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Big Changes to Facebook Pages Could Hurt Small Nonprofits

Heather Mansfield of NonProfit Tech 2.0 alerts us to some major changes coming to Facebook Fan Pages through the next few weeks and into early 2010. “My first instinct is that the changes below are going to significantly impact nonprofits,” she says, “and in many cases, not in a good way.”

  1. Status Updates showing up in the News Feed to all fans is no longer guaranteed.
  2. The Boxes Tab will disappear.
  3. The Tabs width will shrink from 760 pixels wide to 520 pixels.
  4. The ability to extract the e-mail addresses of your Fans will become available… maybe.

How much these changes will impact nonprofits, and in what way, will depend a lot on how tech-savvy the organization is, how much  and how nimble in adjusting to change. Small nonprofit are more likely to have a hard time of it than larger organizations with the budget to boost their Facebook presence through advertising, primarily because of the up-coming changes to the way Status Updates will be shared:

90% of the power of a Facebook Fan Page is being able to post Status Updates that can be viewed by fans in their News Feed. People don’t seem to read “Updates” much and don’t generally of their own free will visit and participate in your Page, so the vast majority of participation happens in the News Feed via regularly posted Status Updates.

When the new Pages launch, if your nonprofit’s Status Updates will show up in the News Feed will depend upon one of those mysterious Facebook algorithms… . if you don’t purchase advertising, or regularly receive Thumbs Up or Comments, then your Page and your Facebook strategy could easily stagnate. Engagement is now a lot more important. Having a good community builder as your Facebook Admin will be essential [emphasis is mine].

And there’s one other big change coming:

According to an “open letter” from founder Mark Zuckerberg on the Facebook blog, on December 1, Facebook is dropping its regional networks:

Facebook’s current privacy model revolves around “networks” — communities for your school, your company or your region. This worked well when Facebook was mostly used by students, since it made sense that a student might want to share content with their fellow students… .

However, as Facebook has grown, some of these regional networks now have millions of members and we’ve concluded that this is no longer the best way for you to control your privacy. Almost 50 percent of all Facebook users are members of regional networks, so this is an important issue for us. If we can build a better system, then more than 100 million people will have even more control of their information.

The plan we’ve come up with is to remove regional networks completely and create a simpler model for privacy control where you can set content to be available to only your friends, friends of your friends, or everyone.

Facebook has started rolling out the new privacy controls, and — like most major changes to the site — it’s been greeted with strong reactions. Already there have been adjustments made to the new privacy controls, based on member feedback, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

In the meantime, if you’ve set up a Facebook Page for your nonprofit, do check out the Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog for an explanation of the upcoming Facebook changes,  to see how your organization might be affected and start planning how you’ll handle it.

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Published Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 4:43 PM

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    Twitter Trackbacks for Wild Apricot Blog : Big Changes to Facebook Pages Could Hurt Small Nonprofits [wildapricot.com] on Topsy.com  said:

    Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 7:49 AM
  • Tim BrauhnTim Brauhn

    Tim Brauhn said:

    I'm still in the dark about how Facebook prioritizes Page updates to fan-walls. Now they go and change it. Oh well. For the handful of Pages that I manage, I suppose that we'll make do.

    Our supporters will find a way.

    Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 7:10 PM
  • Trina IsaksonTrina Isakson

    Trina Isakson said:

    Any idea how to continue target ads within Facebook? The ones I've done have focused on regional networks (ie. people aged 25-45 in the Vancouver network who have X interests). How will local connect with local?

    Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 10:59 PM
  • Rebecca said:

    Tim, I think the best we can do is keep on dancing, trying to keep up with the changes and figure out how best to use Facebook as a tool with both strengths and limitations...

    Trina, great question! Advertising is Facebook's whole reason for being, so I'm sure they've got a plan. Let me look into that and see what I can find out for you.

    Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 6:54 AM
  • BrianBrian

    Brian said:

    This is all rather ridiculous, as soon as we are caught up on the newest facebook model, they switch it all around. I completely agree that without page activity showing up in news feeds there isn't really a way to generate new fans without them searching you out first. Which makes sense from a FB perspective - they want you to buy advertising.

    Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 11:19 AM
  • marketing non profitsmarketing non profits

    marketing non profits said:

    I heard about these changes I hope they wont have too big of a negative impact! Otherwise back to just twittering =)

    Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 7:34 PM
  • Fran SimonFran Simon

    Fran Simon said:

    I've never really understood why the functionality of Groups and Pages could not be combined. Now, we maintain both. Groups are a great workaround for the Status Update issue because of the ability to "Message all members." For now, it looks like we will manage both!

    Tuesday, 29 December 2009 at 1:48 PM
  • Rebecca said:

    Agree totally, Fran. In fact, the ability to message all members is perhaps the one dominant strength of Groups on Facebook. If Pages had the messaging functionality of Groups, wouldn't that be perfect? I haven't heard any talk of that, though, mind you - just dreaming!

    Tuesday, 29 December 2009 at 5:21 PM
  • allanleonardallanleonard

    allanleonard said:

    @Fran & @Rebecca: Am I missing something? You can send a message to all your Facebook Page Fans via: Edit Page>Send an update to Fans.

    This used to be a one-click feature; now it's two-click (and unnecessarily hidden IMHO).

    Monday, 04 January 2010 at 12:46 PM
  • Rebecca said:

    You're not missing anything, Allan - you're completely right. Fran and I obviously had a moment of total confusion there... Let's blame the holidays, shall we? ;) Thanks so much for setting the record straight!

    Hmm, now that raises the question again:

    What do you think, is there still a purpose for Facebook Groups?

    Monday, 04 January 2010 at 1:40 PM
  • kwrightkwright

    kwright said:

    Sure you can send updates but they're basically buried for users.  The only way to know you have an update is if you have a message (which is flagged with the number of messages received) and ONLY then when you open up messages do you discover you also have Alerts.  It's ridiculously buried.

    I do not for the life of me understand this latest (in a seemingly never-ending) round of changes is a good thing for Pages or fans of pages.  As a FB user I want to know when a page that I've taken time to join has something to say. As a fan of my organization's page, I just spent 4 minutes scrolling through my personal newsfeed searching for a post that was just a few hours old.  And I knew it was there and was looking for it!!!  Nobody is going to do that regularly.  Which means Page Communications has become about as difficult as Facebook could make it.  

    I don't get it.

    Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 7:20 AM
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