What does Facebook’s new algorithm mean for charities? (Guest post)

What do the recently announced changes to Facebook’s news feed algorithm mean to charities? Vinay Nair from Lightful shares his thoughts on the topic

Guest Writer | 15th Jan 18

What do the recently announced changes to Facebook’s news feed algorithm mean to charities? Vinay Nair from Lightful shares his thoughts on the topic

“Well-being”, “Community”, “Meaningful social interactions”. These words might seem familiar to many an end-of-year impact or donor report, but they are in fact lifted straight from Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that Facebook is undertaking a dramatic overhaul of its news feed algorithm. The result will be to prioritise posts that friends and family share and comment on, and de-prioritise content from “businesses, brands and media”.

Overall, any move to address Facebook’s somewhat nefarious development should be welcomed. While some former executives have called this ‘unintentional’, it is clear that social media in general has become a place where people struggle to have fun and meaningful engagement, but rather find it to be a vicious battleground. Surely it doesn’t have to be this way.

So, what does this all mean for charities?

While from the outset Facebook’s latest algorithm change poses a number of challenges, it also plays to the strengths of charities, social enterprises and a growing band of ‘beyond-profit organisations’ who have been quietly but powerfully using social media for social good.

However, for these organisations to continue to rise above the noise, it’s vital to recognise and address how the latest algorithm impacts how charities can get the most from Facebook. For instance, the reach of ‘organic’ (unpaid) posts and pages becomes more challenging for messages that are broadcast, but get limited engagement. As Beth Kanter recently observed, it will be critical to create community and spark conversation.

And yet interestingly, the creation of meaningful engagement and community are all concepts that are natural to the third sector, and which it does well at. And therein lies the immense opportunity with Facebook, unique to this sector, and differing greatly from “businesses, brands and media.”


The opportunity

Our sector has the most authentic stories to tell, but has consistently been drowned out by “noise.” Supporters and donors have a unique relationship with the causes they support, and use social media to amplify this support, in a way that rarely happens for commercial brands.

Given this, the algorithm can actually increase the amount of visibility for the sector if we successfully share stories about the good work and impact that the sector is achieving, at a time when it is needed more than ever.

Think about how the petition on avaaz.org to “end tax havens now” received over one million signatures after being shared on Facebook and other social media networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Similarly, the #MeToo campaign is giving a voice to millions of women, what has resulted in rape crisis and abuse charities receiving a 30% spike in calls when major allegations broke.

With this growing need, supporters can turn to social media to share news of donations to great causes doing such important work. For example, on #GivingTuesday last November, $274 million was raised online in 24 hours from over two million donations. Can we get our voices amplified to raise even more in 2018?

The creation of Facebook’s new algorithm has opened up a tremendous opportunity for charities, social enterprises and beyond-profit organisations to reclaim more attention. It’s within our gift.

It’s time to reclaim social media – for good.

Vinay Nair runs Lightful, a social media and content management platform built for charities and social enterprises.

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