Your charity needs to change the way it uses Facebook

facebook logo at the beachfront


Photo credit: mkhmarketing

The eagle-eyed among you will notice I was speaking about Facebook’s tenth anniversary on Scotland Tonight this week. This gave me a good chance to reflect on how the world’s biggest social network has changed the way third sector organisations communicate. For those charities that really get Facebook it’s become a way to re-home dogs¬†and a space for lighthearted¬†discussions about family issues. Facebook has some incredibly powerful uses across the voluntary sector but the reality is most charities still use it as a vehicle for pumping out dull organisational updates.

Facebook was founded in 2004 as a student network, it quickly evolved in to a place where 3 in 4 UK adults connect with their friends and family. Lets not forget that Pages didn’t come along until 2007. They’ve always been an uneasy bed fellow. People are primarily on Facebook to see photos of their cousin’s baby or a video of a cat falling of a TV – they’re not there to be fed your ‘news’. That doesn’t mean your charity has no place on Facebook but it does mean that you need to tailor your content accordingly. How can you be useful or interesting to people via your Facebook Page? If you can’t tick either the useful or the interesting box it’s time to shut up shop.

This post is verging on being a rant so it’s probably worthwhile finishing up with some practical steps you can take to ensure your charity’s Facebook Page is a success in 2014:

1. Understand your audience(s)

If you’re looking to connect with more parents then chances are Facebook is going to be perfect for your organisation. If you’re using it as a campaigning tool to influence key politicians then chances are you’re wasting your time – go and open a Twitter account. Understand what makes your audience tick, what content do they want from you and what questions can you ask them that are likely to strike a chord.

2. Think mobile first

50% of UK Facebook traffic is via a mobile device. That percentage will rise massively in 2014. That means your long form content has no place on Facebook – you need to think about how you nudge people towards reading those more in-depth, complex blog posts or policy pieces on your website. My advice is to work on distilling down your content to its constituent parts or key messages. A ten-point blog post provides you with ten excellent Facebook posts to use over the next ten days – driving people back to your original content. If you have a large piece of research ask yourself what is the key question we’re trying to answer here and ask it on your Facebook Page (closed questions work best). Distilling down doesn’t mean dumbing down, treat your audience with respect but understand that when they have a spare two minutes on the bus to look at Facebook you need to capture their imagination in a crowded news feed.

3. Plan. Plan. Plan.

How do you currently decide what content is going to go on your Facebook Page? Chances are you boot up your laptop on a Monday morning, sigh to yourself that the Facebook Page needs updating and then default to that dull organisational update I mentioned earlier. A simple content plan will change everything. For each month of the year write down a blog post idea, the more seasonally relevant you can make it the better. Once you’ve done that you not only have a blog content plan but you can start to use the key themes from the blog across your other channels. That lengthy blog post you wrote at the start of the month gives you content gold for your Facebook Page and your Twitter account.

4. Play devil’s advocate

Stop being boring. Seriously, stop it. Think about the key questions that are important to your organisation’s work, your staff, your volunteers and your service users then ask them. Sometimes they will be controversial, sometimes you won’t like what you hear but take the leap. Lets say you’re concerned about how people with learning disabilities will fare in an independent Scotland but your charity isn’t comfortable tackling the issue head on, why not use your Facebook Page to ask your supporters. You don’t have to say we believe X and kill the conversation dead.

5. Spend some money

There’s no doubt that Page engagement has become increasingly difficult. The reality is your charity should consider allocating some marketing or comms budget to boosting posts and increasing overall Page likes. How much did you spend on branded pens or flyers last year? What was the environmental impact of all those printed products? Start small and experiment, boost those posts that have already started to gather likes, shares and comments – they’re the ones that will spread fast. For around a tenner you could reach an audience of approximately 6000 people (this figure differs from Page to Page) – no other medium allows you to connect with that many people for the price of four coffees.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’d really love to know what works for your organisation. Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet.

10 must-read Facebook resources for non-profits 2012


Creative Commons image courtesy of ‘dkalo’ via Flickr

I’ve curated two Top Ten Facebook Resources for Non-profits – one back in 2010 and one last year. Both have been incredibly popular posts and most of the articles, tips and tools in those top tens are as valid today as they were back then. There’s been lots of changes with Facebook in the last year so I thought it was time I updated my Top Ten.

Here’s my fresh list of ten Facebook resouces which charities, social entrepreneurs and community groups cannot live without…

1. Facebook Pages Overview

Facebook’s official two-page guide to all the features and functionality of Facebook pages really is the best place to start. It is also a great way of reminding yourself of all those often underused features pages contain.


2. Ten ways to grow your Facebook following

You don’t simply build a page and people flock to it. This isn’t Wayne’s World 2 or Field of Dreams. Social Media Examiner has a great list of tactics for building your page’s fan base.


3. How (and why) to delete negative comments and how to ban specific users

John Haydon’s video gives a quick overview of how to deal with unwanted comments on your Facebook page. Whether it is racist language or someone attacking another fan you may need to remove comments from time to time. Make sure you get it right.


4. Social media fundraising, Obama and the 2012 Presidential election

Not strictly speaking a Facebook resource but Frank Barry’s recent blog post shows us what we can learn from Obama’s 2012 campaign.


5. Facebook Pages Insights Guide

Another official Facebook guide, this time covering Insights. If you’re not using your page’s Insights to tailor content to the needs of your users then now is the time to start.


6. Facebook: I want my friends back

Is Facebook the biggest bait n switch in history? If you want an overview of the recent changes Facebook have made, in particular the often costly ‘promoted posts’, this article from Dangerous Minds is a must-read.


7. How non-profits can use measurement to adapt to the Facebook algorithm change

Once you’ve read the Dangerous Minds post it’s time to do something about the Facebook changes. Beth Kanter shows you how your charity can use measurement to truly get the most out of your page.


8. Marketing on Facebook: Best Practice Guide

This official guide gives a great overview of the Facebook ecosystem. It is particularly useful if your non-profit has the budget to experiment with ads and promoted posts.


9. The future of Facebook fundraising

These useful slides from Jonathan Waddingham and Rosa Birch of JustGiving cover the importance of sharing, case studies, hints & tips plus what’s in store for Facebook fundraising in the near future.


10. Digital: What every charity leader should know

Lasa recently asked a bunch of opinion leaders, including Beth Kanter, Martha Lane Fox and me, what advice they have for charity leaders hoping to use social media to build a sustainable third sector. There’s 31 slides packed with hints and tips on everything from organisational strategy to open data.


So have I missed any key Facebook resources? Tell me your favourites in the comments below and I’ll share them via our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Using Twitter & Facebook for Your Organisation – Glasgow 12th Sept

Training workshop – 12th Sept 2012 9.30am to 4.30pm

£125 GCVS Members | £180 Non-members

Lunch included

Booking via GCVS


Put together by Sara Thomas and my good self, this hands-on workshop covers everything you need to know about using the two key social media channels – Twitter & Facebook. The workshop is aimed at charities, social enterpries and community groups but is open to everyone.

During the first half of the day we’ll help you understand what Twitter is all about and why your organisation should be using it. We’ll help you set-up and optimise your Twitter profile, show you how to find and follow key influencers, cut through the Twitter jargon, reveal some of the key tools to make using Twitter easy-peasy and show you how to measure your impact online.

In the second half of the workshop we’ll give you the skills and knowledge needed to utilise Facebook as a key marketing and user-engagement tool for your organisation. We’ll show you how to set-up and optimise your organisation’s Facebook page, find and follow other organisations in your sector, ways to truly engage your fans and more.

You’ll come away from the workshop with all the know-how and hands-on skills needed to make your organisation’s presence on Twitter and Facebook a success.

Scotland’s first third sector social media conference


Bookings can now be made for Scotland’s first full-day third sector social media conference – Social Media for Social Good – via the GCVS website. Full programme below.

When: 9am – 4.30pm Thursday 26th April 2012

Where: The Albany Learning and Conference Centre, 44 Ashley St, Glasgow, G3 6DS

Price: £99 for one delegate. £185 for two. Further 20% discount for GCVS members. Prices exc VAT.

We’ve teamed up with Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector to bring you an amazing line-up of speakers and interactive workshops to help you get the most out of digital media for your charity, community group or social enterprise. 

Social media has transformed the way the third sector campaigns, raises funds, sells, recruits volunteers and raises awareness. The online world has truly transformed the way we engage with our beneficiaries, the public & key influencers.

Social media is no longer a ‘nice to have’ element of your marketing, PR, campaigning and fundraising mix – it’s an essential tool which can transform the way your organisation connects with the world.

Our one day conference will be anything but dull, we’ll be exploring key case studies, the latest digital media trends and providing you with the skills you need to make a mark with social media.

As well as being an amazing learning experience, ‘Social media for social good’ is a great networking opportunity. Our event is suitable for charities, community groups, social enterprises and other third sector organisations as well as public or private orgs looking to connect with the sector.



9.00am Registration & Tea/Coffee


9.30am Speaker: 

Ross McCulloch – Third Sector Lab & Be Good Be Social

Third sector social media – A look at why we cannot ignore digital & what 2012 has in store


9.45am Workshop Slot One – choice of 4 workshops:


– Conrad Rossouw – Digital Manager, Shelter Scotland 

Measuring success – Social media monitoring and analysis


– Anna Cook – Content strategist and web copywriter

Better blogging – Making your blog work for your organisation


– Martin Keane – Social Media Strategist, Third Sector Lab & Online Marketing Officer, SCIAF

Facebook tactics – Getting the most out of the world’s biggest social network


– Kate Henderson and June MacLeod – GCVS 

Inbox heaven – Creating email newsletters that people actually want to read


11.00am Tea & Coffee break


11.15am Workshop Slot Two – choice of 4 workshops:


– Conrad Rossouw – Digital Manager, Shelter Scotland 

Measuring success – Social media monitoring and analysis


– Anna Cook – Content strategist and web copywriter

Better blogging – Making your blog work for your organisation


– Martin Keane – Social Media Strategist, Third Sector Lab & Online Marketing Officer, SCIAF

Twitter tactics – How your organisation can make 140 characters work for you


– Kate Henderson and June MacLeod – GCVS 

Inbox heaven – Creating email newsletters that people actually want to read


12.30pm Lunch in the Albany Cafe


1.20pm Speaker:

Jamie Livingstone – Communications and Campaigns Manager, Oxfam Scotland

Digital influencer – How social media can play a key role when working with journalists, politicians and beyond. (15mins talk and 5 mins Q&A)


1.40pm Workshop slot Three – choice of 4 workshops:

– Sara Thomas – Fundraiser, MND Scotland 

Money talks – Online fundraising & social media


– Martin Dewar – Digital Director, Young Scot

Young people – Engaging with 11 to 26 yr olds online


– Ross McCulloch – Founder, Third Sector Lab & Be Good Be Social

Back to basics – Creating the world’s quickest social media strategy


– Alison Hutcheson – Founder, Woods Noble Media

Storytelling with video – Making online videos that people connect with 


2.55pm Workshop slot Four – choice of 4 workshops:


– Sara Thomas – Fundraiser, MND Scotland 

Money talks – Online fundraising & social media


– Martin Dewar – Digital Director, Young Scot

Young people – Engaging with 11 to 26 yr olds online


– Workshop Host TBC – Blackbaud Europe

Fundraising on the move – Getting the most out of mobile technology


– Alison Hutcheson – Founder, Woods Noble Media

Storytelling with video – Making online videos that people connect with


4.10pm Speaker:

Ed Henderson – Jack Draws Anything

The little boy with the big art – How six year old Jack Henderson raised over £31,000 for charity with a little help from social media. (15 mins talk and 5 mins Q&A)


4.30pm Closing comments



Facebook timeline for pages means the death of ‘Like to Unlock’ – good riddance

Good Luck!

Those of you using the new Facebook timeline for pages will notice that you can no longer set a custom application as the default landing tab non-fans see. So no more welcome landing pages badgering people to ‘like to unlock’ content. While the aggressive social media marketeers out there may weep it is a victory for user experience and it should mean that truly engaging, interesting content floats to the surface.

According to TechCrunch default landing tabs only drive 10% of the total page app traffic. 90% comes from published links and ads, which still function the same without the default landing tab capability. Theoretically therefore it could only cause a maximum of a 10% drop in page app traffic, much of the way pages use apps will stay the same.

So is the death of the Facebook page default landing tab a good thing for users?

Scotland’s first Social Media for Social Good conference


Scotland’s first ever all-day third sector social media conference, Social Media for Social Good, will take place on 26th April 2012 at The Albany Learning and Conference Centre, Glasgow.

The event will be packed with amazing talks and a selection of practical workshops, encompassing topics such as video for the web, better blogging, facebook and twitter tips, social media strategy, online fundraising and more.

We’re keen to keep the conference affordable so tickets will be under £100 – they’re going to be available via the GCVS website from 1st March onwards. I’ll let you know the full speaker and workshop line-up soon!