Facebook is an incredible tool for non profit organisations: you can use it to build relationships with supporters, attract volunteers, promote campaigns, directly or indirectly attract donations, and it can even give your organisation credibility. Other types of Social Media can be useful too, but Facebook is arguably the most useful for grass-roots NGOs in developing countries. It delivers the most results for the effort you put in, in my opinion, so if you only have the resources to run one type of Social Media, Facebook should be it.

NGOs understand this – everyone seems to have a Facebook page these days, even the smallest, comms-resource poor organisations. However in many cases these pages are far from reaching their full potential, whether due to infrequent, chaotic or virtually non-existent posting schedules, or the quality of posts themselves. Here are some of the common mistakes small, grassroots NGOs make, and some ideas on how to address them in order to make the most of this important communications medium.

Not posting often enough (or being inconsistent)

Setting up a reliable posting schedule can be very challenging for small NGOs – they likely do not have a dedicated Social Media or Communications Officer and so it falls to the Director, a key administration or general all-round staff member to try to fit Facebook into their already over-full work day. This usually manifests in very infrequent posting, or posting in clusters when they have time.

Often you see Facebook pages where they had consistent posting for two or three months and then nothing and almost nothing since then – and you can tell that they had a short-term volunteer who left, and Facebook fell by the wayside. This can be an issue as not only will this mean you are not engaging with your supporters, if a potential donor or volunteer looks you up on Facebook and sees that you have not had any activity for months they may conclude that your organisation is no longer running.

If you decide Facebook is a priority (which I would suggest it should be), come up with a strategy for how you will maintain a regular Facebook presence. Importantly, be realistic – don’t simply hope it will happen magically. This of course is easier said than done. Using the scheduling function on Facebook could help – this means you can set posts to go out at a later date and time, meaning that when you have time to work on this you can schedule a series of posts for the next week or even month.

Making posting a free-for-all

What can happen sometimes, again generally due to a lack of resources, is that posting becomes something of a free for all with multiple team members posting whenever they have time or when they have something to post about. This not only becomes a disaster in coordination, manifesting in chaotic posting schedules, but also means you will not have consistent themes and messages being presented.

It is highly advisable to have one person responsible for Facebook even if you don’t have a dedicated Social Media/Marketing Officer. If it makes sense to divide Facebook responsibilities between the team then of course you can do so, but you should appoint one person as responsible for overall planning, coordination and making sure it is kept on track. In this case, everyone should coordinate with that person before posting something – even the boss!

Not having a Facebook plan

As in the ‘free-for-all’ situation, and even if an organisation has a dedicated team member responsible for Social Media, it is not uncommon for small NGOs to post on Facebook as things come up or when they have time. Having a formal, even basic Facebook plan will make sure that you post with regular frequency, rather than having clusters of posts and then big gaps in between, or worse barely posting on Facebook at all because it falls off the bottom of your list.

A plan will also mean you identify what types of posts you want to put out, and make sure you have a good mix and balance of these themes. Download our free Facebook plan template here.

When designing your plan, make sure it is in line with your overall communications strategy (if you have one), or at least in line with what your organisation is trying to communicate to the outside world. Always keep your overall message in mind, and each post should be part of that jigsaw.

For more on designing a communications strategy see our free Basics of Communications for small NGOs Guide.

Not being clear with your posts

Another common mistake I have seen on many Facebook pages of small NGOs are long, rambling posts that either have way too much information and detail, or are something of a personal monologue of thoughts and feelings. Remember that your Facebook page is part of the official voice of your organisation, so you should keep it professional and in line with how you want your organisation’s brand to come across.

Facebook posts should be kept short: you want them to be short enough that people don’t have to click on a ‘read more’ link to finish the post (because most people won’t). There are very few circumstances in which a Facebook post needs to be longer than this – remember this is not the medium for essays.  Many organisations use Facebook as their main or only source of regular communication, and so it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to bend the platform to do something it is not suited for. If you have more to say, put it in a blog post, newsletter, campaign email or a report, and then put a short post on Facebook to link to that document.

Keeping in mind the mind-blowingly short attention span of modern Social Media users, make sure you start every post with your main point. Whatever you want to say should be in the first sentence, not in the fourth sentence after a long introduction about contextual issues. Your supporters scrolling through their newsfeeds may not get past the first sentence, or even half a sentence of your post, so make sure you don’t bury the lead!

Dull, blurry and uninteresting photos

Facebook is visual medium. The most successful posts are those with an attention grabbing photo that will stand out in a noisy newsfeed and make sure your followers stop to read the post. However, it is common to see small, grass-roots non-profits putting out photos which are dull, low quality, blurry or just plain boring. I have seen organisations across multiple countries and a variety of sectors frequently posting photos of government posters, large groups of people posing for the camera solemnly at official events, or people doing activities which are entirely shots of the backs of their heads.

It is important to remember that moments which are significant in terms of your organisation’s programs and operations do not necessarily translate into good photos for Social Media. In other cases the subject matter may have good potential for photos, but needs to be approached in a certain way. Good photos should be bright, well lit, colourful, high (or at least medium) resolution, and interactive.

Also know that posting single photo is usually best, or in the cases of big or particularly photogenic events a series of three or four photos will suffice. Even if you are really excited about the launch of your new program or major community meeting, it is over kill to post an album of 63 photos! Even if every one of those photos is warm and engaging, very few Facebook users will flick through more than a few photos.

Also – don’t forget about videos, which are rapidly overtaking photos in popularity with Facebook users. If your organisation doesn’t have the resources to produce your own, consider sharing interesting videos from appropriate pages.

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