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Facebook Data Shows What Works

Study of nonprofits' Facebook performance offers lessons for all organizations.

5 Social Networks To Achieve 10 Business Tasks
5 Social Networks To Achieve 10 Business Tasks
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More organizations are staking their Facebook ground, including nonprofits. A new study shows that some causes do better than others on Facebook, and provides recommendations for expanding reach and engagement on the social networking platform.

The2012 Benchmarks Extra: Facebook study was produced as a supplement to the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, which examined data from 44 nonprofit organizations and analyzed trends in fundraising, advocacy, email list size, text messaging, and social media. The Benchmarks Extra edition, developed by M+R Strategic Services and NTEN Nonprofit Technology Network, goes more deeply into the performance of nonprofits on Facebook by studying the data from 37 participating organizations that made use of the Facebook Insights analytics toolset.

Participating nonprofits came from the environmental, international, rights, and wildlife and animal welfare sectors. Participating organizations included the National Parks Conservation Association and Appalachian Mountain Club (environmental); CARE USA and Oxfam America (International); Human Rights Campaign and Free Press (rights); and The Humane Society of the United States and National Wildlife Federation Action Fund (wildlife and animal welfare).

The study found that the median nonprofit fan page had 31,473 fan page users, or people who had liked the page. The study found that animals tended to elicit the most likes, with wildlife and animal welfare organizations' fan pages getting 72,784 likes.

Between 2010 and 2011, the median growth rate for fan page audiences was 70%, according to the study. Wildlife and animal welfare groups again performed the best of the groups studied, with a growth rate of 129% during that same period.

[ Lots of organizations are trying to figure out Facebook. Read Car Dealers Get Speed Ramp To Facebook Engagement. ]

The study also provides data on monthly churn, the rate at which fan page users opt out of receiving updates from the fan page. Users can do this by "unliking" the page, unsubscribing from updates, or selecting "Hide all" from a particular organization's or individual's Facebook News Feed. The study notes that even though users no longer see updates when they unsubscribe from a feed, they are still counted as fans because they still like the page.

In 2011, the study shows, an average of 0.5% of fan page users unliked an organization's page in a given month. The study's authors note that this rate is low overall, and that "the key is to worry less about [the people who unsubscribe] and concentrate more on producing engaging content for the people who do want to hear from you." If your churn rate is higher than the average, say the authors, you should evaluate your posting strategy. The reasons for fans opting out of updates vary, but can include organizations posting content too often, posting content inconsistently, or posting content that is unappealing. Of course, the study notes, organizations will need to decide for themselves what is acceptable when it comes to user churn.

The study also looked at reach, or the unique number of people who have been exposed to any content associated with the fan page. The study found that the average participating nonprofit connected with the equivalent of just under 20% of its fan base per day. The study uses the qualifier "the equivalent of" to account for the people an organization reaches who are not fans of a Facebook page but are exposed to content through viral sources (such as a Facebook friend sharing content). The study notes that organizations should put their fan base in perspective with the amount of reach they have: "If your fan page is one-third the size of another group's page, but has three times the reach percentage, your message is reaching just as many people."

Facebook Insights' provides a metric called People Talking About This that shows the number of people who have created a story about a fan page in the last seven days, the study said. Overall, the study showed, participating nonprofits had about 22 People Talking About This per 1,000 fan page users.

Looking at the People Talking About This metric, wildlife and animal welfare nonprofits did well, with 32 People Talking About This per 1,000 fan page users, but the international category came out on top, with 38 People Talking About This per 1,000 fan page users. Wildlife and animal welfare nonprofits were ahead again, however, using the Daily Page Engaged Users metric, which shows the number of unique users who engage with a page per day. The wildlife and animal welfare sector had a median of 9 Daily Page Engaged Users for every 1,000 fans. Rights nonprofits, in contrast , had 5 Daily Page Engaged Users for every 1,000 fans. The study's authors note that Daily Page Engaged Users provides a good gauge of how interactive your posts are.

Daily Action Rate is the number of daily likes and comments on a page divided by the number of Facebook users, say the study's authors. Overall, nonprofits averaged 2.5 actions per 1,000 fan page users. Using this metric, all of the nonprofits studied had between 2.2 and 3.0 actions per 1,000 fan page users. The study's authors note that, unlike pure clicks, likes and comments can provide a sense of whether your Facebook content is resonating with fans.

Which Facebook Insights metrics mean the most to your organization--nonprofit or otherwise? Please comment below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)

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