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Are campaigns and nonprofits facing a Facebook apocalypse?

By Kari Chisholm:

Is Facebook audience reach cratering? Well, there sure does seem to be a lot of apocalyptic talk going on.

The bottom line is to think about what Facebook's clear market incentives are -- and what they've said publicly about them. The overriding concern, above all else, for Facebook is to keep people coming back again and again and again. To that end, they are desperate to figure out how to deliver high-quality content that the audience engages with. If the audience is bored, they'll leave. If the audience is interested, they'll hang around.

In the past, that's meant that Facebook makes highly visible any content that gets liked, commented, and shared. And while that's still certainly true, it's clear that those aren't the only signals that Facebook is valuing anymore.

Facebook has begun rolling out algorithms that measure whether people actually engaged with an article, rather than just clicking like because they thought the photo was funny or because the headline communicates a simple value proposition. In other words, Facebook wants to reward high-quality reads -- like the New York Times and The Atlantic -- rather than clickbait lists and "which character are you?" quizzes.

So, what does that mean for nonprofits and campaigns? It means that -- like all Facebook pages -- we'll have to be ever-more vigilant about producing high-quality content that our audiences are engaging with. For brands that are failing at that challenge, the downhill slope of audience reach will be faster and steeper. But the good news for nonprofits and campaigns is that we've got audiences that are already far more interested and engaged in our content. They want to hear from us. They want to read thoughtful, meaningful stuff -- and we're far better positioned to provide that material than consumer brands.

Are the apocalyptic warnings warranted? Well, if you're Doritos or Disney or the Dollar Store, maybe. But if you're a Member of Congress or a policy think tank or an advocacy organization, you're well-positioned to succeed in the new Facebook universe. You can't be blasé about it. You'll have to work at it. But the only way your reach will drop to zero is if your audience stops caring about what you're writing about.

All that said, yes, maybe we'll have to spend a little money now and then ensuring that our audience does see our most important stuff. Facebook's built a powerful media channel for us to find exactly the audience we want and need. It's not that surprising that they'll want some remuneration for the service.

Investing a few dollars here and there in Facebook can pay very strong returns for advocacy organizations. But an investment of time, energy, and creativity in producing quality content will serve you far better than abandoning all hope because you don't have a mountain of cash. Or Doritos.

Posted by Kari Chisholm
on March 25, 2014 in
advertising, facebook.