3 Ways Nonprofits Can Survive the Latest Facebook News Feed Update

Well, it’s happened again.

Facebook has updated the algorithm that controls the visibility of content on the news feed (that center column of content users see when they log in).

What is the update?

Today we use signals like how many people react to, comment on or share posts to determine how high they appear in News Feed.

With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to—whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.

We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values.

What does this mean for Pages and public content?

Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.

Long story short: content from brand pages is going to have less organic visibility; even less than it currently has, which has been the source of consternation to for-profit and nonprofit marketers for years.

Assuming you don’t want to pay to boost your posts or to buy ads, here are three things you can do to lower your blood pressure when it comes to the latest (and not the last) update to Facebook’s algorithm:

1) Don’t worry so much about Facebook

Did you know that nonprofits raised billions of dollars before the advent of Facebook?

It’s true!

There’s no doubt that Facebook has fundamentally changed the way society operates, but it is still possible to run a successful fundraising operation without 100% organic post visibility! Really!

Here are just a few things I would prioritize higher over creating/publishing Facebook content:

  • email your donors whatever it is you wanted them to know
  • call donors to say thank you
  • write handwritten notes to donors
  • survey first-time donors
  • give tours to first-time donors (if tours are applicable to your org)
  • send a LinkedIn message to the CEO of a corporate sponsor to say thanks
  • jump into a Twitter conversation about your cause topic
  • take a walk through the forest and contemplate your own mortality

And if you’re mad that people used to be able to see more of your content, let me just say: get over it.

Facebook doesn’t owe you anything.

You’ve been renting space on land you don’t own.

So stop doing somersaults to get around the algorithm – or worse, spending hours researching what somersaults can get you around the algorithm – especially when you have alternative contact information (on more effective channels) for the people you’re trying to reach.

2) Ask humans to share your page content

Speaking of somersaults, here’s one:

Post content on your page, then ask people to share it!

The news feed update is going to prioritize content from people and not pages. So, get people to share your content after the fact.

I’m not talking about adding “please share!” at the end of every post.

You can:

a) include (tag) people in your content (it may prompt them to share it, or at least engage with it)

b) ask people directly to share; people like:

  • employees/co-workers
  • board members
  • the subject of the post (see #1 above)
  • your close friends
  • your family members
  • your old friend from high school who loves dogs

Bonus: Facebook Events work really well for the reasons above. Because individual users can RSVP, comment and like the event, they travel through the Facebook ecosystem better than page content.

3) Re-evaluate your overall content strategy

The most common piece of advice found in the wake of these algorithm updates is some variation of “post good, engaging content and you’ll be fine!”

It’s true that the quality of your content is a major factor in how well it performs, algorithms aside. Even though “good content” might not be enough to overcome this newest change, it’s never a bad exercise to evaluate what you’re posting to Facebook and why.

One of my favorite frameworks for nonprofit social media content is the “Three A’s” – Appreciation, Advocacy and Appeals.

If you aren’t using Facebook to…

  • show appreciation to your donors (appreciation)
  • tell stories of who your organization is helping (advocacy)
  • asking for help in a social way (appeals)

…you likely won’t get much engagement even if your posts have 100% organic visibility.

If you’re curious about the Three A’s strategy, download this free eBook – or don’t, and just call some donors to say thanks instead.


Steven Shattuck

Steven Shattuck

Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang
Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang and Executive Director of Launch Cause. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition" and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and is an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member.
Steven Shattuck
By | 2018-01-29T16:19:04+00:00 January 30th, 2018|Donor Engagement, Social Media, Donor Communications|

One Comment

  1. […] Besides that, there’s an opportunity for direct interaction that you can’t quite get through email or direct mail. At the very least, you can say thank you. Most donors love to put their philanthropy on display, and when you’re connected with someone directly on Facebook it’s much easier to tag them in posts, photos and videos – and get them to share the content published from your brand page (which is very important in light of the latest algorithm changes). […]

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