Nonprofit fundraisers and marketers need to sharpen their digital strategy in the wake of a significant change to Facebook’s algorithm that affects how news feeds work.
This means more video. More highly relevant and targeted copy. And more optimization.
Here's what happened to lead Facebook to this significant shift.
Facebook is headed for big changes to news feeds and content distribution—with the intent to show users fewer posts from publishers and businesses and more content from their friends and family.
Mark Zuckerberg called it meaningful shift, but this shift is making marketers nervous. Facebook has become a strong asset in nonprofit digital marketing because of its targeting abilities. Industry reports have shown up to 70% growth in nonprofit investment in digital media year over year—and a considerable chunk of that is to Facebook.
Among RKD’s client base we have seen more than a 500% growth in Facebook spend in 2017. The growth is generally a part of an overall plan leveraging display, paid search and paid social to generate a funnel from awareness to conversion.
And Facebook has been influential in that media mix for driving engagement and conversions at optimal costs-to-acquire.
Has been. But now this change. Here’s what we’re seeing about the change and what it means for nonprofit marketers.
Facebook Has a Problem
For the last 18 months Facebook has identified a need for more advertising real estate. To put it another way, in the current format, Facebook was concerned that ad revenue would slow over 2017 because it was running out of room in news feeds to show ads. (Even the CEO said so in mid 2017.)
The increasing ad volume was creating an overcrowding effect, pushing down organic posts. The result, over the last 24 months, has been a decrease in user engagement.
To account for that, in 2017 Facebook began putting more emphasis on long-form video in news feeds. The push towards video is an attempt to increase engagement. The fallout is a reduction the ratio of ads to organic posts.
This is a conservation strategy—preserve content value by reducing content volume. But in doing so, Facebook will shift user behavior. We’re all watching long-form and vertical video way more now than ever before. Heck, this video shift is even a trend for 2018.
Given the overcrowding of ad inventory and the drop in engagement, Facebook needed to make a change.
Impact on Organic & Paid
The changes to the Facebook news feed are intended to combat decreased engagement. This means a prioritization of content from friends and family and less from brands, including nonprofits.
This change can heavily impact organic posts. The algorithm change will prioritize posts based on active engagement rather than passive engagement (reactions, comments and shares). Posts that spark conversations will be prioritized.
In a sense, this is similar to email marketing, where your non-openers can affect your ability to reach the inbox of others on your file.
Does this mean that the Facebook sky is falling?
So here's what nonprofits should take away from the change.
The algorithm change means a change in strategy for organic posts. Nonprofits can no longer guess at what their constituents want to engage with. The “move to meaningful” has to be founded in strategy, measured and optimized to maintain organic reach.
More video will help. And more genuinely relevant content.
Bigger than that, however, we believe the Facebook algorithm change means that many nonprofits need a better digital media strategy—and need to be committed to Facebook as a pay-to-play channel. This will affect your approach for building your Facebook audience and how you’re using Facebook as a paid channel beyond the newsfeed.
Just like what Facebook is attempting with its changes—this shift should mean Facebook becomes more meaningful for your digital marketing efforts.
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