Are Facebook News Feed Changes Impacting Nonprofit Brands?

Print Share on LinkedIn More


dolphfyn /

February 14, 2013;Slate

If your organization’s communications staff has been trying frantically to get your Facebook numbers back up after a shocking drop in post visibility in December, you are not alone.

Facebook stated in a recent announcement that new changes to the social network’s algorithm would favor “high quality” stories over “the latest meme.” This means that old tricks like posting images frequently on Facebook to acquire more likes and higher visibility on users’ news feeds will no longer work. In fact, when posts shared on Facebook include links that do not have any images attached, they are much more successful and increase your chances of more users seeing posts.

Brands that have established large followings on Facebook are struggling the most with these changes. Many pages with thousands of followers are reporting that their posts are now visible to only 50–80 of those Facebook fans. Slate stated that the social media marketing company Ignite analyzed 689 posts from 21 different brand pages and discovered that in just one week, the number of people who saw posts declined by 44 percent on average.

The main take-away from this latest change, and the direction Facebook has been leaning toward for a while now, is that it’s going to be a lot harder to gain a large audience on Facebook unless you want to pay for it. Bigger brands may have thousands of dollars to spend on social media marketing, but nonprofits with small to nonexistent social media budgets may end up struggling to reach their Facebook audience.

Slate also spoke with an anonymous source that provided a lens into why Facebook as a company has decided to make these algorithm changes. Here are a few of the details he explained:

  • Facebook has changed its mind about brands. It has decided that users do not really want to see a News Feed full of updates from brands like Tide, Dove, Pampers, Nyquil, etc.
  • Facebook has decided it is better to show old “important” news instead of the latest update. For example, news that a friend had a baby, even if the news was posted two days ago, will get priority over any brand’s update if you haven’t seen it yet.
  • Facebook is aware that there is a cottage industry built around helping brands reach fans for free through the News Feed. Facebook’s view is that these people were arbitraging its system, and it’s not going to allow that anymore. It expects consolidation similar to what happened in the search engine optimization industry.

It seems like these changes benefit most Facebook users, who want to see more quality content from personal friends and family as opposed to the brand advertising that has begun to dominate news feeds. But will this also negatively affect nonprofit branding? NPQ has certainly seen a decline in the number of users seeing posts on Facebook, but we’d be interested to hear about the impact on other organizations.—Aine Creedon


  • Linda D

    Facebook is killing the small nonprofits who worked very hard who has indicated in the article have little to no “Advertising or Social Media” budgets since they have committed to use the received donations for their programs/services. Many of these nonprofits were receiving a majority of their annual donations by being able to let those who “Liked” the page be aware of the organization’s needs to keep their program going. FB knows who these “nonprofits” are since we are designated as being “nonprofit” when a specific page was established. Example donations received during fiscal year 2013 via FB posting on our page with our needs and how our Fans could help dropped over 50% of the donations received during our fiscal year 2012 (2012 via FB postings where 20,000+ fans received these postings versus 2013 where an average of 1000 – 1500 fans received these postings). Everyone in FB and outside of FB (nonprofit consultants and others involved in the NP world) pushed the nonprofit sector into setting up FB pages as another way of get our word out to those who would have an interest in what specific NPs were doing, how the fans could help or become involved with a specific NP, and another venue for raising much needed more for a specific mission/purpose. Then once majority of the NPs were on FB then they do this not to help the smaller NPs but to grab as much money as they can from the NP sector. Could see it in the “for profit” business sector and the big NPs (USO, United Way, Salvation Army, National veteran service organizations) who have such budgets for these kind of things, but to penalize the smaller nonprofits who were established to help in many various ways above and beyond what the BIG NPs do is wrong. Realize FB is a for-profit business now with stockholders but cannot comprehend why they have to penalize so many of us who are trying to help our fellow men, women, children, and beloved animals. Most of us don’t want the proposed/recommended “FB Ad Grants” (like Google set up for the NP sector as most of us wouldn’t have the resources to keep up with such. There must be a way that FB can further identify those of us who would be considered as a “small NP” that is able to operate on less than $50,000 a year revenue and not continue to penalize us. Now that there is other venues similar to FB, many of us are looking toward those venues to continue doing what we tried to do via FB. Though as the smaller NPs leave FB it really won’t impact their revenue stream since we don’t have the funds to pay their “ransom” to reach all of those we were able to reach prior to January 2013. Respectfully

  • Beth Kanter

    I wish that Facebook would consider an advertising grant program for nonprofits like Google does. We’ve been making noise about this for a long time, but unfortunately Facebook has not offered this:

    Of course, the grants alone are not enough, but providing some capacity building along with it is also needed to have impact.

    There has been a lot of great posts recently with tips for nonprofits and brands to get more reach without having to invest heavily in promoted posts – that’s just one tactic. Here’s more …

    1.) Don’t give up on Facebook yet …
    2.) Focus more time on community building and engagement
    3.) Use your individual profile and groups for extra reach (I use this and it is works)
    4.) Keep Experimenting with new features (I’m testing link embed feature)
    5.) Don’t forget about “owned” media – we’re just renters here on FB and many other SM channels.
    6.) Use FB Page to encourage people to sign up for an email list
    7.) Build audience on other platforms (don’t put all your social media eggs in the FB basket)
    8.) Ask your followers to help
    9.) Be smart about your ad dollars on Facebook (test, measure, learn)

    I’ve been measuring and learning what content and engagement techniques work best on my brand page on FB – and I’ve seen a huge increase in reach when I post the stuff my fans love and hang out a bit to engage.

  • bjpolar

    Facebook is for old people… Or at least that’s what I tell my mom after I quit. And I’m finding more and more of my peers (mid- to late-30s) are doing the same. Lame news feeds full of sponsored adds, prolific memes from lazy friends, and too much actual news oriented around my liberal leaning interests – most of which I’ve already read directly from the source – make facebook so boring! I can waste time in a million other, far more interesting ways!!