Five advanced Facebook best practices for nonprofits

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Once your nonprofit has found its Facebook voice and mastered the basic functionality of Facebook Pages, then you’re ready to take your campaigns to the next level. That said, as you experiment and go deeper into the Facebook Page tool set, never lose sight of the fact that 90% of the power of a Facebook Page is in the status updates. The other 10% is found in the advanced best practices listed here.

1. Create custom tabs

Using the Facebook App Platform or a third-party iframe tab app, you can create custom tabs as long as you know basic HTML. You can add images and graphics that prompt users to subscribe to your e-newsletter, make a donation, take action, or follow you on Twitter, Foursquare, or another community.

You can also embed videos using the <embed> code directly from your YouTube Channel. Additionally, you can set a custom tab as your default landing tab by going to "Edit Page > Manage Permissions > Default Landing Tab." If you do so, when potential new fans visit your Facebook Page, instead of seeing your wall they will see the tab that you chose as your default landing tab. For examples of custom tabs and custom default landing tabs, see the Facebook Pages of the Not for Sale Campaign, the Lupus Foundation of America, and SOS Children’s Villages.

2. Utilize apps

There are a handful of Facebook apps that can be useful to your nonprofit. The Causes app allows you to build a community of activists, donors, and fundraisers for your nonprofit’s cause inside of Facebook. This app is worth exploring, but have realistic expectations. Most nonprofits have not been successful in using Causes for fundraising, but it is constantly evolving and improving. As online donors continue to grow in number and embrace new fundraising platforms, an investment of time in building your Causes community could pay off at a later date. The Humane Society of the United States has been very successful in using Causes, and it often features its Causes tab on its Facebook Page. offers a suite of apps that allow you to create Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, RSS, or custom tabs, and anyone can use up to two for free. Also, in Facebook’s App Directory, you will discover a wide variety of polling apps and numerous contentsharing apps. It doesn’t hurt to explore and test apps, but it’s important that you stay focused on the fact that most of the power of Facebook is in the status updates. Don’t get distracted by all the shiny apps! Also, any kind of app that fans have to "Add" to use or view (with the exception of Causes) should be avoided. People can become easily annoyed by invitations or prompts to add apps.

3. Add “share” and/or “like” functionality to your website and blog

Adding the ability for people to easily share your content directly from your website or blog is worth the time, effort, and expense. There are millions of people who want to help propagate social good on the web by simply sharing your nonprofit’s message with their friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, or email. You just need to make it easy for them to do so. Depending on what content management system (CMS) and blog platform you use, you will probably have to add a plug-in or use a service like ShareThis or AddThis. Technically, this functionality may be a challenge to set up initially, but it can radically transform your traffic and exposure on the Social Web. A nonprofit called Greater Than AIDS is a great example of a nonprofit that has successfully integrated share functionality into its website.

Also, Facebook offers a widget as part of its Open Social Graph initiative that allows you to put "Like" buttons on pages inside of your website and your blog. These are not to be confused with the Facebook Like Boxes (found under "Edit Page > Marketing > Add a Like Box to Your Website") that enable people to like your Facebook Page directly from your website or blog. Rather, the "Like" buttons can be placed on every page of your website, and when people click to like the content of the web page, a link is then added to their Facebook activity stream on their wall that links directly back to your website or blog.

For example, visit the website for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It has integrated "Like" buttons throughout its website. If you were to click a "Like" button on a PETA page entitled "Help Abused Circus Elephants," then a link entitled "Help Abused Circus Elephants" would be posted on your personal wall on Facebook that would link back to the PETA page.

Many friends and family of Facebook users like to browse walls, thus increasing the likelihood of increased traffic to your website. The buttons themselves are a simple piece of iframe or JavaScript code that can be pasted into your CMS or blog platform.

4. Experiment with Facebook Ads

Nonprofits have had mixed results with Facebook ads. Large nonprofits with high brand recognition tend to have good return on investment (ROI) because most people already know the nonprofit when they see its ad pop up on Facebook, and if they already support or have heard of the organization’s work, a "Like" of the Facebook Ad (and thus the nonprofit’s Facebook Page) is probable. Small nonprofits with good regional brand recognition can also do well with Facebook Ads, since ads can be targeted by postal code. Others have had minimal success or none whatsoever. It could be that the ad image or ad title was boring, or that they didn’t target their ad correctly (age, gender, education level, and so on).

That said, if only to understand the pulse of the Facebook community better, your nonprofit should consider experimenting with $50 to $100 worth of Facebook Ads to see if they produce any positive results for your nonprofit. Be sure to set realistic expectations, and do some Google searches on the subject first. In 2010, a study by Webtrends revealed that each new fan acquired through Facebook Ads costs an average of $1.07, so $100 in Facebook Ads may produce only 100 new fans. You’ll have to do some cost-benefit analysis to decide whether it is worth the investment to experiment, and if you decide to move forward, know that humorous images tend to produce the best results.

5. Use Facebook Events

Nonprofits that regularly host fundraising events and conferences can use the Facebook Events app to create event pages that allow people to RSVP directly on Facebook. An app created by Facebook, it comes preinstalled on all Facebook Pages under "Edit Page > Apps > Events." To create an event, simply upload an image for the event (it need not be square) and the event information. You’ll notice right away that you cannot use the "Select Guests" function to invite your fans; you can invite only your personal friends on Facebook. That’s why you need to be sure to make the event public because the only way you can promote your Facebook Events is by posting the event page in status updates and updates, and by featuring your events on an "Events" tab on your Facebook Page. You also want to be sure to post status updates on your event page’s wall. Doing so pulls up the avatar of your nonprofit’s Facebook Page, thus increasing the possibility of your getting new fans if you promote your Facebook Events on your website, blog, e-newsletter, and so on. Finally, Facebook Events take only a few minutes to create and manage, but they do not allow registration or payment processing, so they tend to work best for free events such as protests or meetings.

That said, if your event does require registration and payment, post a link to your website where people can register and pay under "More Info." For an example of Facebook Events, see the Facebook Page of the Special Olympics of Northern California.

Excerpted from Social Media for Social Good by Heather Mansfield
Published by McGraw-Hill Professional
Copyright © Heather Mansfield, 2011
All rights reserved

Heather Mansfield is the owner of DIOSA Communications and principal blogger at Nonprofit Tech 2.0, a social media guide for nonprofits. A pioneer in utilizing social media for social good, Heather has fifteen years of experience utilizing the internet for fundraising, building communities, and education about a variety of causes.

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