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Why nonprofits should not rely on social media for donor engagement

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Owen O'Doherty

The importance of content to nonprofits

Content marketing and a digital presence are very important for Nonprofits and charties. Nonprofits by their nature exist to serve the people or cause they are dedicated to.

In doing so, they seek to reach as many people as they can, and deliver news and updates on their mission to where people are to be found. Marketing spend is usually tight however. Doing so at the best possible return on investment in both money, time, resources, and of course, content, is critical.

Marketing and communicating their mission and impact in an effective way is crucial to securing donations, as well as corporate and foundation funding.

A great amount of time is spent on creating content, messaging, and devising how best to communicate that content to the wider world.

Much of that strategy centres around the use of traditional platforms like Facebook (now Meta) & Instagram (also owned by Facebook) leaving nonprofits & charities at the mercy of platform and commercial changes Meta have undertaken on their advertising and content delivery model.

We have all been there.

Fickle changes in social media algorithms can result in confusion as to why what once worked, does not seem to work anymore, and confusion on why reach (and donation volume) can suddenly change and drop.

We’d like to give you some insights into how those changes and why relaying on Meta along (Facebook and Instagram) is not always the right consideration for your content strategy and community building.

Why Nonprofits should think twice before using Meta only to publish content

  • Organic reach is dead. You have to pay to play.

    At one time getting your content to appear on the news feeds of your Facebook page followers didn't cost anything. Reaching your followers without paying , or organic reach as it is called, was one of the expected benefits of having built up follower base for your brand or organisation page. Unfortunately that has long since changed.

    Now organic reach on Facebook reached an all time low. Even if a nonprofit or charity has spent years building up a follower base on Facebook, when they publish content to their page this means that the reach of their content or the number of their followers that will see the content is low- in the region of 2% of your followers only see it- unless you pay for them to see it.

    “The content you post only gets seen by approx. 2% of your followers (unless you pay for it)”

    Even when you have taken trouble to create great content, unless they have an advertising budget to match your strategic ambitions, your content strategy is not guaranteed to succeed. Social media platforms now optimize for video, but your video contends in a busy world, on pay-to-play platforms.

    When you consider that only a small % of any viewers of that content will convert into a donor, a contributor or a community member, nonprofits more often find themselves in a situation where they are working against the odds, despite having investing so much time and energy into content & messaging.

    When everyone is advertising, there’s little room left

    There is now a world of advertisers competing for the same news feed space of users. The more content and the more advertisers paying and competing for every user’s feed space, the less there is for everyone. It’s not hard to work out why. Meta and other social platforms try to manager this through their algorithms, but the net result has been that even if you are paying for your content to reach your followers, the number of viewers or clicks per spend has steadily decreased also.

    Meta’s long term strategy has always been to convert brands and organizations into paying customers, and the changes to content delivery on the platform over the last few years have been steps in reaching that strategic goal.

    It has been extremely lucrative for Meta, but worked against the interests of nonprofits and charities.

  • There is no SEO or 'Search Value' in the content you post on Meta

    SEO, or search engine optimization, is a great way to pick up community members and viewers of your content organically. It refers, in effect, to content being indexed and searchable by search engines like Google or Bing. If someone is searching for a particular subject on Google for example, they will see results based on what they were searching for.

    It is important to make your content work for you. If a nonprofit posts content on its website or on white labelled platform under their own branding, this content is indexed by search engines which means people can find it and are taken to your brand and site, allowing them to sign up, join your community, or donate. This also improves your ‘SEO score’ which is the ranking that Google and search engines gives your organization and results in where you appear in the list of search rankings. This has a huge impact on how nonprofits can organically grow and develop, without having to invest in paid advertising.

    Meta on the other hand is a closed platform for content. Any content a nonprofit or charity posts on Facebook is only visible on Facebook or Instagram, and won’t be seen in search results in Google and other search engines.

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