A recent survey found that just one in four people in the UK trust news on social media, and over half are worried about being exposed to fake news on it. Amid growing concerns, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans in January to “focus on fixing … important issues” and to maximise content with what he calls “meaningful social interactions” on the platform. As a result, posts from friends and family will be prioritised over posts from nonprofits, news organisations, brands and businesses.
This news has sent many campaigning groups and organisations into a spin. While we wait for these changes to come into effect, the focus should be on responding in a way that mitigates any potential negative impact.
Persist, don’t panic
Firstly, this should be seen as an opportunity. The “meaningful social interactions” that Facebook so covets are much more suited to campaigns telling powerful stories than brands promoting products or media companies pushing clickbait articles. Success on Facebook is the ability to facilitate conversations and inspire people to share their own stories. Frame your message in a compelling and explicit way, inviting people to comment. Eliciting such a response and creating emotional resonance benefits your campaign and is the type of meaningful social interaction that Zuckerberg is referring to. To achieve this, ensure that digital storytelling is included in your content strategy.
Get support from supporters
Networked campaigning involves the transfer of power or control from the top, spreading it among the campaign’s network of supporters. This lends itself well to the proposed changes to Facebook. Rather than your Facebook page being the conduit for all campaign content, you can rely on supporters to communicate your key messages to their networks, while you develop the narrative and provide guidance. This means turning your most active supporters into social media ambassadors. Create a separate email list or a closed Facebook group for your ambassadors, and ask them to share your content around campaign launches and key activities. Authentic campaign messages by supporters to their networks reach more people and incentivise more action. People want to show their support – it’s your task to give them ways of doing so.
If your campaign or organisation is not already broadcasting Facebook Live videos, now is the time. Live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos and are a great way to create discussion. Facebook Live is a powerful tool to attract new audiences, motivate existing supporters and encourage online and offline action for your cause. If you’re unsure what to broadcast, refer back to your digital strategy: What are your aims and objectives, and how might Facebook Live help you achieve them? Who do you want to engage with, and what action do you want them to take? You can also learn from other groups who are already broadcasting on Facebook. And don’t be afraid to experiment. Review your analytics after you have gone live, to get a better understanding of the type of content audiences are engaging with most, how long they watch for, and so on.
Get in on the action
Is your issue or cause already being discussed on Facebook? Seek opportunities to get involved. You can add value to the conversation by providing an official voice, while also raising awareness of your campaign among new audiences. The goal is to be seen as the go-to source of factual, informative content in the debate. Respond to as many comments as you can, both on your own page and elsewhere.
Facebook Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity, to organise, discuss and share related content. As such, they are likely to become a more prominent feature of Facebook in its quest to facilitate meaningful social interactions among users. Encourage your ambassadors to share your content in Facebook Groups related to your cause. If one doesn’t exist, consider starting your own to create a networked community around your cause.
These changes may result in Facebook becoming even more “pay-to-play”. Consider allocating additional budget for social media advertising to give your content a boost. Remember to use it sparingly, such as during times when it is likely to add the most value to your campaign.
If your goal is to use Facebook to campaign for change, not much has changed. You still need to be an excellent storyteller. You still need to build and foster meaningful relationships with your audiences. You still need to speak directly to your followers, reply to their comments, answer their questions, and show supporters that they are valued. Rise to the challenge. Go forth and empower!