Algorithms: Put the Social Back in Nonprofit Social Media

April 24, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

New year, new Facebook? That’s the word from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who posted an announcement about his plans for a “major change” to Facebook by serving more content that encourages interaction.

The move is, in a way, a call to return to Facebook’s roots as a platform for interacting with the life events of people for whom you care deeply. It’s a shift toward babies and birthdays, weddings and weekend getaways, new jobs and half-marathon training.

As a result, nonprofits that have relied on Facebook to tell their stories may face an uphill battle to reach their audiences, but there are strategies you can – and should – implement to maintain and improve your performance.

After two years of guiding large and small nonprofits through the changing winds of Facebook’s algorithm, and after reading the tea leaves at the bottom of Zuckerberg’s announcement, you should have a clear goal, putting the social back in social media.

    Here are five steps toward getting that done:

  • Know Your North Star. Identifying your primary imperative is key to finding success on any channel for which you’re developing content. Facebook’s latest algorithm overhaul makes it that much more important. If the environment does indeed make it more difficult for your content to reach wide audiences, you need to prioritize posting only on what’s most important to communicating the important work you’re doing. Post about the things that are likely to deepen your followers’ connection to your mission, and only those things. Everything else risks limiting your reach.
  • Stay The Course And Consume Data. As you share results with internal stakeholders, benchmark against your performance to date to stay ahead of the newly adjusted algorithm. Don’t overreact to Facebook’s announcement until you see how it impacts your performance. If you see results slacken, take a step back to ask questions such as: “What about this post worked? What didn’t work?” From there, you can take steps to adjust.
  • Optimize For Shares. With no shortage of data points to navigate on Facebook, there is a core belief that the best posts are those that are designed to be shared. To that end, sometimes a simple quote and image is the most effective piece of content to feature. Organizations have had success with shareables featuring quotes from celebrities and historical figures, he said.
    For example, a nonprofit focused on retaining teachers and sharing new approaches to effective teaching balanced, one-to-one, simple shareables with more reflective content. The high engagement on shareables created ideal conditions for posts that asked more of the audience’s time and focus. Shareables can take many forms, and there’s likely an iteration that feels true to your brand and story. This is an ideal moment to set about finding it.

  • Be conversant. One of the most effective strategies for understanding what your supporters value about your organization is straightforward: Ask them. By posing questions via Facebook and encouraging followers to comment, you’ll develop interactions that benefit your organization on multiple levels by sending positive signals to Facebook’s algorithm and deepening connections to members of your community who are eager to share and grateful to be heard.
  • Experiment With Your Schedule And Your Volume. Some organizations find success posting daily or even twice a day, while others have benefited from posting less frequently. The update to Facebook’s algorithm has the potential to be really impactful and is likely to have ripple effects on your entire digital strategy. That being the case, post as you normally would until your results call for doing something different. Don’t panic if performance softens. Try something new — and keep trying until you discover what works.

Bob Albrecht is an executive vice president at Anne Lewis Strategies, an Infogroup company. His email is bob@annelewisllc.com