Facebook and Nonprofits: Success Stories? ROI?
I like Facebook. Mostly to stay in touch with close friends. It’s great for that. I don’t play Farmville or Mafia Wars. I don’t invite people to Causes. But I am a fan of my favorite nonprofits on Facebook. I do see their status updates. I do occasionally give thumbs up, and sometimes I’ll even comment. I have donated to nonprofits that I have seen on Facebook (on their website). Yes. I do like Facebook and I like nonprofits on Facebook.
But I must confess that I sometimes think that Facebook is overrated as a communications and community-building tool. Nonprofits with national and international name recognition do great on Facebook in terms of growing a large fan base, but many small to medium-sized nonprofits struggle to achieve the elusive Facebook ROI (Return on Investment) – website traffic, new e-mail newsletter subscribers, mobile subscribers, online donors, thumbs up and comments i.e, community engagement, etc.
I created and manage the Nonprofit Organization Facebook Page. Compared to Twitter and MySpace, it’s been a much more difficult community to grow and engage. That would be fine if the ROI was there, but even with over 7,000 fans ROI-as-defined-above is elusive. I get little to no website or blog traffic from Facebook (most comes from Twitter and LinkedIn). Very few new e-mail newsletter subscribers. And when I poll my webinar attendees about where they first heard about the webinar… the results are always the same: 1) Referral from friend 2) My Blog 3) My e-mail newsletter 4) Twitter 5) Other 6) Facebook.
In my webinar about Facebook I am pretty honest with nonprofits about this. Feedback from individuals and nonprofits tell me that 90% of the power of a Facebook Page is in the “Status Updates”. Folks aren’t reading “Updates”. They don’t click on the Tabs often. Thumbs up and comments are difficult to inspire. And I have to promote the page like crazy outside of Facebook to get fans. Most of my fans come from sending out a Tweet on Twitter. Am I doing something wrong? Is Facebook ROI there, but not possible to track since most fans are silent on Facebook?
I read a stat once that for every new fan that a nonprofit drives to Facebook, Facebook then earns $7 in advertising revenue per new fan. I am not sure if that’s true (can’t find the stat now), but it made sense to me and I do often wonder if Facebook gets more out of nonprofits using and promoting Facebook, than nonprofits get out of Facebook? Will the new Pages and toolset help, or hurt future possibilities of increased ROI-as-defined-above?
When asked recently to speak on a True Spin panel about Facebook success stories, I thought of the same one’s that I’ve heard over and over again for the last few years. Mostly large nonprofits with a full-time social media staff who are very good at community-building, have tons of great content, and e-mail lists of tens of thousands of people that they can tap into to “Become a Fan!” Most small and medium-sized nonprofits can’t relate to those success stories.
So, I need your help. I need some new success (or-not-so-successful) stories for my panel, and for my webinars. New Year, new Facebook success stories, new strategies. Particularly from small to medium-sized nonprofits. Please. And thank you. And remember, I started off saying that I do like Facebook.