Facebook is influencing more than simply how your organization does social media.
Arguably, social media and digital engagement are responsible for many of the market trends that we experience today. These trends range from the need for organizations (nonprofit and for-profit alike) to carry out ”social good,” to the increased need for transparency and demonstrable impact, to organizations going global, to changing the requirements for near real-time responsiveness of organizations, and to creating the super-connected world that makes millennials function a bit differently than generations that came before them. (And I could go on…)
Certainly, Facebook has played a big role in creating the kind of digital connectivity that we experience and enjoy today. We often simply nod and acknowledge the situation, understanding that our organizations must evolve to capitalize on digital interactions, and thinking – mistakenly – that we (our organizations) are actually the institutions driving these changes. We think that our organizations control digital engagement, but that is not the case. Social media platforms control digital engagement, and organizations will struggle to effectively carry out communications without first realizing this reality.
Facebook changes do not simply affect the Social Media Community Managers within organizations. Facebook has grown so powerful that its changes have inevitably profound impacts on the marketing and operations of entire organizations.
Here are three Facebook evolutions that have changed your organization:
1) You do not own your hub (the place where potential supporters turn to make key decisions about your organization)
Even a few years ago, having a social media hub on your website was a good idea. A hub could be your organization’s blog or website. It was a place where audiences could turn to learn about your organization, current happenings, and its goals and values. But, increasingly, we find that social media channels are a driver of visitation to cultural organizations, that audiences find out about organizations primarily from social media channels, and that landing audiences on social media channels increases the likelihood of conversion compared to landing them on an organization’s website. It is undeniable: Facebook has power as an important source for valuable word of mouth endorsement and the sharing of stories.
Today, Facebook is essentially doing everything in its power to ensure that you never need to leave Facebook and that changes how people interact with your website. Facebook changes and updates include Facebook Live (like Periscope), collages and filters (like Instagram), embedded video (like YouTube), check-ins (like Foursquare), and even reviews of organizations (like Yelp and TripAdvisor). Gone are the days of the organization’s website being its dynamic hub. Instead, Facebook is more likely to be the portal to engage and inform a potential supporter.
This changes how we need to think about website views. Your own website views don’t tell much of a story – and they are thus becoming more like useless vanity metrics that distract organizations. Facebook’s want to keep us on its site, coupled with the fact that we already know that the website serves as a place for basic information rather than visitation motivation for cultural organizations, means that those organizations still reporting website views like they are key performance indicators (rather than simple diagnostic metrics) are behind the times and missing the boat.
Also, Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm decides who and how many people see which messages. Simply put, Facebook controls who engages with your brand and how they do it. On our own websites, organizations have more control. If something is critical, we can put it front and center above the fold but, again, more people are likely logging onto Facebook every day than are likely logging onto your organization’s website.
Facebook changes affect how our organizations interact with potential supporters. And new Facebook features affect how we think about message delivery, control of messaging, content marketing, and audience awareness of what matters most to our organizations.
2) Facebook is pay to play (and you cannot afford not to play)
I cannot begin to tell you how many cultural industry conference presentations I have sat through over the years that included the line: ”And the best thing about social media is that its free! ” While I have called this sentence the ultimate sign of an ineffective organization on social media before (social media takes a lot of time, creativity, skill, agility, PR perspective, time, time, and more time – and those things just aren’t free), Facebook really is pay to play today.
Facebook rewards compelling content that gets high response levels with message delivery to more eyeballs. That’s great! It means that engaging stories are more likely to reach more people than stories that aren’t engaging! But on social media, not all of our audiences are the same (i.e. an influencer or a potential visitor to a cultural organization may be more valuable than a person with no propensity to visit and who doesn’t care about your mission but likes pretty pictures). And the people who matter most (potential supporters) may care more about your mission messaging than your pretty pictures alone. Anyone can rig vanity metrics or purchase social media followers (robots), but a whole lot of “likes” doesn’t necessarily mean they were from the right people (or even real people) who will act in your organizations best interests.
Boosting Facebook posts is a necessity. It helps target audiences with similar interests who are more likely to care about your mission. It can help you hit more locals when communicating about events. It helps you communicate who you are to your followers rather than simply the pretty picture posts that are low in demonstrating your brand attributes but can more easily reach a lot of people.
I’m not at all saying that you need to dedicate your whole budget to social media (Here is the data-informed equation for how much you should spend on audience acquisition if you are a visitor-serving organization). I’m saying this: If you want to be effective on Facebook, you may increasingly need to pay for it. And this is a big deal because it affects your marketing budget and the way that we need to think about social media. Also, it’s best to experiment and create an understanding of what kind of content needs what kind of boost in order to invest your marketing resources most effectively.
3) Organizations need to walk their talk (every dang day)
Are you marketing as more of an attraction than a mission-driven organization? Promoting primarily attraction-based messages comes at a cost. Social media allows for real-time sharing, and what you share is who you are as an organization. We cannot say, ”We’re impactful!” once on our website and call it a day. We must show how we are impactful by way of the messages that we promulgate on Facebook and social media platforms every day.
Social media is about engaging people in our missions. Social media is not about using technology. When we mess this up, we risk making bad choices and bad investments that do not advance our missions or our institutions. When we think it is all about using technology, we focus too much on vanity metrics and try to increase likes at the expense of engagement in our mission and purpose.
This Internet thing? Its not going anywhere. And although we are always discussing who is using what platform and why (and that is important!), the fact remains that Facebook and other social media platforms play a big role in how our organizations interact and communicate with potential supporters - a starring role, in fact.
Social media has changed us, to be sure, but organizations may be able to be a bit more agile when they realize that evolutionary Facebook changes are shepherding our entire organizations in a new direction. Little Facebook changes over time have a big impact in how market trends and brand expectations develop. Management teams within organizations cannot sit around deciding how to manage Facebook without acknowledging that, in a big way, Facebook manages management.