If you're in nonprofit marketing, you know that Facebook is the largest social media platform on the planet. Facebook has nearly 3 billion users, and that makes it the undisputed leader in social media. However, most of the users of Facebook don't live in the United States. In fact, 90% of them live overseas.
That singular fact should take some of the gloss off Facebook for nonprofit marketers in our country. Still, other issues exist as to why nonprofits are increasingly looking for alternatives to Facebook. I'll admit that our team is also less enamored with Facebook than we used to be in the past. And, at some point, I anticipate that there will be increased shifts away from the platform.
NTEN Leaves Facebook
In 2020, NTEN decided to end its use of Facebook. As it stated on its website, “Whether it’s the Cambridge Analytica data leak, election interference by foreign powers, or an unwillingness to stop the spread of conspiracy theories and hate speech, Facebook seems to consistently pick the wrong side of history.”
Further, as was explained by the company, it sought leadership, mainly from Mark Zuckerberg and the company during the protests and activism in 2020 related to racism and police violence. Moreover, NTEN suggested that its engagement has declined on the platform (because Facebook is prioritizing ad revenue and throttled organic engagement).
As it also noted, Facebook's business model and priority was ad revenue — at all costs. And, as many nonprofits experienced, especially those with limited resources, the payoff is much lower in terms of engagement than the ad dollar spends they are forced to make to maintain some awareness on the platform.
For example, the more you spend, the higher the views, including those who like your page. The less you spend, the fewer the chances you'll form relationships with ardent followers. In short, Facebook makes you pay not only to have strangers see your content but also people who've already liked your page through sponsored ads and posts.
Nonprofits Question the Use of Facebook
While nonprofit marketers have determined that it's essential to use Facebook, I'm not so sure that's entirely true anymore. As a marketer, I would say that it depends. It depends on where your community congregates and if you have a broad community on the platform. If you don't have a large group of followers and a real sense of community, I might not advise focusing on Facebook. Moreover, the public and donors aren’t happy with the platform. And, as we know, donor experience is essential to marketers.
There are two primary reasons that I’ve seen for nonprofits to question the continued use of Facebook.
Donor Data and Information. One of the reasons there's a lot of pushback is because Facebook is an advertising platform. Meaning, everything people do on the platform and off — since Facebook tracks that too — adds to Facebook’s data mining, which it sells to advertisers. Marketers understand that Facebook has become a pay — and pay some more — platform looking to monetize everything about everyone. In other words, users are the commodity it sells. The more information that donors provide on nonprofit pages, the more data Facebook mines.
It’s a Matter of Ethics. As a matter of ethics and principle, nonprofit marketers debate whether sharing donor data is a value they want to support with increased needs for donor data and security. In other words, the more they encourage donors to engage, the more Facebook gathers data.
Nonprofits understand that they exist for the social good. And with donor data and information being the value that Facebook wants, is it ethical to spend money to share content on a platform that only wants the data to sell it for advertising dollars for itself?
The Essential Debate About Facebook Among Nonprofits
The debate about Facebook and using it as an engagement tool is rightly getting discussed in the sector. There's also a fundamental element that has to be included. As artificial intelligence — and Facebook tools — get more sophisticated, is it ethical for nonprofits to use Facebook and donor dollars on predictive and behavioral data that’s getting picked up by Facebook to sell?
You see, every time a donor or supporter engages with your nonprofit, that’s data and information that Facebook’s data mining and predictive analytics tool are gathering and aggregating about your supporters. Then, it’s turning around and selling it to others, including other nonprofit organizations in the same space.
In fact, there’s been discussion within the sector that Facebook hurts nonprofits. Meaning, it promoted its work with nonprofits purely to mine donor data. In other words, it was another opportunity for Facebook to get information. We’re far away from nonprofits ending their usage of Facebook; however, the discussion will only grow as people and donors get increasingly turned off by it unless it changes for the betterment of society, which it’s never done under the leadership of Zuckerberg.