Most nonprofits, NGOs, government agencies and other mission-based organizations have taken a big hit regarding their social media outreach because of changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm. These changes greatly affect how many people see a status update on a Facebook page that isn’t sponsored through paid advertising. That means that, even if people have “liked” your organization’s Facebook page, they won’t see most of what you post, because of how Facebook has newsfeeds configured now. According to the International Business Times, the reach for many Facebook pages posts was at about 16 percent, but over the last few months it’s down to 2 percent or less. Facebook is a for-profit company – they want you to pay for people to see your organization’s Facebook page posts.
I’ve read some comments from nonprofit managers that say they will stop updating their organization’s Facebook pages as a result. But Facebook is a primary communication method for oh-so-many people – to stop updating your organization’s page means you are cutting yourself off from current and potential volunteers, donors, clients, and other people who care about your mission.
In How a Few Tiny Horses Bucked the Facebook Algorithm, the nonprofit TechSoup does a great job of talking about what your nonprofit can do to greatly increase the number of people that see your Facebook page updates, and TechSoup profiles a small nonprofit that’s done it all with great success. I won’t repeat their recommendations here – but I will make an additional suggestion: involve volunteers in your efforts.
The TechSoup article talks about how much sharing images can increase your organization’s Facebook page reach. I can immediately hear so many people saying, “We don’t have any photos to share.” YES YOU DO. Or you should. Are volunteers taking photos during their service time and sharing those photos with you? You need to be encouraging volunteers to do this! And another volunteer can maintain the archive of these submissions, make sure photos have keywords so that they can easily be searched, etc., if your marketing staff has no time.
I hear someone saying, “We’re a domestic violence shelter. We can’t do this!” Yes, you can: a photo of a massive amount of dirty dishes in the sink, with the description, “Tonight, we fed more than 20 people staying at our shelter this evening.” A photo of hands holding each other, with a description about how your shelter is there to help. A photo of a group from the knees down. A photo of your Executive Director. A photo of artwork created by children at your shelter. I came up with that list in two minutes (I timed it). Imagine the ideas your volunteers could come up with that would allow photos that show impact or reflect your mission, but completely protect the identity of those you serve and of your volunteers.
The TechSoup article also talks about leveraging holidays, pop culture events, memes, “or even just plain old Friday. International days as designated by the United Nations is another good source for leveraging events or themes by others to generate content for your own Facebook page – these often come with ready-to-use logos, photos and keyword tags. Many of these posts that can be created days, weeks, even months in advance, and scheduled in advance to be posted by a tool like Hootsuite. This is another place that volunteers can be a huge help – most nonprofit marketing staff will tell you they don’t have time to leverage holidays, memes, UN days, etc. – so why not welcome volunteers to submit ideas? The marketing staff can still have final say on what will be posted, of course.
And, of course, ask your volunteers regularly to like your Facebook page status updates, to comment upon them, and to share them – this all leads to your page getting more viewers!
Involving volunteers in social media is, of course, yet another example of virtual volunteering!
Facebook’s days as a primary online communications tool are numbered, of course. It’s already been abandoned by millions of teens. Just as the dominant online tools America Online and MySpace ultimately fell out of favor with most users, so too will Facebook. But, for now, it’s worth sticking with.