Facebook has begun testing a feature that would allow organizations to send emails to audiences directly from their Facebook page. Whether the company actually plans to roll the feature out to its platform entirely remains unknown, but this move could have huge consequences for nonprofits and small businesses who don’t already have a dedicated CRM and want to consolidate their marketing needs into one place.
The idea is appealing. But also consider how much power (and data!) this gives Facebook, who already owns two other major social media platforms: Instagram and WhatsApp. Not to mention the company’s widely publicized snafus, such as its questionable content moderation practices that have led many major companies to boycott Facebook ads for an entire month. Or the (massive) Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Like many other consultants, here at Mission Minded, recommending Facebook advertising to our clients is a “double edged sword” of sorts. Facebook’s actions are not in line with our values, nor are they in line with the values of many of our clients. Yet it’s also true that for many organizations, Facebook remains the best way to reach large audiences. Until the general public stops using Facebook, its power in digital advertising will remain. And this power – like it or not – has made it easy for many nonprofits to become dependent on the platform to reach audiences and mobilize fundraising with features like Facebook’s Fundraising Tools.
While we applaud these large brands’ decision to boycott Facebook advertising, we also understand that for smaller nonprofits, this poses challenges. We get it. Perhaps you’re a one-person marketing department. Transitioning your editorial and/or advertising strategy away from Facebook is a huge undertaking. Many organizations use other features on Facebook – such as closed groups, for example – to facilitate key communications with audiences that cannot occur on public forums (such as support groups, etc.). Want to move those to WhatsApp instead? Oh wait, Facebook owns that too.
Perhaps you’re not in a position to move away from Facebook entirely – but there are ways to reduce your organization’s dependence on it. And that’s a key consideration in deciding whether or not to use their new email marketing tool, assuming it eventually launches on all pages.
Facebook is a Tool, Not a Strategy: Facebook may currently be one of the best “catch all” solutions for social media marketing, but look at your audience demographics. Is there another platform being used by this group that you haven’t yet considered?
Think of Facebook as a tool, not a strategy. Facebook undoubtedly has made many strategies “easier,” but these strategies are not exclusive to Facebook alone. Take crowdfunding as an example. Features such as Facebook Fundraisers and prompts to add donation buttons to posts have made it easy for anyone to be an ambassador of your brand. But this idea isn’t exclusive to Facebook – you can have brand ambassadors anywhere. Focus instead on the cultivation of these relationships and how you can leverage other crowdfunding and communication platforms to grow this strategy rather than going all-in on Facebook’s Fundraising Tools.
Wait for the Initial Splash to Fade: You’re likely already using an email platform and/or CRM system – perhaps you have been doing so for years. Many common email platforms (such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, for example), have years worth of proven experience in email marketing solutions. Facebook is merely dipping their toe into this idea. Is it really a good use of your time to re-upload years worth of segmented contacts to a new system that has no proven measures of success yet? We urge you to wait it out.
Where’s the Data?? If you choose to use Facebook’s email option, read the fine print. How are they storing and using your audience data, and what are they using it for? When your contacts consented to being on your newsletter list, they did NOT consent to it being shared with Facebook. Would your audiences still want to stay connected with you if you’re contacting them through Facebook given the current circumstances? If you choose to use this feature, an additional opt-in email message can help you be transparent with your audiences on how you’re using their information.
Be True to Your Brand: Are Facebook’s actions in line with your brand values? Probably not. If you’re not in a position to move away from Facebook, use your brand values to help navigate this. It’s OK to own that, and be transparent with your audiences about this in your communications. Write a blog post about it. What steps are you taking to reduce your dependence on Facebook? This informs your audiences of your plans, and may encourage them to consider their own personal usage of the platform as well.
How can you pivot your marketing strategy to be less reliant on Facebook products while still getting results? Stay tuned to our blog for more tips, or reach out to us – we’d love to support you in your next digital strategy campaign.