Your recent decision to ratchet down reach for Pages is understandable. I even wrote about it recently to reassure my nonprofit clients that the sky is not falling. I’ve spent the last few months dealing with the changes head on from a nonprofit and for-profit perspective and…well…I think we need to have a chat.
A recent article called “The Great Facebook Swindle” got me thinking. First of all, do I think you are “swindling” people? Absolutely not. Inflammatory language does make me read articles though, what can I say? You’ve never claimed to be anything but a for-profit company. You are now beholden to a new slew of investors and thousands of employees count on you for a paycheck. However; here’s the thing that you may not understand. Businesses use your platform as a way to target potential customers, but nonprofits count on your platform to reach people in need.
It took most in the nonprofit community a lot longer time to make the time and human capital commitments to embrace your platform. Just as Facebook is now reporting to its investors, nonprofits must be very careful how they spend their resources. Facebook has become a huge part of communications with supporters online. Many groups are using it as an outreach tool to help make the world a better place – helping current constituents and bringing in new people that may not have ever thought to seek help or support. There are groups do a fantastic job of using your platform and changing the world with their pages: HRC, UNICEF, The LIVESTRONG Foundation, and many many more. I would even argue that nonprofits are uniquely suited to bring better, more valuable content to your platform than for-profit companies. Now that we have figured out how to truly connect with our online communities, you are changing the game. We aren’t talking another way for people to donate online. (Because we figured out that doesn’t work). We are talking about truly connecting with others authentically on their own turf. Something that is truly magical when it is allowed to take place.
Pay to Play?
Should we be grateful that the community is free? I don’t know if grateful is the term, but it is a good thing. An open web is good for everyone. It’s something your founder based his whole model on and something, I know for certain, he is passionate about. I keep hearing this term now that it’s time for Pages to “pay to play”. Last time I checked, nonprofits are inherently not able to pay for things like marketing and when they do they cannot pay for it without being frowned upon. Coca-Cola can pay. Starbucks can pay. The NFL can pay. These groups can easily prove those marketing dollars equaled new and returning customers. They are expected to pay big bucks and they have been hammering humanity in print, on tv and online now for years. Nonprofits; however, are using your platform – for the most part- to inform and serve. By ratcheting down the viewers to 1 or 2 % of fan base you are not allowing us to serve people that have self-selected a group as their go-to source of support. This is not an issue of ROI alone. This is an issue of money and an issue of improving the lives of people around the world.
If you do not make significant changes to your new Pages policy, you will have made the choice to join the dreaded “1%”. You will have the power. You will have control of communication flow. But, most importantly, you will have made the clear decision to do nothing significant to help humanity.
Let Us Help your Billions
I know you are all about democratizing the web, so here are my three unsolicited suggestions for your Pages team:
Set up a Google Grants model and offer free advertising to those nonprofits that apply. It makes you look good and helps nonprofits.
Change your algorithm to give nonprofits more of a chance to make it in front of those they serve. So maybe 25% instead of 1%.
Set up a nonprofit pay-to-play model that allows the nonprofit world that CAN afford to pay, get in front of 100% of the base they built.
You don’t have to care about public perception. Your initial hodgepodge of hackers have made their millions by 25 and are off on an island somewhere soaking in the sun. I don’t blame them. No one does. But, think for a moment about the 1.3 billion people on your site. Odds are that a majority will face disease, mental illness, be affected by our changing environment, care about human rights or improving the welfare of animals. Shouldn’t one of the world’s largest online powers make a greater commitment to improving the planet? Nonprofits do it every day without fail – even without the prospect of a sandy beach at the end of a long career. Now it’s your turn to make your commitment to your users. Make the necessary changes to your platform that will help nonprofits succeed. Let’s change the world together.