Why so many organisations fail at Facebook

Published by Beate Sorum on

indexIf you find Facebook is not really working for your organisation, I am willing to bet that it is not Facebook’s fault – it’s yours. Too many take too lightly on their social media work – and get the results to match it. No such thing as a free lunch guys!

When I work with charities and businesses to improve their social media returns, there are some mistakes nearly all of them make. Fix these things, and I guarantee you will get more return for your efforts.

The 10 reasons your Facebook channel sucks:

1. You don’t plan the work
If you post whenever you feel like it, with no plan for growing the stories over time, how can you expect effect? Social media has to be meticulously worked with like any other marketing. You need a detailed publishing plan to make sure you have balance in content and frequency, and that important stuff is published at the right time.

2. You post without a goal
Just posting for the sake of it does nothing for you. Every post should have a purpose and a goal. Only then can you write something that will fulfill your goals, and measure wether you reach them, and adjust accordingly.

3. You write like a bureucratic press release
It’s no problem writing like you when you post to your personal accounts. You know who you are, what words you use, what your humour is like and what angers you. When writing on behalf of an organisation however, you don’t know these things unless you’ve taken the time to write them down. Too often, we just put our “I am very official”-hat on, and write in a way that will make people fall asleep at the third word. Making a good style and tone guide gives you a coherent personality.

4. Your posts are too long (also known as: you are giving me the Blue “See more” Link of Death)
Facebook is not a blog. I understand that you have a lot to say, but sorry kid – I’m not going to press that “see more”-link (unless you’re saying something unbelievably interesting. But, see point 2.). If you can’t write it in under 200 charachters, it should probably not be in just one post. Hat tip: if you feel the need to use paragraphs, write a blog post instead.

5. You’re posting the first draft
You would never send out the first draft of your direct mail appeal, right? So don’t do that on Facebook either. Your first draft is bound to be written chronologically the way it comes out of your head. Meaning, the most important things are probably last. Make sure you write a second time to restructure. Then a third time to shorten and sharpen. Then a fourth time to put that personality in there. Then maybe even a fifth, when you think of a genious new way to say it.

6. You’re using the wrong format
Facebook’s changing algorithms have people chasing different post types to try and find the one with the most organic reach this week. Stop that. Example: links posted in photos are bound to deliver fewer clicks, even if you get lucky and it spreads to more people. Think about what you want the post to achieve, and use the apropriate format for that. Want clicks? Use a link post. Want views and engagement? Use a photo. Want to just say something, or ask a question and get feedback? Use a text update.

7. You are not thinking about your audience
If you want people to respond to your stuff, you have to actually write it in a way that’s interesting to them.

8. Your posts photo have nothing to do with the thing your saying
So you listened to a social media expert who said you should use eye catching photos. Well, if the photo in question has nothing to do with your link or your message, it’s not going to work no matter how eye-catching. The photo you use has to tell my eye very quickly what this message is, so that I may stop to read more. If the photo lies to me, I’m going to move on very quickly.

9. Your posts are devoid of emotion and stories
Please don’t bore people to death. Remember you show up in between their friends’ baby photos, last weekend’s parties and next weekend’s weddings. Tell stories! And if you will be making an appeal – make sure the problem is well known before you ask. Don’t be afraid to be personal. Use emotions.

10. You don’t ask
The number 1 reason organisations don’t raise money off of Facebook, is that they simply do not ask for it. It’s perhaps an idea that Facebook should be all “nice” and not be used for direct marketing. I vehemently disagree. Fundraising rules are equally important here folks; if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So those are my two (ten) cents. Now I want to hear from you. What about your organisation, have you found that Facebook and other social media help your work? Are you guilty of any of the above fails? Ever raise money from Facebook?

Beate Sorum

Beate Sorum

Beate is a well known international public speaker. She runs fundraising consultancy b.bold out of Norway, but works globally. Beates particular passion is everything digital - she loves to design a donation form just right and watch the money roll in. Before starting b.bold, Beate worked on fundraising and digital communication for the Norwegian Cancer Society.


Sean Triner · March 2, 2015 at 21:28

Great tips Beate.
You say why orgs ‘fail at Facebook’. Assuming I did all your tips – what would success look like? Do you mean it would just be better comms? Or do you mean it would be more money?
Check out Soi Dog on Facebook for what I think is the charity with the most financial success from Facebook (about $5m this year – 75% from regular givers/sustainers).
Although their success is drive by Facebook, it is their follow up by email, web and phone that has made all the difference.

    Beate Sørum · March 3, 2015 at 02:14

    Hi Sean!

    I mean both in terms of money and better comms. Basically, better at whichever goal you set for your organisation. Soi Dog does an amazing job on Facebook! Although I don’t think their approach would work for everyone – an ask in every update would probably put people off for most charities, animal charity supporters are a breed of their own in that way. The lesson to be taken away from them though, is that everyone could probably ask a lot more than they do! I think we are often afraid to use Facebook for blatant marketing – we only use it for “nice” communications. But that just gets toothless and un-interesting.

    And yes, you are completely right of course – they key to maximising the value of donors from any channel really, will be in the follow up :)

Jenna Quint · March 2, 2015 at 21:30

Liked this article, so much so that I am going to share it on behalf of @Causeview, the company I market for.

One comment – there’s a study by TrackMaven that actually proves that longer FB posts do better. I will concede that posts shouldn’t be the length of a blog post, but people shouldn’t be afraid to go into some detail on Facebook.

    Beate Sørum · March 3, 2015 at 02:17

    Thank you for the nice words Jenna! I’m glad to hear it :)

    I’d be interested to see that study – that’s the first time I’ve heard that. Of course, the way people use Facebook (and other social media) is constantly changing, so longer posts might be doing better now than they did before. I still see shorter posts working better though, both with clients and in my personal use.

    I think the key is in what the message is, and wether it’s captivating enough for people to read the long text. The problem I see is that posts are usually long due to laziness, rather than because they are telling a captivating story. And THAT is not good either way :)

Heather Stewart · March 9, 2015 at 14:08

Great advice Beate. I wonder if part of the problem is because we are so familiar with Facebook on a personal level – ie we treat our business/non-profit pages like we do our own (which is not strategic in any way shape or form)? I wonder too whether non-profits are often lost in the stream of sponsored business posts etc. that fill up everyone’s home page? It would be good to hear if anyone has had any real success with Facebook – beyond Soi Dog, who have nailed it. And whether or not that success has come as a result of paid promotion rather than organic.

Many of my clients (often small non-profits) would read the above list and think ‘I don’t have time to do all of that’ closely followed by ‘Will it bring in any money anyway?’ so examples of success would be really useful. Will keep an eye on the comments…

    Beate Sørum · March 12, 2015 at 10:11

    Hi Heather,
    Yes – that is my theory anyways. We all think we “can do” Facebook, because we do it personally .

    I also think where organisations and businesses get lost is when they start trying to game the system and figuring out the algorithm and how to trick it, rather than focus on what they SHOULD be doing – creating good content. That will always be rewarded.

    I know of several charities, big and small, that have had great success with Facebook, both organic and paid. And while organic is nice, I have to say that it is the advertising opportunities that Facebook deliver that I’m really wild about. Amazing return on investment, unlike anything I’ve seen ever before (if done right, that is).

    I believe the best thing to do is to make sure you have an overall good presence, and spend advertising money when you have something you want everyone to know / do.

    While the list seems long, it’s really not that time consuming work. Yes, you might have to set aside a couple of days in workshops to get properly started, deciding on your goals, on your voice and tone etc. But after that, it is really not that much time. Creating a bi-weekly scheduling plan takes thirty minutes. Writing a status update based on the plan, and sending it to some colleagues for review takes 3-5 minutes. Finding a good photo might be another 5. And everyone has that kind of time :)

KThiruselvam · April 30, 2015 at 00:51

Interesting CHECK POINTS and ten at that However the act of being charitable and doing the fund raising activity is by the “commoner(s)” with good intent getting together for a cause. I liked all 10 points, but how do I fathom each without experiences and writing /conveying skills. How do I know the right from wrong and effective verses ineffective. I keep on sharing https://www.smore.com/cfmk- like throwing stones to bring one fruit down. It is strange also how sports, cncerts and such get millions while orphans and the neglected get pittance.

MELODY · March 30, 2017 at 02:42

good advice Beate.. I’ve had to learn the hard way and still learning. guilty of post being too ‘wordy’ I’m open to your critique

Fundraising Friday | August 19, 2016 | Pamela Grow · August 19, 2016 at 12:50

[…] Why do so many organizations fail at Facebook? A must read from digital master fundraiser, Beate Sørum. […]

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