Nonprofit professionals weigh in on new Facebook features

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

In order to get some real-world perspective on some of the new Facebook features, such as the timeline, which allows you to look back to see which posts received the most “Likes” and other metrics, and the ticker, which helps filter less important posts on your page, and how these new features are relevant to nonprofits, JVA Consulting interviewed three local nonprofit professionals who work with social media, Brooke Fritz, Abby Landmeier and Mandy O’Neill.

With five-plus years of web and digital campaign management experience and a master’s degree in public relations and marketing, Brooke Fritz joined National Jewish Health in May of 2011. She is responsible for the overall content strategy and development for the institution’s website, email and social media presence, as well as the maintenance of more than 3,000 existing pages of content on the main site and various microsites.

Mandy O’Neill’s blog, Connected Nonprofit, offers social media and online fundraising solutions that are designed with one guiding principle—ROI, Return on your Investments. Connected Nonprofit boasts break-through social media and online fundraising campaigns that deliver results.

Abby Landmeier’s blog, Confessions of a Nonprofit Professional, details her experience in various aspects of nonprofit work, from volunteering to formal employment. The goal is to chronicle a year of nonprofit work, and blog every workday, for a total of 240 entries a year.

JVA: How do you think the new Facebook will affect nonprofits? Are the new features a help or a hindrance?

Brooke: I have seen it used in so many ways. It depends on what the organization’s objectives are. One of the questions I get a lot is how do we make the tools Facebook offers work for us, and it depends on your population. Everything in social media is audience driven. Don’t be afraid of it! There are so many people standing still because there are so many changes, but don’t be afraid to just jump in and try it.

Abby: All nonprofits have spent a lot of time on making sure they had a solid number of fans. It was something that was measurable in the murky waters of early measurement for Facebook and its use. Fans, as it has been demonstrated, do not equal donors or volunteers. They might in time, but instantly, there is no payoff to an NPO for getting a “Like.” The payoff for all Page owners that got a “Like” was the fact that their post then displays in the News Feed, making it highly visible. However, since Facebook has been dismantled and put back together, this is a thing I don’t see as being all bad—there is more visibility as to what my friends are doing, if they share a link it comes up multiple times, on the New Feed, on the Ticker and on their Personal Page. The biggest thing is seeing through the distractions. The Ticker is nice, but it’s easy to get absorbed into it and start looking at things that are non-relevant, as if we all didn’t waste enough time on Facebook how it was before.

Mandy: If you advertise on Facebook, the recent change is great news. It’s safe to assume much of the impetus behind this big change was to increase advertising revenue. Chances are the ability to target paid advertising by demographics, interests and behaviors will get a lot better. We’ve already experienced great targeted success using low-cost paid advertising for nonprofits on Facebook. The recent changes just keep improving on that model. For example, if someone cares about parks and lives in Colorado, you can hone in on them like a laser beam to advertise your nonprofit that preserves outdoor space and can connect them with a hiking club. This kind of advertising leaves “mass communication” such as television and newspaper advertising “in the dust.” Every advertising dollar goes further since Facebook is so cheap and so targeted.

JVA: Have you started using any of the new features?

Brooke: I just started using the “Timeline” feature on my personal page. I like that you can click down to specific dates and get the highlights of your activity. Interactions with organizations can stay at the top of your mind and people can see more easily what you have been doing. Before interactions would slip to the bottom of the News Feed and be forgotten or go unnoticed. You can even use featured photos to highlight a time. I think it’s a major improvement.

Abby: I like how the new photos are shared. It’s picking up more of the news feed now and the photos are bigger. I like that it says who is sharing your photos because you can see where your photos go, which wasn’t the case before. There’s more privacy and less privacy, which is always the case. We have to update it so it doesn’t become outdated and phase out like MySpace. I don’t like that I can’t see what I’m putting on the Ticker. For example I might “Like” a lot of statuses because I don’t have time to comment, and it starts to look like spam. I like that it gives you a highlight of pages you are an “admin” on.

Mandy: Facebook has now split content feeds into two areas. The Newsfeed, which is the premium “real estate,” is now reserved for important posts, while the “chatter,” or less important posts are relegated to the Ticker. The way to keep your information on the important Newsfeed will now be ranked (via GraphRank) and will likely depend on the overall quality of the content and the level of interaction. And, you will need to post somewhat frequently to become part of the algorithm behind GraphRank. It will be critical to generate comments, shares and likes with your post.

JVA: Do you think the Facebook changes are receiving more complaints than previous changes or just receiving more coverage?

Brooke: I think the changes are just getting more attention. Facebook is hearing complaints like any major website changes would. People are creatures of habit, but the backlash usually fizzles out. You get used to knowing where to go to find exactly what you want.

Abby: I think there are more complaints because there was so much stumbling. There were so many changes we weren’t made aware of until they were happening. I noticed initially that some of my posts were getting lost and I think the average post visibility time is decreasing. The new format is shortening the lifespan of posts. The rumors are spreading with the new updates, i.e., Facebook will start charging. I don’t think a company that never charged and netted 1.6 billion dollars in the first half of the year is going to start to screw up a good thing.

Just because there are changes, don’t let your staff or volunteers ditch Facebook and, consequently, social media. Think of how many versions of Windows we have survived, this is easier than making the leap to Vista by FAR!

Mandy: Facebook made sweeping changes that will take a while for people to get used to. While “Fan Pages” are not changing for now, the layout changes will change how nonprofits use Facebook. What’s most important is staying relevant during the transition. I like the changes a lot, but that being said, it takes time to get used to.

First and foremost, closely monitor your constituents to see if their Facebook behavior changes in the near term and mid-term. What worked before may not work in the new “Ticker/Newsfeed” configuration. We know your supporter behavior will change, it’s good to be on top of your base metrics to understand those changes as more people adapt to the new layout. There may be a drop off in followers because people can’t figure out how to use the new features, and that’s nothing to worry about, but if they continue to drop off, it’s time to figure out why.

Well folks, in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changing and there’s no better time than the present to embrace that inevitable fact. Dive head first into the Facebook changes and explore how your organization can tailor the new features to your needs and those of your “Fans.” Most of all, just remember to have fun with it!

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1 Response to Nonprofit professionals weigh in on new Facebook features

  1. Excellent and timely article! I am re-posting it for all of my clients to see – or at least I hope they see it . . . . Because I do have a question I hope you can answer: When I post to my fan page for my business (StoryForge), I no longer see those posts on my personal FB page. I checked with a friend who “likes” StoryForge, and he isn’t seeing my posts either, so I’m wondering if no one else can see them. Furthermore, I am seeing posts from some of the nonprofit pages I like, but not all of them. Do I need to change the settings somehow? Also, I just read that Facebook is no longer supporting Twitter on fan pages! This seems like a real problem.

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