Well, Facebook is rolling out another set of changes to our Pages (not profiles, just pages — if you’re not sure of the difference between Facebook Pages and profiles, read this article). This will affect nonprofits (and all businesses, really) in a MAJOR way, and they’re starting to roll it out next week (March 17) Read on to learn about the changes and what you need to do now.
Usually I don’t have a problem with Facebook’s changes. For the most part, they’re just aesthetic and (to me) aren’t worth getting upset about, especially because in a couple of weeks we all just adjust to the “new normal” anyway.
But these new changes–two of them, in particular–really, really bother me in regards to how they will significantly affect nonprofits.
The bad news first?
Custom tabs are going away. Well, they’re not totally disappearing, but they are hidden under the “more” drop down menu, which effectively means they’re disappearing. (How many people are going to click on that tiny “more” drop down menu, or even see it?)
So all the custom tabs I’ve been telling you to set up–for your donate button, your adoptable animals list, your volunteer application, etc.–they’re essentially gone! In my opinion, this further cripples our ability as nonprofits to use Facebook effectively (more on the other reason later).
Why are they doing this?
Well, nobody told me, exactly, but I can guess two reasons. They say it’s because they are going to “streamline” the design and layout of the page, making it more a 2-column look. My personal opinion, though, is because Facebook is generally not able to monetize the content in your custom tabs. That content usually takes you into some other action (donating, etc) that does not result in Facebook making any money. If you’re Facebook, this is a bad thing! They are a publicly-held company now. Their responsibility is not to their users, it is to their shareholders.
What can we do about it?
Let’s look at this objectively. You’re not going to stop using Facebook for your organization. And most of your fans don’t visit your page regularly anyway–they just get your updates in their news feed. And in your posts, you can still direct them to your donate page or volunteer application or whatever on your website. BUT, because we know that people who are on Facebook want to STAY on Facebook, any action or click that takes them away from Facebook (i.e., to your website) is going to have a very low follow-through, unfortunately.
The other Facebook change that affects nonprofits
This change has been in effect for a few months, actually–so you may already know about it. And even if you don’t know about it specifically, you’ve undoubtedly already felt its effects.
Facebook is a free service to us all (and they have promised that Facebook will always be free), but obviously they want to make money (and believe me, they’re not hurting!). Facebook ads have been a growing part of their income for several years now.
You’ve seen it she you create a post on your page–the option that appears encouraging you to “promote your post” for $20 or so to reach more fans. That little “boost” will expand the reach of that single post to more of the people who “like” your page.
As you may know, not everyone who “likes” your page sees every one of your posts. This is due to a complicated Facebook “Edgerank” algorithm that determines the “value” of your content and “decides” how many people to show it to. (Learn more about Edgerank here)
So a few months ago, they shifted the algorithm pretty significantly to heavily favor paid (“promoted” or “boosted”) content. What we call “organic” reach and exposure–the regular content you post and how many people see it normally–has DRAMATICALLY decreased for pretty much all pages–to the tune of about 80%.
That means if you have, say, 500 fans, the average post (some text and a photo) would have reached probably 175-200 of your fans before this change. Now, with that same exact post (if you don’t promote it), you’d be lucky to reach 25 or 30 of your fans.
I’ve seen this documented, and I’ve seen it play out on all of the pages I manage–not just nonprofit pages, either. But the reason it puts nonprofits at such a disadvantage is because we don’t usually have a budget to divert to Facebook ad spending or promoting our posts. A company like Pepsi or Wal-Mart can afford to spend a few hundred thousand (okay, million) dollars on Facebook ads they weren’t planning on… but that’s not really possible for your average small non-profit!
So what can you do?
There is a movement to persuade Facebook to offer a Facebook Ad Grant program, much like the Google Grants program for Google Adwords. This would give nonprofits a “budget” to spend on ads each month, to try to level the playing field. Facebook doesn’t appear to be interested in doing this, at this point, but (as we well know!) things could change at any moment. I’ll keep you posted on what I hear about this.
It means you have to to a better job than EVER BEFORE to create excellent, highly engaging content.
You need to post a link, photo (an EXCELLENT photo) or video with EVERY post. A text-only post is pretty much worthless anymore, unfortunately. Statistics show that people read and share/like/comment (in other words, engage with) posts that contain photos, videos and links MUCH more frequently than text-only posts.
So if your typical post is “It’s a great day at the humane society today!” forget it. Unfortunately, you have to step up your game.
Your posts will appear the same size now (image size) on your page as well as in your fans’ newsfeed. So at least you won’t have to worry about that inconsistency anymore. (one tiny good thing!)
You also need to include specific calls to action (with links) in every post. Since you can’t say “click on the donate tab on our page” anymore, and let them complete the donation inside Facebook, you have to tell them specifically where you are taking them and what you want them to do there. Make it easy–provide the direct link and let them know what to expect.
A call to action is just telling people very specifically what you want them to do. Donate, fill out an adoption application, join as a member, sign up to foster or volunteer, etc.
“Pages to Watch”
A new part of this Facebook page layout (for page admins) is the “pages to watch.” This allows you to specify pages of your competitors, so you can monitor their progress–their posts, number of fans, fan engagement, etc. With this, I think Facebook hopes to encourage your natural competitive nature. If your competitor is doing well, you’ll be motivated to promote your posts and buy ads to keep up. Again, not so applicable to nonprofits (hopefully we view each other as “partners” rather than “competitors!”)–more applicable to businesses.
No Changes for the Facebook App
All these changes only apply to the desktop/computer version of Facebook, accessed through a web browser. People who use their phones or tablets (any device that uses the Facebook app) won’t experience any changes (at least that we know of!). Your custom tabs were never displayed on your page inside the Facebook app, so that hasn’t changed. (ads and “promoted content,” however, do show on the app and that won’t change).
Facebook’s Own Donate Button?
As I mentioned last month, Facebook has rolled out its own donate button, which is currently only available to about 10 large national nonprofits. They SAY that it will “at some point” be available to all nonprofits on Facebook, but nobody knows when that will happen.
You can sign up to get on the waiting list for the Facebook donate button, and they’ll notify you when it rolls out. This WILL be a really good thing, because the button is prominently placed on your page, and Facebook (at least so far) is taking ZERO percent of your donation as a processing fee! So that’s really cool. Again, not available to nonprofits other than large ones, like ASPCA, American Red Cross, etc. for now.
So there’s the scoop as I know it right now. I’ll be sure to update as I get more information. You can read Facebook’s article about the new pages changes here. TELL THEM what you think! If enough people complain about losing the tabs, I really do think they might listen.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I’m already researching ways to deal with this change and make this work for all of us, and I’ll share with you what I come up with!