Facebook hemorrhaged users last month: some 5% of its US, Canadian, and UK users left the service – some 6 million folks unfriended the social network in the US alone. The drop is statistically significant in scope, but not in time, because numbers of participants vary as wildly as the unemployment rate from month to month.
That said, the possibility of a Facebookin early 2012 means investors, and thus the media, will be keeping an eye on those numbers to see if a trend is being established. A handy synopsis of reactions to the falloff from Facebook can be found by .
What is better established through surveys of use of Facebook over a longer period of time is that nonprofits and charities are growing more nuanced in their understanding of what to expect with engagement with their donors and volunteers through the network. Idealware has just published the results of its survey of over 500 nonprofit staff members to get a sense of what they in their organizations’ Facebook activities. The premise of the survey and study was to see if the romance with the beauty of Facebook were already waning: “Nonprofits are increasingly told that they “need to be on Facebook,” and countless gurus and experts offer them advice for maximizing their Facebook presence to get the most return. But are nonprofits actually seeing results, or is Facebook just a bandwagon that’s not going anywhere?”
In some ways, Facebook was not the panacea many hoped in terms of bringing money into the organization. Only 29% of respondents believed that they had encouraged an increase in donations thanks to their time investment in the social network. Even efforts to expand email lists of potential donors seemed to fall flat for well over half the respondents.
Which is not to say that use of Facebook proved to be merely a drain on the efforts of nonprofits. What the interface encouraged that clearly benefited nonprofits was quick and pointed interaction with those already engaged with the organization: “It appears that many consider Facebook to be as much or more a straight-forward “touch point” with their supporters rather than a way to reach new audiences or to drive their existing constituents to action.” (p.9)
Facebook also clearly is a great way to touch supporters and remind them to head over to the organization’s website, or to publicize an event. The trick seems to be to encourage – in the short interaction of one’s visit to an organization’s FB page – a single, specific, set of actions that can be carried out quickly yet still engage the participant.
Survey respondents interested in moving people to take some form of action for a cause, like signing petitions or other advocacy actions, also reported more success than failure—66 percent achieved moderate to substantial results.Online petitions and other political or advocacy actions are not difficult, demand little time, and are easily spread through Facebook and other social media. …Organizations saw the most success attracting new event attendees. More than 70 percent of respondents reported positive impact—specifically, that they’d gotten more than “one or two” attendees, but instead had gotten a “a few” or a “substantial” number. Interviewees noticed the ability of Facebook to build enthusiasm for events when people repost and share events with their friends.
The tenor of the report makes clear that nonprofits find Facebook incredibly useful – but not a cure-all. FB reinforces and reminds better than it creates. And it encourages the spreading of news for flesh-and-blood events.
But the report also makes clear that half of the respondents did not really establish a set of goals or a strategy for using Facebook, and 46% then admitted that they do not follow the metrics of activity at their site. Which means much of their responses are based on the ‘vibe’ they get from people who mention Facebook in connection to their organization.
Setting goals and establishing a strategy to achieve them is the first step toward using any tool. They also help us appreciate whether the tool is functioning as we hope for the investment. Is organization following its online metrics? If you are, why are you? What do the numbers tell you about whether your use of the tool is achieving what you set out to accomplish?