… And Facebook Taketh Away
Yesterday, we talked about transaction-fee-free donations through Facebook and how, all other things equal, you’d probably rather own the constituent relationship, thank you very much.
But, I also mentioned it might be OK to drive donations through Facebook’s donate button while in Facebook’s organic reach. ( Organic reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post through unpaid distribution. Paid reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post as a result of ads. Total reach is the number of unique people who saw your posts, regardless of where they saw it.)
Well, organic reach may not be anything to worry about anymore.
In 2014, Oglivy talked about Facebook Zero: what would life be like when brands would have no organic reach on the platform. At that point, large brands had organic reach of about 2%.
The algorithm changed again in 2016 and organic reach was cut in half.
Now, we have seen the future of Facebook and it is very much like the Facebook Zero vision. Right now, there’s a Facebook Explore Feed – for brands who want to advertise to you but you don’t currently like their pages – and the News Feed – for people and brands you like.
Facebook has been experimenting with making it so that the News Feed is now restricted only to friends and paid ads. Even if a constituent likes you, your content would then be in the Explore Feed (aka Facebook Ghetto).
You may recognize this business model from this (explicit and NSFW) scene from GoodFellas.
But, you say, how much worse can it get? Well, here’s a great article titled “Biggest drop in Facebook organic reach we have ever seen” that details it; I’ll just give you one picture from the article:
I don’t know about you, but those bars on the left look a lot bigger than those ones on the right.
I’d like to take it up a level and extend the discussion yesterday about owning your own donors and fans (quoting liberally from myself (I give myself permission) here)
Let’s say you want to paint a mural that supports your fan theory that Jar Jar Binks is the Big Bad in the entire Star Wars universe.
You put a lot of time and energy redoing an entire wall of your apartment in His Immortal Darkness’s likeness. Then you market it. Pretty soon, Darth Jar Jar has a following – you can even charge some people to see it.
But it’s on your apartment’s wall. That means it isn’t your painting. Your landlord can paint over it. She can restrict people from seeing it. She can take your revenue from people seeing Sith Binks. She can put ads around the shrine. She can kick you out. And if you change apartments, it’s hers, not yours.
Facebook is your landlord. That’s not to say they are good or bad. It just means that your Facebook followers are as much yours as your apartment or your homage to the Gungan who would be Emperor. Which is to say, barely.
As the Blackbaud Vital Signs report reminded us, donors are vital to our nonprofits. In fact, they are even more vital to us than we are to our donors. So it is incumbent upon us to own that relationship.
Facebook doesn’t owe us organic reach. They are a business and the business of business is business. If they believe they can maximize shareholder value by making these moves, more power to them. But as the tacit relationship between us and Facebook changes, we need to be ready to change with it and that means owning our constituents.
And if we don’t have the information and/or the permission to talk with constituents, we don’t own the relationship.
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