Tuesday, June 23, 2009

4 Reasons Facebook Might Not be Right for Your Nonprofit

This photo is from dvs' Photostream.

This spring, Facebook made some significant changes to the functionality of Pages on their site in order to help brands market more effectively. This has led to a lot of discussion and encouragement aimed at nonprofits about how to market via Facebook. I'm not anti-Facebook but I do want to lend a little objectivity to this discussion so before you just dive in, consider these 4 reasons why Facebook might not be right for your nonprofit (at least not yet)!

1. None of your key stakeholders, i.e. donors/members/volunteers/advocates, etc. communicate via Facebook.

Based on the current stats regarding the HUGE number of people that are on Facebook (over 200 million at last check), it is highly unlikely that none of your key stakeholders are on Facebook. However, you should still check to be sure that this is where your donors are hanging out! How? Send a survey or do a social data append.* Why? There is no point in communicating with someone via the wrong channel. Instead, do your due diligence and determine if Facebook is a preferred mode of communication before you dive in.

2. You don't have the time or talent on staff to develop engaging content.

Here is my soapbox. "FACEBOOK IS NOT FREE!"

Yeah, yeah the software is gratis, but the TIME and ATTENTION required to market via social networks is EXPENSIVE. (I've been blogging at night for almost 2 years! Trust me.) Before you dive in, determine if devoting a significant amount of human resources to this channel is a wise investment and don't go unless you decide that it's the best and highest use of your staff time.

3. You don't have any way to promote the site.

Facebook is not a Field of Dreams, i.e. if you build it, they will not come unless you are a household name. (Interestingly Beth Kanter is doing an experiment right now to test this hypothesis.) Instead, you will have to do the heavy lifting to drive traffic to your Facebook Page in the same way that you have to do the heavy lifting to drive traffic to your organizational website. So don't build a Page unless you already have a robust marketing program in place which you can leverage. This means, in part, having an up-to-date online subscriber list and an Email Service Provider (ESP). Next, to get folks to join your Page, you'll want to send an email to your subscribers and tell them the benefits of becoming a fan.

4. You don't know how to define or measure success.

It's a terrible idea to do any marketing without first determining your goals and developing some metrics for success. While I'm not saying that you have to write a 10-page marketing plan for each tactic or campaign, you must take a few minutes to decide (and write down) how you will measure your efforts - traffic, comments, donations, etc. - this is the only way you will know if you're going in the right or wrong direction.

If after reviewing this list you decide that a Facebook Page is right for your organization, here is what I recommend.

1. Check out this guide - How to Use Facebook for Business from HubSpot.

2. Mosey on over to John Haydon's blog. He has a whole section dedicated to helping you get more out of Facebook.

3. Take a webinar from Heather Mansfield at Diosa Communications. You can also contract directly with Heather directly to build your Page.

4. Finally, if it's donations you're after, check out the new blog by Causes - the Facebook application which enables you to mobilize your friends, raise money and do good stuff in the world.


P.S. I'd love to hear from you! Is your nonprofit on Facebook? What have been the benefits and challenges to date? How do you measure success?

*Full disclosure: I work at Triplex Interactive.


Brandon Gross said...

Very interesting. I do not have a non-profit on facebook at this time but had thought about it. This is worth thinking about.

Bryan D Jennewein said...

Boy this hits close to home (figuratively and literally). So many of our divisions are leaping to Facebook pages... an article like this that asks the important questions helps everyone understand that thinking through a plan is much better than a preemptive attack.

Thanks for the great tips, Jocelyn!

Beverley said...

Really like this piece.

I'm coming across a lot of organizations who jump right in to Facebook without considering a) what they want it to do for them, and b) whether it's a good use of their time or will advance their mission/work.

I reposted on my site. :-)

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- Adetokunbo A. Adeshile

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