Don’t Use Facebook as a Substitute for a Real Website
By Tim Jacobson
~The Nonprofit Provocateur~
I’m dismayed by how many small, for-profit retailers rely on a Facebook page as their sole digital presence, with the result that important information about the company is scattered and lacking. It seems nearly impossible to find the types of usable information about an organization that you want or need on a Facebook page. Facebook pages are for interacting with people or for posting the latest tidbit of news or a cute picture. They serve a related but very different function from websites.
Here’s an example of how awkward Facebook pages are for delivering certain types of information: My wife dropped off some dresses to sell through a consignment shop. Later, she was told she could check on the status of those dresses (whether they had been sold) by visiting the store’s Facebook page (the store has no website). My wife doesn’t use Facebook, and she asked me to help her look. After much scrolling through months’ worth of irrelevant posts, we concluded that the information we were looking for was not available online or not readily ascertainable.
Fortunately, this major marketing gaff seems significantly less common in the nonprofit realm. I believe the reason is that charities generally don’t rely on a storefront presence to generate the bulk of their revenue, in contrast with most local retail shops.
It’s okay to set up a Facebook page first for an organization as an initial online presence while a website is being constructed. And, of course, you’ll want to keep and actively use that Facebook page long after you’re up and running with a website. Just don’t let that be your group’s only online presence.
There are a wide variety to subjects you can and should include as content on your nonprofit organization's website: (1) contact information; (2) the organization’s mission and vision statements; (3) biographical information about board and staff members; (4) a calendar of events; (5) a digital version of newsletters and news releases; (6) key documents such as the charity’s IRS Form 990 and IRS determination letter; (7) a description of the organization’s programmatic activity and accomplishments; and (8) information about how people can get involved with, and support, the group. You can't readily do this through Facebook, and you shouldn't try. Your website should link to Facebook and vice versa. Use their respective strengths.
For-profit companies need a different type of approach to websites. For them, it's about the brand and the product and making sales. Customers of businesses are less concerned about the inner workings, values and people of the organization than donors are with respect to nonprofits. But in either case, whether for-profit or nonprofit, refer to Prof. Cialdini's six principles of persuasion for ideas on how to connect with your audience and convert them to customers or donors.
Posting plenty of substantive content online will provide multiple benefits to you and those your organization serves. It’s a great way to disseminate information that you might otherwise spend time communicating over the phone or that you’d spend money sending through the mail. More content also means your site is more likely to pop up more quickly and in a wider variety of web searches, which is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO).
By being savvy about your nonprofit organization’s online presence, you have the potential to generate more support, raise more funds, and achieve tremendous results and make the world a better place. Untether your organization’s potential and soar!
(You can check out the author's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Visjonaer and find him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TimoJacobson)
‘Like’ and/or 'Share' this article below if you’ve experienced this issue or want to see nonprofits avoid this marketing shortcoming. What has been your experience with nonprofits' efforts to develop an online presence? Share your insight and help others!
Tim Jacobson is president of Visjonær Consulting & Communications. He's been a board member and executive of a number of nonprofit and for-profit organizations over the past two decades. He's the executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning documentary film, Mysteries of the Driftless, broadcast on PBS, author of the book Explosive Marketing for Nonprofits: Trajectory for Success, expected to be released in 2017, and author of Amazon best-selling thriller The Kurchatov Penetration. He has been featured countless times by TV and radio stations, magazines and newspapers for his consulting, filmmaking, writing, conservation and legal work and for his exploration of international justice and peace issues.
This article is copyright (c) 2014, Timothy S. Jacobson. All rights reserved.