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April 24, 2009

A Small Facebook Application Change has Big Implications for Non-Profits

Summary:

Facebook makes it possible for users to update their status within an application

Facebook status update is central to using Facebook successfully

This update will improve non-profit supporters' ability to raise money and awareness

Facebook recently added a small but important new capability in their applications.  Specifically, application users will be able to update their status directly from properly configured applications.  This is big...very very big, because it will greatly improve the ability for non-profit supporters to evangelize, advocate, and raise money for non-profits they care about.

In order to understand the significance of Facebook's recent change, it's important to take a quick look at the central role of Facebook's "Status" and "Newsfeed" features. The status update-newsfeed combo is at the heart of Facebook's success.  These two features are central to how we keep tabs on all our friends and how our friends keep tabs on us.  How it works is surprisingly simple - write something that's on your mind or that you are doing (or whatever) and do it in 160 characters.  This is your "status".  Once you're done writing, hit "share," your status will display on all your friends' "Newsfeeds" or Facebook homepages (the first thing they see when they log in).  Your friends are then able to comment on your status or take action on it (depending on what is in your status) should they want to.  When your friends update their own statuses, it shows up on your Newsfeed and the cycle continues.  A simple and incredibly effective mechanism for spreading information, especially considering the average person has 120 "friends" on Facebook.

FB-Status-Update-Fundraising-SM


At this point, people typically ask me, "Who cares what I'm doing or what's on my mind?"  Significantly more people than you think.  Let's take a quick look at my status update from earlier in the week.  It read, "Joel thinks April has been an incredibly long month."  I didn't expect many, if any responses, but I ended up with a handful of comments.  Who commented, however, is more enlightening:  A coworker of mine whom I worked with nine years ago and email once every year; a buddy of mine from college; and one of my current clients.  The type and strength of my relationships with each person are vastly different.  My status update the following day piqued the interest of completely different friends:  one from high school in Maryland and a close friend in Los Angeles.  As for my current status update - it's a total dud and didn't receive any comments.  So although you may not be able to predict which update will compel your friends to comment, your friends are definitely paying attention and not always the friends you expect. 

Here's some homework if you have a Facebook account - update your status for six straight days.  You'll be amazed and one thing will become absolutely clear, the status update is a powerful tool for communicating to family and friends...even those you may not have spoken to in years.  Bottom line:  Non-profits want to get into their supporters' status updates.

The recent feature Facebook made available to people and organizations with applications is aimed squarely at status updates and newsfeeds.  Here are three ways that this new change will help non-profits:

1.  Advocacy and distributed fundraising will become easier
For non-profits with member fundraising programs (think Team in Training, MS Walk, AIDS Ride, etc.), participants will be able to more easily update their friends about the status of their fundraising efforts, their goals, etc. and, obviously, get their friends to donate.  Organizational or issue advocates will be able to communicate with their friends in advocates own words why their friends should care and take action.

2.  Member/Supporter's words are better 
Until recently, Facebook only permitted applications to post generic updates to application users' profiles and in their friends' newsfeeds written by the non-profit (or application creator).  The new change makes it possible for supporters to make an appeal to their friends on behalf of a non-profit in their own words, in a way that non-profits can't.

3.  Encourage Action not Application
For many application developers, the goal is to get as many people on Facebook to add the application as possible.  Therefore the previous update system made sense - in order to interact with your friends in the context of the application, users must add the application to their profile.  For example, to compare the results of the quiz "What City Should I Live In?" with my friends, I need to add the "What City Should I Live In?" application (The answer is Seattle, by the way). 

For non-profits, this model doesn't necessarily make as much sense.  If I am raising money for a non-profit, I don't want to give my potential donors a 2-3 step process before they even get to the donation page, because all those clicks will turn potential donors into non-donors.  So, by giving your supporters the ability to update their statuses on their own, they can send their friends directly to their fundraising page or to the desired advocacy action.  Much better.

[JARGON WATCH:  For the uninitiated, the lamely named "Applications" are little programs that users can add to their Facebook account that typically facilitate some sort of social activity.  Some are silly (i.e., Throw a Sheep at a Friend), some are entertaining (i.e., games, quizzes, and contests), and some help you pull together things you are doing elsewhere (i.e., share Netflix queues, book reviews, etc.). You can check out some of the most popular applications here.]

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You can't find all of that in official forms. And any additional information would be helpful

You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.

The recent feature Facebook made available to people and organizations with applications is aimed squarely at status updates and newsfeeds.

You can share some of your article, I'm like you write something, really very good! I will continue to focus on.

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