How to cultivate an open, engaged Facebook community

Ladd Everitt is the Director of Communications for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He’s responsible for developing and managing a wide range of communications activities in support of his organization€’s overall mission, including their Facebook presence.

Running a Facebook Page on gun violence prevention is no easy task, as open conversation can feel unsafe when pro-gun rights folks chime in. Yet each and every day, Ladd and his team are working to maintain the safe and open public space they have painstakingly created from the ground up.

How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

I started managing social media after coming to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in May 2006. When I first arrived, we had no Facebook Page, no Twitter account, and a very rudimentary website. I basically had to learn a lot of this stuff on the fly, but it was worth it, because new media tools give gun violence prevention advocates an asymmetrical advantage in our struggle against the gun lobby that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

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

When we first launched our Page, I really had no idea what I was doing! It was just me and I was basically experimenting at that point. Today, our Page has multiple moderators (and designers), and we are much more sophisticated in the way we go about our work. There is much more attention to the metrics on any given post, and I’ve also learned (although I’m by no means perfect) that you have to engage your followers and not always talk at them. That means showing them the human side of your work and soliciting their opinion/experiences. It has to be a two-way dialog and we are very proud that we’ve built a Page where the conversation is robust.

One thing you have to understand about the gun issue is that there are very few “safe” spaces for gun violence prevention advocates to talk about this issue. So often, our supporters are actively harassed online by pro-gun activists who want to intimidate and silence them. It can get very depressing and disheartening to comment about this issue online and get spammed by 100 pro-gunners saying the ugliest things you can imagine. If there is any “genius” in our Facebook Page, it is that we have finally created a safe space for our people to voice their opinions and be heard. We do this by immediately and permanently banning anyone our Page who does not actually “like” our organization. It has worked, and beautifully. We are creating more confident, engaged activists. They are being empowered and emboldened.

What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

Most of them, really. Facebook is a wonderful public education tool for starters. It helps us get out a host of information about the impact of gun violence, the weakness of our gun laws, and the campaigns we are working on. It’s also a terrific organizing tool and we frequently encourage our supporters to take actions, while taking full advantage of the ability to customize posts by targeting folks from a specific state/city. Social norming is also a huge aspect of this struggle to save lives (think of how views on smoking have changed over the years), and Facebook is a wonderful tool for that messaging. Probably the only thing we do where Facebook is a not a huge help is fundraising, although we do some of that on our Page as well.

What kind of social calls to action do you use?

They are pretty varied. Primarily, it would be action on legislation at the Federal and state level (i.e. asking people to email/call/meet with lawmakers). It might be asking people to contact a prosecutor to ask them to bring a case against a negligent parent whose child found their gun and hurt themselves or someone else. Sometimes we’ll ask folks to use a profile pic or cover pic we’ve designed to promote a campaign. And sadly, we frequently ask our supporters to join us in reporting threats we have received or become aware of. With all these requests, we try to make things as simple as possible by providing basic contact information and a talking point or two.

Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

Pro-gun activists constantly spread the false idea that even the most modest gun violence prevention measure is a step toward total confiscation of all privately-held firearms. Frequently, when they make this point, they conclude it with a threat (“Come and take them”, “Molon labe”, “From my cold dead hands”, etc.).

We’re long past tired of it and we decided to make a series of memes that drill down to the real reason behind their confiscation conspiracy theory and threats. So we took actual photos of pro-gun activists standing in their homes armed to the teeth (that they had posted publicly to FB) and paired them with the text, “You know why they fantasize about gun confiscation all the time? Because no one would want to visit them otherwise.”

This series of memes has been extremely well-received and is just one example of our efforts at social norming. Now, rather than feeling scared about such threats, our supporters can have a laugh about it, and feel more confident engaging in discussions with bullies who really are just desperately seeking attention and respect.

We try to strike a chord with our followers by saying things that they have been thinking for a long time, but have never seen voiced. The cliché would be “speaking truth to power” (of the NRA, and well-armed and angry pro-gun activists). Courage is infectious. So is honesty. We monitor comments on our Page very closely and one thing people know they are always going to get from us is straight talk. We are not afraid to say what needs to be said. We never want them to catch us playing politics.

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

It’s certainly going to be different depending on the issue you work on. Few issues are as contentious and vitriolic as gun regulation, and that fact really informs our strategies. My main piece of advice would be to level with people. Make them feel like there is an actual human being at the helm of your social media tools, and not someone who is just reading polls and metrics. And don’t try to come off as perfect. Own up to your mistakes. Given the frequency with which we post, we’re all going to make them. Sincerity (and even self-deprecation) can go a long way.

As one final example, not long ago we made a “Mean Tweets” video with our staffers reading actual tweets that had been directed at us by pro-gun activists. People loved it, both because it was funny, but also because it showed we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. Several pro-gun activists even commented on it and said how great they thought it was that we could have a laugh at our own expense. Stuff like that has a way of cutting through division and rhetoric. Never be afraid of letting a bit of your own personality leak into the work you’re doing in new media. Your supporters will appreciate it.

How to Grow Using Facebook? Do it with Purpose.

There is a lot of chatter about Facebook for businesses, particularly small businesses like local bike shops. Large organizations have money to hire creative staff and digital media managers, but an LBS, club team or cycling advocacy group will often struggle from a lack of experience, resources, time and money. We plan to change that.

We’re not going to discuss ads here (that is for a later article—and yes, they do work). A little bit of effort is required, but it’s only a little and the basic tool, Facebook, is free. The goal here is to smooth out your Facebook strategy and give you some tools to throw the hammer down on a very, very powerful marketing platform.

But first, a few starting points. You may not know it, but this is the foundation of your Facebook strategy:

Set intentional and serious goals for your efforts. It’s just like going on an interval training ride; approach it with purpose and you’ll see results. Facebook is a platform built for sharing and telling stories, of which you have no shortage. Images and video rule the landscape. Be a part of the community, off and online. Same as the weekly ride, if someone from the shop isn’t leading the ride, it will fizzle out because you aren’t taking part in it. Like anything, cycling included, if you don’t take it seriously, your level of performance will be low. That doesn’t mean you need to work really hard at it. In fact, it’s a lot easier to lead the pack on Facebook than it is to close the gap after being dropped.

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Goals

Broadly speaking, as an LBS, cycling advocacy group or club/team, you want butts in saddles and rubber on the roads and trails (or track, if you’re lucky enough to have one). That means more people on weekly rides, commuting and so on. To get there, you need a community that is energized about riding. And you need to be the source of that energy.

Without going too far into marketing theory, what you need is inbound marketing. Inbound marketing doesn’t mean being an annoying, interruptive salesperson. It means giving people what they want—sometimes they don’t even know they want it!—and letting them come to you because you’re the place for more great content. As it turns out, this type of marketing is longer-lasting and creates a stronger loyalty base.

This raises two questions: 1) What do they want? and 2) How do we deliver it?

They want stories, tips and tricks, new tech, and fun times. Look to some of the organizations that are doing really well on Facebook already: see the scorecard here. Start by following them and sharing their content (more on that in a moment).

For the delivery, Facebook is the way to go. There are nearly 2 billion users and they spend an average of an hour every day to get away, relax and share stuff that they care about (like cycling, of course). What this means is that Facebook is something that you should be taking seriously.

So let’s meet them where they are and give them what they want, in a way that they can understand and enjoy.

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Content

Your shop, advocacy group or club/team should be sharing content from every cycling-related organization that it can, three times a day, every day—at the very least. Follow Pages like GCN, Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, Velosurance, Bicycle Magazine, Slow Twitch and others. When something is awesome, share it, say something about it in the post, and tag the source and anyone else who may be interested.

This part of the strategy is called content curation, and it’s an easy way to hit the three-a-day minimum without a ton of effort. And to make it easier, we’ve put together a scorecard of nearly every bicycle-related Facebook Page, here.

You should also be making your own fun and informative content. This is called content creation. And it doesn’t have to be a big, expensive production. In fact, we often see an inverse relationship between the amount of time put into the production and the result. Just take fun pictures or a video with your smartphone on the weekly ride and share them. Use a bike-mounted camera and grab some great action video. Take video from around the shop—maybe have a mechanic do a quick tutorial. Host a spin session, record it and share it as an on-demand workout. Take a note from GCN and do some local Top 10 Videos; Top 10 Routes; Top 10 Pit Stops, Top 10 Hills, etc. The ideas are endless, and you’ll probably be able to come up with some more. If not, let us know and we’ll lend a hand!

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Community

You take part in the local rides―maybe you host one or two already—or have an annual race. This is the start of a great community. Offline, you should be helping people, especially youth, who can’t get into the sport for whatever reason. Be an advocate in your community for better roads and a better relationship between cyclists and drivers. The bigger your community gets, the more drivers will be cyclists or, at least, know someone who is.

Online, you should be taking part in the community too. Engage with people in the comments, share and like posts, and make a few comments yourself. Use ActionSprout to take action in your community with polls, petitions and donations to grow your cycling community and improve roads, or to build that velodrome you’ve always dreamed about (that’s a personal goal for me). Facebook is basically a continuous conversation and you should weigh in on things now and again to show that you are real and listening to your community’s concerns.

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Effort

Facebook, like cycling, is often a slow build. You may get a bump right from the start, but then things will level off and grow more slowly. The trick is consistently posting interesting and good, quality content. If you slack off in the winter, you’ll feel it in the spring when you’re getting dropped. Facebook is no different; it can be discouraging at times but there is help. Use tools like ActionSprout to stay consistent on Facebook. It’s just like using a trainer to stay tip-top all winter.

This part is where we come in. We have free tools so that you can find the best content every time, among other things. Sign up for a free account here. Once inside, you can follow your favorite Pages in the Inspiration tab (like those in the scorecard mentioned earlier). Then all you have to do is share three posts a day. Look for the ones with the highest above-average performance percentage—the higher, the better.

The Final Sprint

Facebook is a serious marketing tool. Our job is to help you to use it. Keep an eye out for a free training session in the next couple weeks, where we’ll go into the mechanics of all this. It’s one thing to say that you need to do this or that; it’s another thing to know how to do it. In the meantime, set up a free account and have a little fun with it!

“What we Learned Launching a New Facebook Page”

Launching a new Facebook Page and building your community is no small task. The old phrase, “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t usually apply to Facebook. Building a Page from the ground up is months of diligent work, planning, and trial and error.

United for Kids is currently in the process of just that.

Recently we had the chance to talk to Marcus Swift, who is responsible for the growth of their Page. He shared with us his breakthroughs, lessons learned and some of the surprises along the way.

If you’re in the process of growing your Page, this interview is a must-read.

Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

Our audience is mostly Oregonians who care about kids. That includes parents, lawmakers, advocacy groups and voters who want more of an emphasis placed on our youngest members of society. We just launched this movement in March, so we are still small, but growing. We are trying to do so organically and as inexpensively as possible, and ActionSprout has been a good tool to do so. One of the goals of UFK is to highlight our partner organization’s good work—so we also post a lot of content, giving them a shout-out for their efforts.

What does an average day look like?

I manage both the Children First social media and the United for Kids social media, so most days I log in and check on both first thing in the morning. Right now, I’m more focused on the United for Kids Page because we are running an online campaign to increase sign-ups and likes. I will see how my Action is doing, maybe get some inspiration elsewhere to post. As the day goes on, I often get breaking news updates about certain legislation, so I try to post those on Facebook and Twitter as quickly as possible. Throughout the day, I will post and check on content while also doing other things like drafting content for our UFK blog.

How has your Facebook strategy changed over time with the growth of your Page?

At first, we really just needed to get something up and going. We are a small staff and we are often juggling a lot of things at once. So just getting the Page up and completed was a small victory. But we realized pretty quickly that we needed a long-term strategy, so I worked with our amazing consultant who gave me some excellent tips, and we started building our likes, growing the Page, and doing a better job of posting timely and interesting content. One of the first things our consultant recommended was ActionSprout, which has been really helpful so far.

What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

Posting fresh, interesting content that will grab people’s attention is so crucial to maintaining a good readership on your Page. It took me a while to fully understand that and then work hard to make it happen. I’m still not perfect, but it’s a start!

What has been your biggest surprise so far?

I’ve been really surprised at just how big of an audience you can reach through Facebook. I was never convinced that social media was really that important until I started doing the work. Now I realize how big of a positive impact it has on our overall communications goals.

What organizational goals do you hope your Facebook efforts will support?

We are working to sign up as many supporters of United for Kids as possible so that we can build a pro-kids movement in Oregon. Our Facebook efforts are crucial to helping us achieve those sign-ups. Facebook is also helpful because it allows us to start building our reputation as a trusted source for news and information about children’s issues in Oregon.

How are you currently trying to meet these?

We are running an aggressive online sign-up campaign using social media. ActionSprout has been a key part of that strategy. Our UFK blog is also part of our strategy of highlighting the great work by our participating advocacy organizations, individuals and lawmakers. The blog also helps us shine a spotlight on great pro-kid policies that more Oregonians should know about.

What are your goals for the future? How do you plan on meeting these?

We plan to continue building United for Kids over the next several years. Our goal is to grow this movement into an effective force for pro-kid policies. We want to make Oregon the best place to be a kid. We plan to meet that goal by continuing our online work on social media and our blog, as well as our email list, but also through traditional face-to-face, on-the-ground organizing.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits just starting out?

If you don’t know social media, ask someone who does and learn as much as you can. Then develop a plan; it doesn’t have to be extensive or elaborate—even a one-page plan is helpful—but develop something. It will help you stay on task and on track to meet your goals. My other advice is to set a calendar reminder to post on Facebook every day, several times. That will keep you honest and make sure that you are adding new, fresh content to your Page, which will help increase your reach and your likes.

Facebook for nonprofits: your need to know takeaways

Facebook launched a new website that’s focused on the nonprofit community. Facebook for Nonprofits is yet another resource aimed at nonprofits in the last year and is already proving to be a valuable resource for the community. The materials range in breadth and scope, and cover topics from fundraising to optimizing your Facebook Page.

This site is definitely something you’ll want to bookmark and reference in the coming year as you plan for campaigns, events and fundraising. It is broken into four easy-to-navigate sections: Getting Started, Raise Awareness, Activate Supporters and Raise Funds.

For now, let’s look at the top takeaways shared in each of the sections.

Getting Started

Takeaway #1: You can categorize your Page into sub-categories like Non-Profit Organization, NGO, Education or Political Organization.

While Page categories are first chosen when your page is created, it’s also possible to change them later.

Choosing the right Page category might seem insignificant, but it’s actually pretty important for your success on the platform. Having the correct Page category means having access to the right Page features and tools. For example, only Pages under the nonprofit category have access to the donation call-to-action button. (This appears on page and in ads)

It’s also a good idea to have the right Page category when reaching new supporters. You have one first impression with new supporters. If your Page isn’t accurate or well thought-out it can be off putting to supporters. At best, they’ll leave confused; at worst, they may leave thinking poorly of your organization.

Takeaway #2: Pages can celebrate milestones just like personal profiles.

This feature is a bit of a hidden gem that not too many Pages take advantage of. It’s a great way to celebrate a signed bill, a passed law, the opening of a new building or a big fundraising goal met.

Plus, once you have a few milestones created, this feature begins to be its own timeline of your organization’s success. How cool is that?

Takeaway #3: You can import your mailing list and invite them to like your Facebook Page.

Most nonprofits have a supporter list of some sort. Whether it’s your list of donors, volunteers or newsletter subscribers, this feature is especially powerful for newer Facebook Pages that are just starting out. This is one of the best ways to “transfer” that hard-earned list of supporters to this new piece of real estate.

Raise Awareness

Takeaway #1: A conversational, impersonal tone will win out over a formal, calculated one.

Practicing this style and tone will encourage more supporters to engage with your content and thus increase your overall reach:

“Facebook is a place where people connect with friends and communicate in a personal, casual way. Organizations tend to succeed when they also use a conversational, authentic style. Overly formal language can feel out of place. When writing a message, whether it’s funny or serious, think about how you’d write it to a friend.”

Takeaway #2: Many supporters view Facebook on a mobile device.

This means that your posts and content must be engaging and compatible on a small screen. If not, you’ll be missing out on a large section of your audience:

“Many people view Facebook on a mobile phone, so always consider what your post will look like on a small screen. Aim to grab attention with simple, short posts. Before linking to a website, check how it looks on a phone first.”

Takeaway #3: You can send posts to a subset of your audience.

Before you click the Publish button on a post, did you know that you could choose who in your audience will receive your post? This is a powerful way to further personalize and speak to your audience.

You’ll be able to select a specific target of people who like your Page by age, gender, location, language or interests.

Takeaway #4: If you have the content and resources, post every day.

The number one way to reach and engage more of your supporters on Facebook is to post more often. This means posting two to three times a day if you can.

“If you’re new to creating content for social media, aim for a post 2–3 times per week. Eventually, you’ll want to post daily to maintain a presence in your followers’ News Feeds.”

An easy way to jumpstart your increased posting is to monitor and share content from Inspiration.

Activate Supporters

Takeaway #1: If you want supporters to take an action, don’t bury your ask.

In English class, we were taught to craft elegant prose. We were trained to spin pages of logic and framing before presenting that killer idea. Take all that and flip it on its head. State your purpose and ask up front, then spin your prose and reasoning second.

“Don’t hide the call to action. Provide appropriate context for people to understand why they should act, but make sure the request for action is prominent.”

Takeaway #2: Encourage event attendees to talk about and share the event on Facebook.

It’s time to blur the line between the “digital world” and the “physical world.” Use Facebook to invite supporters to your real-world event and then encourage them to live post about the event while it happens to further engage the digital supporters who couldn’t make it.

Creating a strong link between your digital campaigns and physical campaigns will help boost each. Don’t keep them in separate silos.

Takeaway #3: Provide your online supporters with action kits.

Want volunteers to help you online? They’ll need some resources:

“Invite supporters to coordinate an event or activity on your organization’s behalf. To help manage your brand and reputation, provide action kits that supporters can use to make sure their activities are aligned with your goals. Include things someone would need to host an activity, like t-shirt graphics, printable brochures, promotional posters, gifts and more. Include instructions that explain how to use your action kit to create impact.

If cost of creating and shipping physical items is a concern, consider creating a digital action kit. You can use a file sharing service to upload resources and share the link on your organization’s Page or event.”

Raise Funds

Takeaway #1: When fundraising, show progress and impact.

How far are you from your goals? Is there a progress bar that supporters can reference? What impact do you hope this money will bring? What impact has your organization had in the past?

“You can use your Facebook Page to share both stories and statistics about how previous donations have helped your organization create impact. This helps people envision the value of their potential contributions.”

Answering these questions will also encourage supporters to stay engaged with the campaign and share it with their own networks. (All ActionSprout actions come with the ability to turn on a goal bar.)

Takeaway #2: Suggest a donation amount up front.

Allowing donors to select a default amount to donate can increase the overall number of donations you receive. Most—if not all—donation tools offer this option, so take advantage of it.

“Suggesting a few amounts people can contribute makes their decision to donate easier and removes one of the barriers to completing a donation. Consider your audience and the scope of your campaign when deciding on amounts to suggest.”

Takeaway #3: Your donation ask must feel urgent.

What will make your potential donors stop scrolling and pay attention? Once you have their attention, what will convince them to donate? If they feel like they can come back and donate whenever you’ve lost them, they will not come back. Instead, you must convey why they must make a donation now.

“You only have people’s attention for a few moments, so make the most of your time by being clear and inspiring a sense of urgency.”

While the strategies above are important, you’ll want to take the time to read through the website on your own. Facebook’s done an amazing job of compiling how nonprofits can best take advantage of what Facebook has to offer.

Following the listed strategies in each area of your Facebook Page and strategy will undoubtedly boost the overall performance of your organization’s FB Page.

How can Radio Broadcasters use Facebook better?

For most broadcasters Facebook is a black box of sorts. It’s something that requires participation and engagement in order to be successful. Yet, it can be hard, if not impossible at times, to know if the effort is on track. Below are three points to get you on your way to success, as well as how to measure it (we’ll dive deeper into measurement in another article).

Post Frequency

Try googling “Facebook post frequency,” and you’ll get around 159,000,000 results. Clearly, there are a lot of conflicting opinions about frequency! Some claim that you can post too frequently and spam your audience. Some say you just need one or two posts per week.

Facebook themselves have said that the statistically optimal posting frequency is three to five posts per day. This has been corroborated by our own data.

However, that is a very general statement and is intended to be broadly useful. The truth is that it depends: it depends on your sector, it depends on your content, and it depends on your audience. This number is simply a place to start and anchor your activity.

Here’s a little data to consider before we move on. The most engaging NPR stations (with an Average Engagement Per Post of 60 and above) post an average of about 33 times per day. Other news media organizations post from 14 to 45 times per day, averaging 29. That’s an average of 198 posts per week!

Why the discrepancy between the optimal suggested frequency or three to five and what news media outlets do in practice? Well, as a news outlet (sector), the readers (audience) expects that you will be frequently posting articles (content), of which you have no shortage.

As for the idea that you can spam your audience by posting too frequently, you cannot. The premise of this argument is that all of your audience will see all of your content, all the time; or, that your audience is making it a habit to manually check your Facebook Page a few times a day. This is not the case.

To keep the explanation simple, Facebook’s algorithm shows each post to a random sample of your fans; and, if the post is well received, it goes out to more, and so on. The more someone engages (liking, commenting and sharing) with your content, the more Facebook assumes they want to see your content, and thus more is delivered. Also, no one actually checks your Facebook Page. They see your content in their News Feed.

This is an extremely simplified explanation but, simply put, don’t worry about spamming people with too many posts.

Curation

As a broadcasting organization, you should be posting great content, frequently, seven days a week. Yes, that’s a lot of content, but let’s consider the 198 posts per week in the average mentioned above. This is where curation comes in. Original and local content is very important, and yet there are news stories all around from reputable media sources, which are often passed by when they should be shared.

Facebook is a place for sharing stories. Full stop.

Not only does your news/media team not have the time to write that much original content, but your team might also not have the expertise in-house to write about this or that topic. Additionally, it is a great way to piggyback on another organization’s reach on Facebook; don’t forget to tag the original source like this: @NewsSource (@NPR for example).

Timing

Timing matters. Again, this is an area of gross generalization. The statistically optimal time to post is 3 p.m. The truth, again, is that it depends on your audience. The ActionSprout audience responds really well at 6 p.m. Other organizations have found that early morning works.

As a broadcasting organization, it is best to have a post scheduled every hour from early morning to early evening. To determine what’s right for you, you’ll have to look at your Page’s Facebook Insights.

Goals and Measuring Success

As a broadcasting organization, your goal should be engagement; fundraising (we have a tool to make fundraising quick and easy, but that’s another article) will be a byproduct of engagement. The metrics you should focus on are: Engagement Score, Average Engagement and People Engaged.

How the Facebook algorithm ​really​ works (and why it’s not against you!)

If you manage a page on Facebook, you’ve probably had a rant (or few) about the Facebook algorithm. The algorithm is complex, keeps changing, is never transparent and you never quite know where you stand.

If you research strategies for how to grow your page and increase engagement, you’ll find advice that is all over the map. Post more; post less; only post images and videos; only post in the morning; tell people to “Like or Share” on every post; never include “Like or Share”; run contests; don’t run contests; keep posts under 20 words; longer posts are the way to go, the list could go on and on.

The one thing you’ll hear over and over again is, “the algorithm has changed again.” What worked yesterday isn’t working today so you’ll need to change your strategy again.

This can be frustrating to say the least!

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this complicated or confusing?

Sure, Facebook will make changes to the algorithm, and some strategies will work better than others, but keeping up with Facebook and keeping your audience engaged doesn’t have to be difficult.

This guide will put to rest some of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding Facebook. We’ll learn what the algorithm is all about and explore the reasons why Facebook does the things it does. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a better understanding of how Facebook functions and how you can make the most of it.

Facebook wants you to succeed on the platform. Let’s look at how to make that happen.

Table of contents

  1. What is motivating Facebook when they change the algorithm?
  2. How Does Facebook Filter the News Feed?
    1. Previous Interest
    2. Post Performance
    3. Your Page
    4. Type of Content
    5. Recency
  3. Serve your audience, not yourself
  4. Posting Secrets
    1. Repost what works
    2. Hard to spam
    3. Supporters don’t look at your page
  5. What this all adds up to

What is motivating Facebook when they change the algorithm?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Facebook is their intent. Many bloggers and social media trainers hold the belief that Facebook is against nonprofits. They believe that Facebook throttles the reach and engagement nonprofits receive on the platform to make them pay money to reach their fans.

This thinking is not only incorrect, but unfortunately, it also leads organizations to take a defeatist attitude towards Facebook.

What is true is Facebook is very loyal to their user base – as they should be! Facebook’s number one goal is to have its 1.5 billion users keep coming back to Facebook and spend more and more time on the site each day. In fact, their goal is quite similar to your goal. You too, want supporters to keep coming back to your content and spend time with it each day.

To do that, Facebook works incredibly hard to give their users the best content possible – and so do you! Giving users the best possible content is the algorithm’s job and understanding how it works and why Facebook continues to hone this system is essential to getting the most out of Facebook for your organization.

Does the algorithm do its number one job? Yes. If you look at Facebook usage numbers, you will see each month its users are coming back more often and staying longer. Does Facebook always get it right? Of course not, they’re human. But their intentions are good.

How Does Facebook Filter the News Feed?

Understanding how and why Facebook makes changes to the news feed is the key to getting better at creating content that will help you accomplish more on the platform.

First off, it’s important to note that if it were not for the algorithm, your news feed would be completely overwhelming. Currently, Facebook can show roughly 300 posts in the user’s news feed each day. But due to the number of friends people have and pages they follow, Facebook has to choose from roughly 1,500 possible posts from that person’s network to show them.

That means the average post is only seen by 6.51% or less of that page’s fan base.

The algorithm has over 100,000 highly personalized factors that it uses to decide which users see what pieces of content. Luckily you only need to understand five concepts to understand the algorithm overall:

Previous Interest

The algorithm measures a user’s past interest by paying attention to what each user engages with over time. In making decisions on what content to include in a person’s newsfeed, Facebook wants to know whether the user has ever engaged with posts that are similar to the new one.

The more a person engages with your content on Facebook, the more your posts will show up in their news feed. This cycle helps pages build real relationships with Facebook supporters. Facebook makes these previous interest calculations for each user based on every post they have ever engaged with. So, your content strategies must take the interests of the individuals’ you aim to engage with into account as well.

Two of the most important questions you can ask yourself each time you post are “why will the people who see this engage with it?” and “what value will they get from engaging with it?”

There are a number of reasons people engage with content, but one reason dominates them all. People engage with content on Facebook because they want their friends and family to see them engaging with. For your posts to earn engagement, the act of engaging with it (liking, sharing and commenting) must provide value to your supporters.

Post Performance

Post-performance boils down to one maxim – the more users there are that engage with a particular post, the more likely other users will do the same.

When you post something that earns good initial engagement, Facebook takes this as a positive sign and will share it with even more of your audience’s news feeds.

In fact, early performance of a post might be the best predictor of whether other users will want to see and interact with your content.

Your Page

If other users have engaged with your previous posts, Facebook will be more likely to show users your current content. Facebook’s algorithm is continually judging your Page and the more your audience likes your stuff over time, the more likely Facebook will share all of your content more broadly.

One key strategy to help your page succeed in this way over time is to focus on sharing highly engaging content on your Facebook page. Some organizations have trouble doing more than press release-style posts, and that will hold them back the one time they have a great post to share.

Be sure to build off successes. Repost high-performing content.

Type of Content

There are several categories of Facebook content: status updates (simply text), links, photos, and videos. The algorithm makes a note of the kinds of content a person regularly engages with and then shows them similar content.

For example, if you, as a user, have engaged with a lot of baby photo posts from your friends, you will likely see a lot more photos (and probably baby photos) in your news feed in the future. If you get a lot of your news by clicking on link posts and going to the articles, Facebook will show you more link posts.

Different people like different types of content, which mean your job is to post a variety of content types. You want to engage all of your fans, no matter what type of content they prefer, so don’t be afraid to try all different types of content.

Recency

Some people think this refers to how recently the content was posted, but that’s not exactly the case. What the algorithm takes note of is the recency of post engagement. For example, a post may not get a lot of engagement right away, but as people start to engage with it more, the algorithm notices this, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of the engagement cycle takes over.

No one can tell you how often to post or even how many times to post each day. Generally, more is better, but it will take some experimenting. The best way to determine this is to make use of the data Facebook provides in your page insights and use that to guide your posting behavior.

Serve your audience, not yourself

If I told you that Facebook is a social network, you certainly wouldn’t argue. But the truth of the matter is that Facebook is a platform* of* social networks. Users come to the site to connect with people, organizations, and content they care about. In short, to succeed as a page manager, you must serve your audience, not yourself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of serving yourself as a page manager rather than your audience and supporters. What does this look like? Well, it looks a lot like using your Facebook page as a soapbox, talking* at* your audience, not with them.

Facebook is not a broadcasting tool; it’s a community tool.

To protect against this, bake your supporters into your content and posting strategy. Asking yourself these questions will help you head in the right direction:

  • What subjects do they care about right now? What are they already talking about and sharing that pertain to my cause?
  • What types of content do my supporters enjoy the most? I.e. Images? Videos? Articles?

These two simple questions will keep you in the right headspace to fully connect with and engage your supporters on their terms, where they are currently at.

The best way to answer these questions and keep a pulse on your supporters is to use the Inspiration and Timeline tools offered inside of ActionSprout. These tools quickly show you what your supporters are currently talking about and in what form(s) they consume their content.

Posting Secrets

Now that we understand the philosophy of using Facebook let’s look at some tangible ways to post better.

Repost what works

When you notice one of your posts over performing, repost it! We suggest reposting a piece of content as long as the reach and engagement are growing or the same as the original post. Once reach and engagement start to drop simply stop reposting.

Why repost?

When you repost a piece of content, it will reach, and, therefore, engage, a different slice of your audience than the first time you posted. In this way, you are increasing the reach and engagement of that post without having to spend a penny on ads.

When we say “reposting” we don’t mean deleting the old post and posting it anew. We simply mean resharing your very own high performing content like you would from another page.

Hard to spam

Now you may be thinking, “Isn’t this the same thing as spamming my fans?” No, it is not. It is actually relatively hard to spam your followers on Facebook. The Facebook algorithm is sophisticated enough to know that the content you are reposting is the same piece of content you posted before. Therefore instead of delivering it to the same audience as last time, the algorithm will look for new folks in your fan base that would also enjoy that piece of content.

As we said up front, Facebook’s number one goal is for users to keep coming back to Facebook. Delivering them spammy content is not a way to do so. Therefore, Facebook doesn’t want to spam your followers as much as you do.

Supporters don’t look at your page

The next question is usually, “won’t it look strange to have multiple of the same post on my Facebook page?” The answer is, yeah it might, but no one will visit your page to notice. The thing is supporters don’t spend time on your Facebook page. In fact they rarely, if ever, visit it.

Users spend most, if not all, of their time on their own news feed. That is where they see and interact with your content. And by reposting your high performing content multiple times you ensure that more of your supporters will see your content in their news feeds.

What this all adds up to

We’ve covered a lot of material! Hopefully, you understand Facebook a little better and have some new ideas and strategies to try. Let’s wrap this up with the core idea: Facebook wants you to be successful. Your success means more great content on Facebook. Great content is good for users, and it’s good for business!

I’ll say that again: Facebook wants you to succeed at creating great content. Their entire platform depends on having good content they can use to fill countless hours of their 1.23 billion users’ time.

So, if you focus on creating and posting great content that number one serves your audience, you’ll find Facebook really can be a highly effective channel for reaching, engaging and capturing supporters.

3 Reasons Why Every Nonprofit Should be Curating Content

As a page manager on Facebook, you’re facing three large hurdles every day:

  • The need to post quality content
  • The desire to engage as many fans and supporters as possible
  • The frustration over the organic reach of your posts (or lack thereof)

Fortunately, there is a content strategy that will address all three of these daily challenges. It’s called Content Curation.

Content curation is the practice of sharing other’s high performing content on your own Facebook page. Sometimes this is merely sharing a funny video or image that you think your fans would like as well. Or it’s sharing a trending, breaking news story that relates to your cause. (This strategy is also sometimes called “newsjacking” or “piggybacking”)

Page managers that practice content curation can post more quality content to their page and thus, reach and engage more of their fans and supporters. (We like to see pages posting two to five times a day so this will help you get to that target)

This strategy hinges on the fact that this content is already proven to engage users on Facebook. In turn posting this content on your page is low risk and highly likely to engage your fans as well. Think of it as a vetting system for content!

At this point, folks usually push back on this strategy. They’re concerned the approach feels too much like stealing, plagiarism or being dishonest to supporters.

“How can we be expected to take other people’s content and pass it off as our own?”

1) Facebook does not follow classic communication rules

The first thing we have to do is reframe the way we think about Facebook. Facebook is not a broadcasting platform, it’s not a soap box, it’s not a one-way communication tool. As such, classic communication rules don’t always hold up. In some instances, they are even flat out wrong or harmful to use on Facebook.

What Facebook is, is a social network. It is a community, a place for public conversions, a place for back and forth communications between your organization and your followers.

As such sharing content from others is not stealing, plagiarism or being dishonest.

2) Sharing content is normal and expected on Facebook

It’s time to reframe the sharing of other’s content, not as stealing, but as taking part in the social, community aspect of Facebook. Everyone does it, users expect it, so to be successful on Facebook you’ll need to become comfortable with it.

This isn’t just something for users either, most of the top pages on Facebook share other page’s and people’s content on their page.

In fact, some pages even thrive on only sharing other’s content. This is good news for organizations that struggle to create original content or struggle to create an enough of it on their own!

The fact is the majority of Facebook pages should have a mix of curated and original content. A rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule. 80% of your page’s content should be shared content and 20% your own original content.

3) Not sharing content could actually hurt your page

Reach and engagement aside, the fact that your page is not sharing others’ content could create ill will and negative feeling with your fans and supporters.

If your page is not taking part in this practice, it’s possible some users will notice it and get the wrong idea about your page and organization as a whole. They may think of your organization as being boastful, selfish or too good to take part in the Facebook community.

Moral of the story

Sharing content on Facebook is normal, expected and not taking part could hurt your page in the long run.

Making a point of sharing top performing content that relates to your cause can significantly increase the organic reach and engagement of your page. It also allows you to post more content to your page and fill in the holes when original content is not available.

Powerful New Way to Ask for Facebook Likes

3/17/2015 Update: ActionSprout now offers the ability to invite people to like your page who have liked a post. For full written steps click here.

Facebook quietly released a powerful new feature you should be aware of: a new to ask for Facebook likes. You now have the ability to invite people who have liked your Page post(s) to like your actual Facebook Page.

To access this feature, first find a post that has more than two or three likes on it. Click on the number of likes on this post. (This is the x number of others who have liked the post.)

Screen-Shot-2015-12-14-at-4.10.52-PM-e1450138828170-400x25

This will bring up the following screen.

facebook likes

As we can see in the example, Nicole has already liked the Page but Nathan has not. Clicking on the invite button next to Nathan will send him an invite to like your Page.

Now Nathan will receive a notification on Facebook asking him to like the Page:

When he clicks on this notification message, he will be taken to the Page.

Screenshot-2015-12-14-16.31.59-400x133

Note: This invite will either come from the page itself or your personal profile. If you are friends with the person you are inviting it will come from your personal profile, as you can see in the example above. If you are not Facebook friends with the person it will come from the page itself, like in the example below.

from-page

So why is this so powerful, you ask?

First, this person has expressed interest in your cause. They saw a friend’s post that shared your content and they engaged with it because they liked it too. This is an engaged supporter that you want in your Facebook community.

Second, it shows this person that you and your organization are human. This is a great way to break the ice with new supporters and personally invite them to your cause.

Third, it’s quick and free to do! We receive emails from folks all the time asking how to set up Facebook ads to earn new Page likes. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it will cost you. By using this new feature, you can reach out to people who have already liked your content and can do so in a very personal way.

So, what exactly is your Page gaining from these new Page likes?

By reaching out to folks who are already engaged with your cause, you are building a solid supporter community on Facebook. This will cause the reach and engagement of your Page to increase over time and allow you to get your message and content in front of more people.

The secret to Facebook videos

Videos are one of the fastest growing media types on Facebook, with over 100 million hours of video watched each day. Simply put, native videos should be an essential part of any Facebook pages content strategy.

But just posting a video will not guarantee success; far from it. In fact, most of the videos that you have seen or even created in the past will not work well on Facebook.

The reason for this is that there are two distinct differences between how people consume videos on Facebook vs others platforms such as YouTube or even your website.

Sound off

88% of all videos are watched without sound on Facebook! On Facebook, videos begin playing right away without sound as soon as it appears on the user’s newsfeed. Unlike other channels, the user has to actually take action to turn on the sound for you video. This means that if your video is not powerful and effective without sound, it is being missed by nearly 90% of the people who see it.

On top of that many people browsing Facebook are in a situation where it isn’t appropriate to to turn the sound on. They are at work, sitting with a sleeping child or on the train to work.

Therefore, your video must provide a powerful viewing experience with no sound. There are different strategies for doing this, but the easiest is often just to make sure anything that is spoken is also displayed as captions. You can use SRT files but ideally, these captions are added directly to the video file itself.

This video from AJ+ is a great example of using easy to read captions

Auto-play

You have 2 seconds to grab your views attention! Because Facebook videos auto-play it’s essential to focus on quality from the first frame. If you don’t grab them in the first 2 second, you have lost them forever. So never bury the lead! Don’t be the one to create a video that starts too slowly or doesn’t lead with the punchline.

This video from Good is a great example of optimizing for auto play to get people’s attention quickly

It may help to think of Facebook videos as moving pictures, harkening back to the silent picture days. But unlike sitting in a theatre watching Charlie Chaplin, your videos need to hold people’s attention even when they are watching on their mobile devices in a place where they simply can’t turn on the sound without disrupting the peace.

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