The face of charity on FacebookWritten by Christine Senack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Like the rest of the business world, local nonprofit organizations are finding their way on Facebook. The social media site works well as a low-cost, grassroots marketing, communications and networking tool. It makes sense as a part of a charity’s overall marketing and community networking plan, especially as a way of communicating to current donors, patrons and supporters, or as they are known on Facebook, fans.
Many Toledo nonprofits have started profiles, pages, groups and causes on Facebook. Local organizations such as United Way, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Symphony, Toledo Zoo, Planned Parenthood, Toledo Botanical Garden, Valentine Theatre and the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, have pages on the social media site. Facebook users can connect with charities through the search function on the website as well as more organic networking through other profiles, pages and groups. Each type of Facebook site offers advantages and should be used strategically.
Most nonprofit organizations will start with developing a Facebook page, as they should. Pages are designed for business use on Facebook. Pages allow businesses to collect fans and to communicate with fans through the regular news feed. Pages allow for two way communication. The organization may make posts of information, photos, video and links, and if desired fans may do so as well.
The advantage of pages is that there is an open conversation between the supporters of a charity and the charity itself. The disadvantage is that it is open. Anyone can see it and it will appear in Google search results. Charities should monitor what is posted on their Facebook pages several times a day and remove information that is irrelevant or inappropriate. They also should delete their own repetitive posts if they often post the same promotional material. Another important note is that Facebook pages do not allow a business to mass email fans. The only way of communicating with fans is through public posts into the news feed.
While Facebook pages are predominately designed to represent a brand on the social media site, groups are designed to allow more regular and personal business communication. Recently Facebook changed the nature of groups on its website giving group users most of the functionality of pages. Now group members may post photos, links and comments. However, groups may be configured to be relatively private and not searchable by Google or even within Facebook. One of the advantages of groups over pages on Facebook is that the members of a group may be privately emailed, whereas fans of a page may not be.
One way to think of the difference between these two sites is a nonprofit organization has a page, but different segments of people within that organization (for example volunteers) have a group on Facebook. While it seems logical for an organization to want both a group and a page, this tends to scatter commitment from general Facebook users. Not all users will join both a page and a group nor should they.
As for the other two Facebook entities, a profile and a cause, the advice is straightforward. Profiles are for human beings only. According to the terms of service, businesses are not permitted to have profiles. If a business establishes a Facebook profile and it is brought to the attention of Facebook Inc, the page is subject to being immediately removed. It turns out that usually the nonprofit organization is served notice first, but this is not guaranteed. Facebook also has a part of its site for causes. While it was a noble idea, the actual effectiveness of causes was diluted early on with people creating fake causes for amusement. So now a legitimate cause is sandwiched between a thousand other causes sounding like it but have no official nonprofit statuses or any existence beyond cyberspace. In general, causes are not worth the time to develop on Facebook for most charities.
Facebook is a powerful tool for personal and business networking. For an increasing number of people, Facebook is one of the most frequent media sources looked at throughout the day. However, for a business it should be considered and managed as a part of an ongoing professional marketing and community networking plan if the best results are to be obtained.
Christine Senack is a Toledo-based consultant connecting people, places and things for the greater good of our community. For more event photos and video highlights, connect with her on Facebook.com.