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What Facebook's Changes Mean for Cause Marketing

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Facebook made some interesting changes last week that may help evolve how nonprofits and businesses use Facebook "likes" for cause marketing. The change should shake up how organizations weigh the meaning/worth of a Facebook "like."

All of us have seen Facebook cause marketing programs before. If you "like" the nonprofit's (or sometimes the businesses') page the company makes a donation to the nonprofit. I call it action-triggered cause marketing because it requires no purchase from the user, just an action.

I came across one of these Facebook "like" promotions just last week. For September 19th only Weight Watchers agreed to donate a dollar to Share Our Strength, an anti-hunger organization, for every Facebook "like" on the company's or nonprofit's page.

Facebook "like" cause marketing promotions are simple transactional programs that raise nonprofits a few bucks and increase their Facebook following, which might help turn fans into supporters.

Moving forward, Facebook visitors won't have to "like" a page to comment and post on it. This makes a "like" a less valuable piece of property because visitors won't have to opt-in to participate. As John Haydon points out, just as comments grew and engagement changed when visitors to blogs didn't have to register to comment, Facebook's changes will lower the bar of entry for participation.

But what will be the impact on cause marketing promotions involving Facebook likes?

We may see fewer promotions as the like button will no longer be the holy grail of Facebook pages -- engagement will. This is a good thing. John has always stressed to me that ending up on someone's news feed is more difficult than just having them "like" your page.

Facebook has a sophisticated tool called Edgerank that decides if your update is included in someone else's newsfeed. Interest, frequency and engagement determine your fate.

Here's what I'll be recommending to my clients for cause marketing promotions involving Facebook likes.

  • 1. Businesses should reward nonprofits for a variety of activities, not just liking a page. They could reward comments, posting of pictures and video, actions take over multiple days or weeks. John believes Facebook will be rolling out a whole sleuth of tools to make measuring engagement easier for nonprofits and businesses.

  • 2. The changes to Facebook pages punctuates the need for businesses and nonprofits to get serious about creating first-class content. Managing a Facebook page is like running an interactive magazine that has deadlines, a real need for engaging and varied content and a drive battle every day to rise above the noise and competition. Managing a Facebook page will now be more more like turning out People Magazine than getting votes on American Idol.

  • Nonprofits and businesses shouldn't stop doing Facebook like programs. We need good online cause marketing options. The key is to look beyond the first kiss and encourage and reward frequent and deeper interaction. Facebook likes are a good start between nonprofits and users. But it's what happens next that proves whether it's like or love.