal for organizations like Women’s Empowerment, much harder for organizations that have “colorless” visuals – e.g. free tax preparation assistance. [Update:  The Give Minnesota folks are also running a nonprofit video contest called “Does this make my heart look big?” The second flash image that comes up once you land on the site asks for votes on the most compelling video.  Check them out and see what you think about length and impact.]

What sort of information would an organization trying to raise community involvement need to include on a Facebook page?  In trying to up the number of volunteers, would Facebook be more successful than traditional print ads or flyers?

What works best – always – is an integrated media campaign across multiple channels, but nonprofits rarely have the money for that.  Websites and Facebook are very cost effective channels for engaging people.  The beauty of Facebook is engagement and interaction; it’s a conversation rather than a one-way channel.  Spend time looking around on Facebook fan pages to see what kind of content (and messages) seem to be working for nonprofits that have similar appeals.  Draft a one-page “message and voice” guideline with your ideas about what the nonprofit needs to convey (prioritized) and what its personality should be.  The idea is to get other people to post on your page and on their own page.  Above is an example from today on River City Food Bank‘s Facebook page – 2 people who cared enough to post.

How many campaigns should an organization have per year?

Whatever number is effective!  It would depend on the organization and what it’s asking through the campaigns.  The big thing is that the organization should map out a strategy for the year.  For example, it might start the year with a personal outreach campaign to major donors, then promote an event, then focus on a membership drive, then do a holiday push and “it’s not too late” New Year’s reminder.

Parting words

Start with the end in mind (outcome).  What is the problem the client — in this case, the nonprofit — is struggling with that marketing and design can help solve?

Conceptualize a strategy that goes from awareness of a problem or cause through the behavior that the nonprofit wants to encourage.  You will undoubtedly have a limited budget so pick just one step on the long ladder from awareness to behavior as a place to begin.

Test it on your mother.  Can you explain what you want your Mom to do in 140 characters or less so that she gets it and wants to help?

Think in terms of a short campaign – or at least a fairly short experiment.  So many of the “old reliable” marketing techniques have fallen by the wayside with splintered audiences.  Now everything is test and learn, keep building on what works and stop doing what doesn’t.  What can you do that’s not too expensive and gets a response in 6 weeks or less?

Good luck.  And thanks.  The nonprofit world needs young people like you who care, and have talent to share.

1 Comment

Filed under Social media, Strategy, Uncategorized

How STF made 1,000+ new Facebook friends in 30 days

Check out the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s Facebook page posts before and after their very successful Facebook growth campaign, and then read what Colleen Cadwallader, the organization’s development director, has to say about the results. (Note: republished version – section that was left out was inserted.)

Before – 1,200 friends:

Before: 1,200 friends

After – ~3,500 friends*:

*Approximately 300 of the new likes were from outside the local area

Background:  After renovating its Campus Commons senior independent living community outdoor environment in Sacramento – including planting 106 new trees – Sacramento-based Ray Stone Seniors approached the Sacramento Tree Foundation about a cross-promotional campaign.  Active in the local community since 1968, the company saw a connection between their renovation effort and STF’s campaign to preserve and protect Sacramento’s legacy of trees.  What if local companies got behind the community goal of planting 5 million trees? The company offered to make a donation for every new Facebook friend that liked the STF Facebook page in a 30 day period – an adaptation of a matching donation fundraising program.  In return, STF would expose its audience of 12,000 newsletter subscribers and 1,000+ Facebook friends to Ray Stone senior independent living communities.

Disclosure:  “Philanthrophile” is not a bystander in this one.  I was a matchmaker.  As an owner/family member and sometimes-consultant for Ray Stone Seniors, I stumbled across the fact the Campus Commons senior independent living community had made a dramatic investment in trees and landscaping as part of its vision of having a high quality indoor/outdoor living experience.  It occurred to me that there might be an opportunity for a new kind of business collaboration that supported both organizations’ goals. “Philanthrophile’s” personal goal is to help local nonprofits find effective and affordable ways to further their missions.

Q & A with Colleen Cadwallader

What happened?  Did engagement and interaction increase, decrease or stay about the same?

Engagement and interaction increased ten-fold; however, that was in large part because we made an extra effort to post fun and interesting things that enticed fans to participate more.  The promotion really motivated our staff to use Facebook more.

What did STF do to promote and add legs to the campaign?

We used a number of different tactics to get the word out:

  • Email taglines about the campaign were added to every staff member’s signature
  • Two single-message Constant Contact email blasts were emailed out to our 12,000 contacts
  • We advertised through Facebook
  • We participated in a radio interview with KFBK
  • We asked our partners to put the campaign on their pages (see example below)
  • We asked our Board members and staff to put the request on their own personal Facebook pages
  • We asked people to like us while we had them at tree-planting events
What lessons did you learn?
Enthusiasm about the promotion was very high at first, but began to lag as time went on.  Thankfully, we had written down the tactics we wanted to follow and made sure to keep revisiting them and taking action.  However, we did not do a final push/count down during the last two days of the month.  If we had asked our Board members/partners/staff/friends to help one last time, we think we could have seen an additional spike.  We also had fewer events than usual this September.  If we had done the campaign in October or November when we are out almost every weekend, we would have been able to garner an even greater response.  People really loved this concept and everyone wanted to help, even Congresswoman Doris Matsui!
How does Facebook fit into the STF’s communications strategy?
The STF does not currently have a communication position on staff so our social marketing campaign is created with that in mind. However, we do try to take advantage of every opportunity available to us especially those that are cost efficient and user friendly.  For that reason, over the past 12 months we have been relying more heavily on social media, especially Facebook.  One of the things we enjoy most about Facebook is that a number of our staff members can manage the daily communications, which not only helps in terms of utilizing people resources but also ensures that we are communicating regularly with our fan base.  Recently, we recruited an unpaid intern to help us keep the fun in Facebook.  She is helping us to increase user interactions by posting engaging activities like the picture photo caption contest and the Tree of the Week note.  She is newly graduated from college and brings some fresh ideas about social media.
Are you rethinking the results you hope to achieve in the wake of last week’s changes to Facebook?  Do you expect Facebook to increase, decrease or stay about the same in importance?
We would like to understand better how the changes are supposed to be helpful to nonprofits especially in terms of the Causes pages.  Changes to Facebook cause our organization a bit of frustration because we don’t have a lot of time and effort to put into learning the new in’s and out’s.  At this point we expect Facebook to remain an integral part of our social media.
What did you expect would be the direct and indirect benefits of this promotional campaign?
We were very excited when we learned about Ray Stone Seniors’ promotional idea.  We expected that the direct benefit would be an increase in our fan base.  When we launched, we hadn’t thought much about the indirect benefits – although one of the greatest indirect benefits was greater commitment on our part to increase the number of interactions by engaging our fans differently.
What happened?  Did you achieve those benefits or different benefits than you expected?
We set a goal to reach a total of 2,000 fans by the end of the month and had to reset that goal when we passed it just 2 weeks into the campaign.  On September 30, we had a fan base of about 2,500 — an increase of 1,366.  What’s most incredible is that our fan numbers have continued to increase over the past few days. We believe this is due to the fact that our social reach has increased so much and more people than every are liking, commenting and sharing our posts.
Do you think you reached new audiences — or segments — as a result of the growth campaign?
We targeted a few of our Facebook ads specifically to high school and college-aged Facebook users because of the need to inspire this age group to volunteer at our plantings and apply for internships.  These audiences grew.  We also saw a big increase in women ages 25-34 and older audiences as well.
Below:  examples of the Tree Foundation’s Facebook posts and comments during September
First nudge:
Partner post:
Next post:  Ray Stone Seniors’ point of view

Comments Off on How STF made 1,000+ new Facebook friends in 30 days

Filed under fundraising, Social media, Uncategorized

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!

Comments Off on How should local nonprofits respond to Facebook changes?

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Comments Off on Facebook changes: opportunity or threat for local nonprofits?

Filed under Uncategorized

Should Facebook administrators always comment?

Aliza Sherman's model of fan loyalty and advocacy

Everything that I read suggests that acknowledging positive comments on an organization’s Facebook page is considered best practice. Guy Kawasaki made this a major theme in his recent book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, and Beth Kanter has spent the last couple of weeks echoing the importance of the ABC’s (always be commenting).

Why commenting makes sense

Facebook is a social medium, not a bulletin board.  If you say something nice to a friend, you at least expect a smile or a nod.  Maybe they’ll eventually figure out a button that Facebook administrators can use that winks as if to say “back at ya.”  But for now, commenting back is the only way to have a brief exchange.  (Responding to negative comments is a subject for another post.  Most advise responding to negative comments as well, but of course the execution is different.)

Nonprofits need to encourage comments by others because that’s how they’re going to gain exposure to people who aren’t already fans.  Even people who are fans generally don’t seek out your Facebook page to see what you have to say.  They read your posts when they are published automatically to their wall.  What you really want is to get people so excited about your mission and their relationship with you that they spontaneously post to your organization’s Facebook page.  That shows a lot of engagement, but it also means that their post publishes to all of their friends, even if they haven’t “liked” you.  (One hitch: depending on your EdgeRank score, which is determined by Facebook’s black box algorithm, your posts may not make it into “top news” feed, requiring people to click on “most recent” to see your posts.)

Do as I say, not as I do?

It’s hard to go to a conference where someone isn’t extolling the importance of actively commenting back on organization pages.  But when I recently checked some of the organizations I thought would be most active, I was surprised they don’t comment back as often as I expected.

American Red Cross, for example, has a huge Facebook presence, with over 300,000 fans.  Posts generate not only “likes” but comments by the dozen.  Looking at posts by the organization for the last couple of weeks, however, I didn’t see any comments in response to posts by fans.  They didn’t remove a comment that was anti-semitic, or acknowledge one guy who went so far as to outright solicit his friends on Facebook: Please give to the American Red Cross. They help during disasters when no one will. Donate by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW. Your $$ monetary cash donation will help the American people better than donated supplies. Thank You!

If you’re in a growth mode, you had better be commenting back!

It’s possible that when an organization becomes really successful on Facebook, it is no longer practical to try to acknowledge all comments – even positive ones.  How do you “smile” back at one comment and not acknowledge others?

Most organizations in this town, however, are still trying to grow their Facebook presence.  They may have a goal of achieving 1,000 friends on Facebook, for example.  They need to grow the number of fans a steady 5-10% each month.  And one of the most practical ways to do that is to recognize Super Fans, as suggested by Aliza Sherman (hat tip Beth Kanter).



Comments Off on Should Facebook administrators always comment?

Filed under Uncategorized

Does Facebook’s Sponsored Stories make sense for nonprofits?

After listening to Katie Faul, head of Global Ads, Product Marketing Facebook, I thought it just might – so I’ll check it out and post about it soon. Katie described how UNICEF nearly doubled the number of fans it had on Facebook – to 107,000 fans – using tools like Sponsored Stories.

Katie used the power of stories to communicate the impact of social sharing on Word-of-mouth. She described how her friend’s online sharing about his workout led to 10 new customers of a fitness machine. Online sharing helps people find jobs, learn about bands and discover small businesses.

Whereas the Internet was used largely for search in the 90s, now it’s used to ask friends for their recommendations, or for social sharing. Now the majority of website traffic may come from social sharing (via Facebook or Twitter, for example) rather than search.

One of the biggest changes has been with photo sharing. More photos are now shared on Facebook than all of the online photo sharing sites combined.

Companies are now using Facebook as a critical part of product development. She referenced the experience of Squishables, which recently asked online friends what color they preferred for their latest toy. 15 percent of Squishables sales now comes directly from Facebook.

AmEx created Small Business Saturday and attracted over a million friends who began sharing stories about their favorite local small businesses. Besides the promotion’s rapid traction, retail sales tripled year over year for that Saturday.

Katie suggested that small businesses – or nonprofits – use signs in physical locations to encourage people to join you on Facebook, or “like us” ads for those that do not have bricks and mortar.

Sponsored stories is Facebook’s new product that allows organizations to achieve greater visibility by advertising in association with news feeds.

Facebook is thinking about how to help increase the volume and quality of spontaneous stories through Facebook. Sponsored stories, unlike a Facebook ad, “pin” a story to the right hand column of someone’s wall (for a fee, of course). But they are stories shared by someone you know rather than a third party organization. Sponsored Stories isn’t just one thing; there are actually seven different versions depending on whether someone wants to deploy it on a website or Facebook page.

The best stories are simple – and entertaining. Most people are in a “lean back” mode when they look at their news feed. In at sense, photos are a story, so photos are way to communicate something simple.

A key theme of Katie’s talk was amplification. How do you avoid getting lost in someone’s feed, or ignored?

Whether or not nonprofits use a tool like Sponsored Stories, the concept of amplification makes a lot of sense.

(posted live from All Facebook Expo from my iPad… With apologies for formatting glitches or errors!)

Comments Off on Does Facebook’s Sponsored Stories make sense for nonprofits?

Filed under Social media, Uncategorized

“It’s all about social execution” : Clara Shih at All Facebook Expo

In her keynote, Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, reminded audience members that people are sharing more information than ever before, and that the Facebook template has become a common language – from how people met, to where they went to school, to whether they’re in a relationship (complicated?). For businesses and nonprofits, it creates the potential for hyper-targeting, a new level of precision.

Over one-third of audience members said they had implemented Facebook Connect, which allows people to log in with a Facebook ID and see what their friends are doing across the web. For nonprofits that add this feature to their website, it immediately makes a corporate or nonprofit website page feel personalized, not to mention giving greater visibility to new posts, which show up on the users’ wall.

1. Target your message
Any of the data that people share in their profile can become the basis of a targeted Facebook advertising campaign
2. Know when to use which medium
Many small businesses – and nonprofits – find it very expensive to update their website, and their traffic is limited. For these organizations, Facebook becomes a more practical way to maintain a current Internet presence.
3. Be human, be authentic
Comcast has learned to embrace Twitter – even in the face of unhappy customers – and been able to put a more human face on the company.
4. Invest in killer content
A huge side benefit of fresh Facebook content is improving website traffic (improving optimization for search). She recommends posting at least once a week and not more often than several times a day.
5. Evolve your metrics
In the new world, customer lifetime value takes on a new meaning. A customer may influence others to get involved, or may become an advocate who can defend your organization – more effectively than you could. Those who engage with you may also contribute valuable ideas. So metrics are evolving to embrace these interim results.
6. Protect (while empowering) your people
In the old world, many functions operated in silos. New emerging ground requires marketers and communicators to facilitate corporate and brand compliance conversations as more people within organizations are online.
7. Have fun and keep learning
Clara shared Pizza Hut’s success with adding the capability to order pizzas from its Facebook page, rather than requiring customers to link to the order function on the main website. Nearly one-third of customers abandoned their shopping cart before; now the pizza ordering app on Facebook has not only grown sales but become a popular social sharing activity among high school students.

Stay tuned for my thoughts about what nonprofits are doing right and wrong when it comes to Facebook… And how they might apply Clara’s 7 habits.

(live from AF Expo… Please excuse any errors!)

Comments Off on “It’s all about social execution” : Clara Shih at All Facebook Expo

Filed under Social media, Uncategorized