Social media, and in particular the Facebook platform, has been a boon for non-profit organizations, providing an opportunity to raise awareness for their mission and an outlet to encourage volunteerism and involvement in their cause. Neighborhood associations and other community interest groups have used social media to make a positive impact in people’s lives by relaying vital information to them. In each of these cases, the medium for communication is free, a feature that’s particularly important to non-profit organizations and community groups. Facebook, however, now appears to be putting a price on these social media campaigns – or at least on their effectiveness.
After announcing to the world that a paltry 16% of people who “like” a particular Facebook page actually see that page’s updates in their news feed, the company introduced Promoted Posts, a mechanism that allows page owners to pay money in order to reach more of the people who “like” their page.
This means that if 1,500 people have “liked” your Facebook page, only 240 of them, on average, will actually see a post that you send out via their news feed. If 3,000 people “like” your page, approximately 480 of them will see a certain update from you when viewing their news feed. For 7,500 “likes” – around 1,200 of these people will see an update, and so on.
What, exactly, does 16% look like?
The reason behind the “content curation” that’s taking place in news feeds is the sheer amount of information posted on Facebook every day. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine the posts that are eventually seen in a user’s news feed. This mathematical formula takes into account several factors including the pages and profiles you visit regularly and those you interact with through “likes” and comments. If posts and updates from every friend and page you like on Facebook showed up in the news feed, it would be nearly impossible to keep up with all the information; hence, only 16% of the people who like a certain page on Facebook will see an update from them in their news feed, and these users are likely those who are already interacting regularly with that page.
While it’s true that fresh, engaging content drives Facebook users to your page, how is it possible to engage them if the majority don’t even see the content that’s being posted? To reach the other 84% of these users, you’ll need to cleverly entice them to check your page directly on a regular basis – or be prepared to pull out your wallet.
Facebook’s remedy for this 16% reach is their new Promote button, which appears when a new post is created. The fee schedule is structured so you can select what percentage of the people who like your page will see that particular post in their news feed. Payments are accepted through PayPal or with a credit card, and the post will be promoted over a period of 3 days. A few examples are as follows:
Obviously, promoted posts can become quite expensive, calling into question the deleterious effect it may have on non-profit organizations and community groups. After all, this is a blanket fee schedule – a non-profit, which likely has a limited advertising budget, is subject to the same prices as a large corporation. The same is true for community organizations.
One possible solution for this discrepancy is to discount “promoted post” fees for non-profits and community groups. Even among these organizations, however, a financial hierarchy exists. Can a grassroots effort really compete with a Red Cross or an American Cancer Society? Even at discounted rates, will a Facebook post that is warning a community about impending severe weather actually require payment so more than 16% of the people on the page can see it and take shelter?
Social media is not only used by businesses and corporations; we as a society have become reliant upon social media for communication of community news, events, and calls to action. Hopefully Facebook will take note of this distinction and find an alternative solution to their current model of promoted posts.