Monthly Archives: September 2011

Facebook changes – the fundraising stuff

With Google+ going fully open this week, Facebook has hit back immediately with some of the most radical changes to the platform so far.

If you want to know more about the details changes – you can read it all here. The reaction to the changes has been “mixed” (a common newspaper euphemism for rabidly antagonistic).

The idea of making Facebook more complicated when its biggest USP against Google+ could be its simplicity is an odd one, but users will get used to it and Facebook will continue to grow (500m active daily users at the last count).

However for charities and fundraisers, there is a change that has potential to impact on your engagement via Facebook – and Facebook has been very conscious of fundraising in making the changes.

The Timeline

Put very simply, one of the key changes is The Timeline – which is essentially a fancier, more customisable profile page which is supposed to give a more representative picture of your activities over time, so the more important stuff you do via Facebook gets greater prominence than the trivial.

For instance, the fact that you’ve been actively fundraising over the last year for your favourite charity will get more prominence than the fact that you’ve just harvested turnips in Farmville.

This will be particularly the case with people using the Facebook Causes application – which currently has 140 million users.

People’s charity activities – the causes they support – will become a much more important part of their online identity on Facebook than they were in the past.

This, potentially, makes the individual impact of your Facebook followers more powerful as their support for your cause becomes a more visible part of their Facebook identity when they interact with friends and followers.

Also, with profiles drawing on what people are actually doing online, there’s a part of all of us that wants to be seen in particular light – and I’d rather my Timeline showed I engaged with a worthy cause than spent all my time biting chumps.

Facebook says

Here’s what Facebook themselves have to say about the changes and their affect on fundraising, under the in-no-way bombastic title of Facebook Changes Will Help You Change The World :

“Facebook is making it easier for people to share the action they take on Causes and get their friends involved in real-time. Second, Facebook is launching Timeline, which will allow people to curate all of the information on their profiles to better share the moments in life that matter most.

Because taking action and then sharing it with friends is the core of what people do on Causes, we think that these changes will have profoundly positive effects on people trying to help the world by using Causes…

Until now, Facebook profiles have been dominated by recent information, such as a friend’s posts on your wall, or relatively static information, such as your hometown), but Timeline now offers an important middle ground for people to feature and curate lower frequency, but highly meaningful information that changes and builds over time.

My mom, for example, can join the Arts in Education cause, which supports her favorite nonprofit, choose it to be her featured cause, recruit friends to join it, and donate. Currently, all of these actions can be published to my mom’s friends in real-time, but there is not a good way for her to showcase this cause and the work she has done to support it on her profile, which ideally should be the most complete representation of who she is.

The reality is that my mom’s involvement with the Arts cause may be less frequent than playing a game on Facebook, but she may care more deeply about the Arts organization and its mission. Frequency and recency don’t necessarily correlate with quality or “coreness” with respect to her personal identity.”

So there you go – if you want to change the World, or just raise money for play equipment for your local nursery, Facebook will now let the world know what you care about.

Google+ So what does it mean for Charities?

Google’s much trumpeted rival to Facebook, Google+, is now open to all after an extensive period of Beta testing among the select invited hundreds of thousands few.

For a lot of charities who have just started to get their head around the possibilities of Facebook and Twitter, another Big Boy in the social media playground might be a little intimidating.

So does Google+ mean rethinking your social media strategy? Is it really going to rival Facebook? And if so, what do you need to know?

First off, I’m not going to go into tips on how to use functions in  Google+ – it’s been done really well here and elsewhere, and I’m not going to add to the sum of that knowledge.

But there are some interesting issues from a strategic point of view:

Circles

Google+ USP is a direct assault on Facebook’s less than perfect record on security and privacy. From that point of view, Circles is a means by which users can ring-fence their comments and activity so that only certain people see certain things. It stops stuff like this happening.

That’s great – you don’t post something when drunk/teenaged/forgetful that comes back to haunt you, and you can separate work, social, family and other lives neatly.

The downside is that you separate work, social, family and other lives neatly. One of the great things about Facebook is that if you can engage a person, you engage their whole wide circle of contacts. With Google+ Circles, you engage much smaller circles.

You’re a charity, you’re not a friend. So if they talk to you, or about you, which circle gets to know? They might have 1,000 friends on Google+ but you might be in a circle of 3.

The downside of Facebook – its one-size fits all simplicity – is also probably one of the reasons for its huge popularity. For the casual, non-geek who just wants to chat online, organising your contacts into Circles and working out what to say to which circle is a lot of hassle.

As a result, circles will probably be ill-formed and random – your charity might well simply get chucked in “Other” along with a motley collection of businesses, other charities and people you spoke to once at a conference who contacted you out of the blue months later just to have more contacts on Google+. Again, not great for connecting in a meaningful way.

Google+ or Facebook?

So what’s the difference between Google+ and Facebook? And are they competing or complimentary? Do you need to choose one or the other?

It’s early days, but Facebook is still likely to remain the much bigger of the two for some time. But also – while Google+ is being seen as a rival to Facebook, it probably isn’t a direct competitor.

Google+ seems to be continuing the philosophy of the late, ignored, Google Wave – just doing it better.

Facebook is the big open room – an eclectic and chaotic party to which everyone is invited. Google+ is more about managing your relationships online. Facebook is the more fluid and social of the two, it’s disorganisation is its strength.

Google+ – with its circles and video Hangout and Integration – looks more like a rival to email and Skype than to Facebook.

Google+ is likely to be used by – for the time being- more tech-savvy people to organise their daily engagement with friends, relatives,  work colleagues etc.

This doesn’t mean its not a place for charities to engage, but it does mean that the engagement is in many ways more like your traditional engagement with supporters – less viral, more about genuine relationships.

Google+ is very much in its infancy, but will grow up quick  – no-one really knows how it will take off, but its certainly one to be aware of.