You followed expert advice on building your organization’s social media presence. You dedicated a sizable portion of your marketing team’s efforts to publishing content daily. And then slowly it happened, most noticeably on Facebook.
Without warning, Facebook changed the algorithms. Your organization’s organic reach plummeted, and your posts reached far fewer fans. You felt it was necessary to pay to win more fans. Then, late in 2016, the algorithms changed again, and now you find yourself paying for ads to speak to the very fans you already paid for to like your page!
There’s a lesson to be learned here for all of us. Before you post again on any social media platform, you should ask yourself one question. Your answer to this question may reshape how you view your organization’s relationship with the content assets you own and those you don’t.
Where are you building your organization’s brand?
Are you building your organization’s brand on sand or rock? To help answer this question, I’d like to recount a bible story. You may recall the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
It goes like this: A wise man built his house on rock. Even when the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew, his house did not fall. The rock provided a firm foundation. A foolish man, however, built his house on sand. When the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew, his house fell with a great crash. His house could not withstand the unpredictability of the elements.
Social platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are excellent for distributing content and engaging with your audience. With 2 billion daily users, Facebook likely has the attention of your target audience. In 2016, Blackbaud and Content Marketing Institute reported that 96% of nonprofits use Facebook, and nonprofit marketers rated Facebook the most effective platform.
It’s hard not to fall in love with platforms like Facebook. For low advertising fees, nonprofits can reach an amazingly specific audience. Facebook even launched an entire website to helping nonprofits raise awareness, activate supporters, and raise funds. Plus, the user-friendly tools and clean look make posting on Facebook (and other social platforms) easy and enjoyable.
But there’s a catch. And, I’m afraid I have a bit of bad news for you.
You know your Facebook fans, your Twitter and Instagram followers, and your YouTube subscribers?
They’re not really yours.
At least, they are not yours in the sense that you have easy access to them. With the continual algorithm adjustments, an organization’s organic reach could dip as low as 2%. That means if you want to reach your Facebook fans, you need to pay. While the social platform is wonderful in many ways, it is unreliable. To your organization, social platforms are sand: It’s fun to play in, but not a wise choice on which to spend all your marketing resources.
What’s a nonprofit to do?
With every social media post, one of your goals should be to move your fans from that social platform to one of your owned assets. You should aim to convert a social media fan into something more valuable, such as a newsletter subscriber, a donor, a program participant, a member, or a volunteer.
That brings us to those content assets you can control:
- Your own branded website
- Your email list
- Your mailing list
These content assets should be the ones that you spend a majority of your time developing. Yes, create social media content consistently. Yes, advertise on social platforms. Yes, review your social media analytics for trends and adjust your tactics. But don’t do this at the expense of the media you do own and control.
I know it’s tempting to prioritize working on social media over owned content assets. The truth is that social media is easier and more gratifying. It takes very little time to create a single Facebook post, and then the affirmations of your work pour in – in the form of likes, shares, comments. Plus, the open-24/7 nature of social media keeps you stuck in the content machine. It’s not easy to break away from the never-ending stream.
What’s more, doing work on our owned content assets feels heavy. It’s not easy figuring out meaningful email sequences, writing interesting content for the blog, or developing effective strategies to entice people to sign up for the newsletter. Nevertheless, it’s foundational work that needs to be done and refined. And then refined some more.
Build your nonprofit’s brand on a firm foundation: your website. No matter if the rain comes down, the streams rise, or the winds blow, your website will stand strong. Think of social media platforms as your assistants. Use them as channels to distribute information, engage with an audience, and then guide them to your website where they can complete a meaningful call-to-action.
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