Facebook doesn’t have to be so overwhelming

The nonprofit sector is full of good people and good volunteers who are passionate about their causes and feel overwhelmed. There may have been a time when good will and hard efforts could change the lives in your community. And never before have we had such powerful means to communicate our message. But that message seems to fall on deaf ears. To make things worse, social media companies like Facebook, are always changing. For better or for worse. Though often it feels for worse.

It feels like that scene from I Love Lucy. She was working at the chocolate factory, and she just couldn’t keep up. What did she do? She became overwhelmed, started jamming chocolates in her pockets, bra, and mouth, and it made things worse. Why? Because she couldn’t keep up, and she didn’t know how to keep up. Right as things start to go downhill Lucy says, “Ethel. I think we’re fighting a losing game.” She knows what’s coming she knows that it won’t stop.

With the conveyor working against you, you can walk away or take a few minutes to reassess. Amy Breyer from The Animal History Museum in Los Angeles decided to reassess, and to learn from the success of others, and to leverage and build new relationships.

Let’s start with the outcomes. The Animal History Museum had no physical space. The purpose of having a Facebook audience was a proxy for having a real audience, which is now over 16,000.

Their posts would usually engage 50-150 people, often much less, and occasionally top 200. Now, three months later, their posts easily engage over 2,500 people and as many as 40,000.

How did the folks at The Animal History Museum work within the boundaries of the environment rather than get abused by them?

They reached out to larger organizations with related missions.

Without being spammy. Do a little homework. Find organizations that are large enough to help you by reposting your content. But not so large that they wouldn’t give you the time of day. Go to their website, search on Linkedin, find the social media manager and write them a nice, short, email. Tell them your story. You’re a small and plucky nonprofit trying to do great work in your community. You need to give them a reason to buy in. Just like you need to give your followers a reason to buy in.

It’s physically easy for them to repost your content. And it is frustrating when they won’t. But it only takes a few reposts for this strategy to be successful.

Use tools to make things easier.

Amy uses the Inspiration tab in her ActionSprout account to repost content that is performing well.

“Inspiration works very well for us,” Amy says. People are engaging with the content by liking sharing and even commenting much more. Posting great content has increased the brand awareness.

On top of that, The Animal History Museum is becoming a much more popular place to be.

Keep you audience in mind

One key strategy for The Animal History Museum is not using the Facebook page as a soapbox. When they designed their strategy they kept in mind why people are on Facebook to begin with. People use Facebook for leisure. People use Facebook to get away for just a few minutes. And no one wants to be preached to on their coffee break.

They understand that there will be other opportunities to be more museum-like, but now it’s time to give the audience what they want. The Animal History Museum knows their goals and moves slow toward them. They know that success on Facebook depends on how you define success. They know that Likes are a vanity metric, but Likes sway the board and donors.

Put everything aside. We are here to do good. We are here to complete a mission, to serve, to save. It can be overwhelming. Often we can get caught up a competition for attention. But we need to have confidence that other organizations are willing to lend a hand. Whether it is a teachable moment or a simple repost, our collective mission is to do good.

You can do it. The tools and the experts are here. You just need to ask for help. Our core focus is to help address your needs. So reach out.

Facebook Mistakes

We are all human, and we make mistakes. A majority of the time when you make a mistake on Facebook, you know that goofy post that was entirely off topic, nobody will see it. Thankfully. No harm no foul. A one off mistake isn’t going to come back to bite you unless it was particularly egregious.

The mistakes that will hurt you on Facebook are systemic, and it is easy to fall into these traps.


Content rules Facebook. It is a science; it is an art.

The biggest issue nonprofits struggle with is using their page as a soap box. No matter how right your are, or how important your issue is, doing this is off-putting.

That doesn’t mean you should eschew self-promotion.

If you have a great success story, share it! That’s what Facebook is all about!

Secondly, some organizations try too hard; too hard to be controversial; too hard to “go viral”. Therein is the fetid smell of desperation. And no one wants to hang around the person who’s trying too hard to be popular.

What’s more is that this leads organizations to create and share content that is going to hurt their reach and engagement because it is deliberately controversial or way off brand.


Bad PR happens sometimes; we all hope it doesn’t, but some things are out of our control. How you respond can either fan the flames of controversy or douse them with water.

Responding too quickly may seem like a good idea, a fire is burning after all, and your fight or flight instinct kicks in and the response is often impulsive and irrational. The tone could be off. Or worse, you could use a word or phrase that adds a bucket of leaf litter to what was a tiny smoldering shrub, and now the forest is engulfed in a blaze of hellfire and brimstone.

Instead. Take a breather, take a little time to compose your response. And it’s a wise idea to have a guideline in place to help you craft a response that is appropriate. Community Management Facebook is all about community; it is a social media platform, keyword “social“. Some page managers don’t participate in the community at all, or worse, some respond with canned responses unless they are talking to an influencer.


Taking part in the community is critical. It doesn’t require a lot of time and effort either. Often, liking a person’s comment will do the trick. Other times a reply, in real time, is needed. Again this is an opportunity to have a written guideline to help direct you. Just keep a positive sentiment or at the very least a neutral one. If confronted with a hater, don’t engage, you can even block them too.

How to effective policy reform through Facebook

Since 2011, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR) has organized, energized, and empowered people to stand up and advocate for reform in cannabis policy. They work with the public and legislators, developing responsible solutions through legislative collaboration, public education, and ballot initiative campaigns.

Alex Shashlo, from Joe Trippi & Associates, currently advises CCPR on their social media strategy and campaigns. We recently had the chance to sit down with Alex to talk about giving activists a voice, how he engages supporters from all walks of life, and influencing policy reform through social media.

How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

Alex: Facebook has always been a great place for sharing—and now, more and more people get their news from the platform, especially their political news. I wouldn’t call it a shift; users are still excited about taking a stand for the causes they believe in, but the growth of Facebook as an information platform beyond just a social network is exciting.

What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause you support?

One of the most interesting parts about campaigns like this is always: how do we deliver our message most effectively to our target audience? That means figuring out three buckets: the message, the audience, and the delivery method. It’s a fun puzzle to put together. And with CCPR, we’re fortunate to have such a strong base of support that wants to hear from us regularly.

How do you use social actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?

The big difference with ActionSprout is that we’ve got our audience right in front of us with Facebook, and our supporters don’t need to leave the platform to help us grow.

We love your poll actions. Can you tell us a bit about them?

One of the biggest developments in the past few years in the movement has been the clear signal from both California and the rest of the country that a majority of us are ready for change. Poll numbers—like the growing percentages of Californians and Americans nationwide supporting legalization—are a great way to show progress. And people are excited to be part of the growing movement.

How did you measure the success of these actions?

Alex: We love seeing social shares—beyond what we put out—because it means people buy into our message enough to put their names to it and share it with the people they care about in their networks.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?

It’s important to see your supporters as an organic, diverse movement rather than a monolithic base of support. They’re here because they believe in the cause, but they each have their own reasons for that belief. It’s our job to engage them by connecting with them on their terms.

Facebook Page Managers, Your Board Can Support You Better

There is nothing worse than when you know how to do your job but your board won’t let you because they don’t understand. And because they don’t, you must not either. Of course, you can’t show your Facebook powers because your hands are tied.

Here’re 4 things that your board can do to help you rock Facebook and help you articulate your argument to get the support you need.

Get involved

Often the work you do on Facebook is not considered “real work.” Maybe because it is so nebulous and seems like goofing off. Likely they don’t know how to under it; they can post family photos, but that’s not the same as cultivating an active supporter base.

Ask them to get involved a little bit. Let them experience what it takes to do it right. A simple task ought to do the trick, a little social monitoring or community management. If you’re running ads, ask them to create, post, and monitor one of their own.

The Pilot Project**

Ask for a pilot project, 6 months or a year and reporting monthly. Your hypothesis being something like “we can get more likes by sharing content that gets people excited about the mission objective, regardless of the source of the content.” Of course, you know this is a solid strategy and frankly what Facebook is designed for, but they are skeptical and need to see data. So ask them to trust you, then give them the data.

Need data to make your case for curating content? Go here Or here Or just Google “curated vs. original content” you’ll find more data than you can shake a stick at.

Let You Work

This issue is really about trust. You know Facebook, and you know hoe to use it. And because they don’t, you don’t; this is an obvious logical felicity. Your board hired you to manage their social media because you have a unique skill set that they don’t possess, not to mention that they don’t have the time.

Use the pilot project to get the data you need to prove it and get them involved so they can see that your work is “real.”

Give You A Budget

First remind them that a good deal of money could be saved by not doing the typical print communications, which are often tossed right in the round file anyway.

Advertising on Facebook doesn’t cost much. You can set a budget, so you don’t spend any more than you have and there is no minimum. No need to make fancy ads, just boost posts!

ActionSprout ran a project to test the value of ad credits for nonprofits, and the results have been amazing. Many organizations have simply boosted content and tripled their page likes and quadrupled their reach or more. An animal shelter ran an ad and saved the life of a dog; the cost? $2.16. Pretty inexpensive way to save a dog. The point being, it doesn’t require a lot of money to see great results. It does take a bit os skill and a good deal of consistency.

Beyond that. ActionSprout is here to help. Our core mission is to change the world by helping nonprofits be successful on Facebook. If you need help, just reach out to us, and we’ll do everything we can.