Don’t Be Blind-Sided by Facebook

Big changes are coming to Facebook, and they will have an impact on every nonprofit’s Facebook page.

The most immediate significant change is what’s happening to the Facebook welcome page. As of March 30, Facebook will be revising main pages to include a number of new features that will be particularly beneficial to commercial brands but could be just as important to nonprofit organizations. The Facebook Page will now include a “cover” photo of the marketer’s choice; a place for a “profile picture,” which can accommodate an organization’s logo; and an easier-to-find prominent place for photos, events, and custom apps.

Perhaps most important is the “timeline,” which basically reorganizes the main page so organizations can time-stamp interactive content. In fact, it provides for a “pinned post,” which allows an important story to remain at the top of a Facebook Page for up to seven days. Nonprofits have the ability to make strategic use of the timeline to highlight vital information they want to share with Facebook users.

Navigating the Changes to Facebook

Nancy Schwartz, a nonprofit consultant and publisher of the “Getting Attention” blog for nonprofits, has pulled together a collection of articles written by other experts to help nonprofits navigate the new Facebook pages. (By the way, Schwartz also offers “The 2012 Nonprofit Wisdom Guide,” a free compilation of 219 marketing lessons from nonprofit practitioners.)

One of the articles, by Heather Mansfield of “Nonprofit Tech 2.0,” shows how eleven leading nonprofits have implemented well-executed timelines to take advantage of the Facebook changes. Included are examples from Amnesty International, charity: water, Goodwill Industries, Greenpeace, and others. Take a close look at some of these pages and you’ll see how nonprofits have conveyed their brand identity with simple yet compelling graphic images.

Beth Kanter, who blogs about how networked nonprofits are using social media to power change, offers “tips and cheat sheets” for implementing a revised Facebook page. She provides seven specific suggestions for nonprofits—a kind of roadmap for planning the transition. Beth also has lots more resources available at her Facebook page and on Pinterest.

Facebook Has Its Place for Nonprofits

As I pointed out in a previous post, being on Facebook isn’t a magic marketing bullet. Data published in late 2011 suggests that Facebook contributes to a measurable increase in web traffic for a majority of nonprofits, and that it influences volunteer behavior. But nonprofits generally could not say that Facebook was helping to increase email subscriptions or influencing donations; in fact, an organization’s website seemed to be more important when it came to fundraising.

The data means nonprofits should be realistic about their expectations for gains from Facebook. Most nonprofits agree they need a Facebook presence, but anticipating an increase in donations, or even an increase in email subscribers, might be overly optimistic.

Still, Facebook has its place, and it’s an important one. Facebook is a social network; as such, it has the ability to involve individuals in your organization’s mission. You can actively engage consumers with an interest in your organization in a dialogue, which could ultimately lead to further interest. It’s all about lead generation, and that’s where Facebook has value: Generate awareness, engage a consumer, convert the consumer to a fan, then turn the fan into a volunteer or donor.

That’s why it’s essential to make the most of Facebook’s changes and turn them to your advantage.

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