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Does Facebook Owe it to Nonprofits to Fix Organic Reach?

Social Sonar - Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Here’s something to consider while debating whether Facebook’s moves to limit organic reach are justified: Facebook wants big brands to pay to play, but should nonprofits and groups promoting social causes be hurt in the process? With more than 1 billion users using Facebook  through their mobile devices, Facebook has an audience that no sane marketer could ignore. It makes sense for big brands like Nike and Coke to for over some cash to reach your newsfeed, but what about nonprofits and online activists that use the network to promote their causes? Should they be throttled by Facebook’s changes, too? After all, many of these organizations are strapped for cash as it is, and losing a free tool with incredible potential to reach others can be a big blow.

The revolution may not be televised, but the past decade has shown that it’s often tweeted. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms have become important places for people to share information, even when their own governments try to suppress information from reaching traditional media sources. Given that it’s so important to promoting social causes, does Facebook have a responsibility in sustaining a space where that kind of dialogue can continue to happen?

Here’s what Facebook could do to level the playing field for nonprofits:

Create a Verification Process for Nonprofits

Facebook could create a verification process for nonprofits and social causes that distinguishes them from big commercial endeavors and boost their organic reach. Facebook gets brownie points for promoting the kind of open, social platform it began as (and promoting social good), and nonprofits that have spent years building up an audience are able to reach them again.

Scaled Reach

If nonprofits and social causes can’t return to previous levels of reach, why not scale it? 2% reach isn’t enough to run an effective social media campaign, but 50% gives nonprofits a fighting chance to wield some influence again.

Offer a Few Promoted Posts a Month for Nonprofits

As it stands now, any post you want to promote will cost you. You can boost your reach this way, but without a big budget, you may soon find that social media is taking too big of a bite from your budget. Facebook could over a few promoted posts a month for nonprofits and pages that promote social causes.

Do you think Facebook owes it to nonprofits, activists and other groups promoting social causes to loosen the reins on its constricting news feed algorithm? Should users be able to see more from the pages they choose to like? Share your own ideas and suggestions below. In the meantime, make sure you check out these tips for working within Facebook’s current iteration of organic reach.

Beyond Likes and Retweets: Why It’s Important to Convert Customers

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

You’ve mastered the art of curating a beautiful Facebook page, built a robust audience on Twitter and know exactly how to tell the story of your brand through pictures on Instagram. Great. Now what?  While you might be tempted to rest on your laurels, continue to update the social channels that have become the staples of your social media strategy, capture some analytics, and call it a day, there’s more to be mined from your tweets and posts. Stop short of capturing some vital information and you might miss out on the most important business opportunity that social media can provide.

Social Media is a Gathering Place

Think of your social networks as a gathering place for potential customers--like a town square. You’re out there with your sandwich board and people are high-fiving you all day and stopping to talk to you along the way. But for customers to truly experience all that your brand has to offer, they need to step off the street and into your store. More than that, they need to become part of a community of enthusiastic customers that have meaningful interactions with your brand on regular basis.

A like, a share, a retweet, or a favorite are all forms of casual engagement. Think of them has the high-five in the town square. People are happy to see you again (or meet you), sure, but it’s a connection that’s characterised by how fleeting it is. If you want to cultivate that relationship, you need a more reliable way to get in touch with them that moves beyond social media. Considering that last year 44% of email recipients made a purchase based on something that landed in their inbox, capturing email addresses is a perfect place to start.

Sign Me Up

As part of your regularly scheduled content, share links that encourage followers to stay in touch with you through email. You can do this by directing them to a quick survey, or by capturing email addresses from purchases they make after using your online store. You can also link to web forms that encourage customers to sign up for your newsletter. Newsletters aren’t just a way to generate excitement around new products. They’re also a way to share things like news about a big move, or articles that shine a light on what you think about your industry.

Keeping Connected

If Facebook’s recent changes around organic reach prove anything, it’s that you can’t take your audience on social media for granted. You may have built a big audience, but your ability to reach them isn’t necessarily guaranteed. That’s why it’s essential to move past the “town square” to a place where you can communicate on your own terms, without intermediaries deciding how and with what frequency you can connect. Social channels come and go, and while some have become a cornerstone of digital marketing efforts, they’re subject to change. Don’t assume that you’ll always be able to reach people in the way you want. Convert early and often so that you can leverage the connections you’re making.

How do you capture email and keep the conversation going beyond social media? What other ways (on and offline) do you try to convert customers into becoming a bigger part of your brand’s experience? Share your thoughts below.  

Is Too Much Filtering Killing Social Media?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There’s just no way to absorb all the content that comes at you through social media. You follow friends, brands and causes you care about and even expect to get most of your news through social sites. That adds up to an almost unstoppable onslaught of information. It’s a fact: there has to be some kind of filtering system to parse out what you actually see. Otherwise, all the information that you subscribe too can quickly become white noise.

Out of Your Reach

If you’ve been noticing your Facebook Reach numbers take a dip since last year, you’ve already felt the effects of what filtering can do to your presence on social media. Remember the old days when all the content your Facebook friends posted appeared chronologically and in real time on your timeline? That system is long gone and in its place is a new algorithm that takes into account variables like continued engagement (likes, shares, comments) to determine what shows up in your newsfeed.

You may also have noticed that Facebook is prompting you to boost your Total Reach by asking you to promote posts. In part, Facebook is interested in extra revenue from businesses paying to amplify the reach of specific posts. The move is also an attempt to steer newsfeeds away from being overrun by memes and highlight quality content like news articles and blogs that provide more value to readers. 

Et tu, Twitter?

Twitter by contrast, remains pretty unfiltered. Tweets from everyone you follow show up in your newsfeed in real time--if you miss them, you miss them, but at least they’re all there. Twitter isn’t immune from the idea of promoted tweets, but the success of what you post isn’t driven by money in the same way that Facebook has proposed on their network.

Still, Twitter is experimenting with some ideas around curating, including a “Fave People” feature, which filters out content from selected friends, brands or organizations you follow. The main difference here is that users choose who gets filtered into a separate “Fave People” stream, instead of deferring to a preestablished equation to do the work for them (whether they like it or not).

Some users bristle at the idea of having someone else decide what’s relevant to them because it seems too arbitrary and out of touch with their actual interests. Others might not even notice that a selection process is at work behind the scenes. In the middle of it all are businesses trying to navigate changing rules that affect how they communicate with their audiences. What do you think about both of these approaches to filtering? Should curating be user-driven? Or should decisions about what constitutes quality content be handed down from the top (as is the case with Facebook) if they minimize some of the white noise on social channels? Share your thoughts below.