April 2014 update: There is little good news on the Facebook page front, with a prominent ad agency predicting organic (or unpaid) page reach will soon drop to zero. Read more: Should my nonprofit break up with Facebook?

You’ve noticed it for a couple of months now.

Don’t worry, page admins – it isn’t you. It’s Facebook. Here’s what is going on.

In late September, Facebook changed its EdgeRank algorithm to shut out organic (or unpaid) page posts. This has had a massive impact on every nonprofit I’ve spoken to. Early research by EdgeRank Checker showed a drop in median reach from 26 per cent to 19.5 per cent, a corresponding viral reach change and a higher drop in engagement. That follows: when fewer people see your posts, there is a greater-than-commensurate drop in engagement because there are fewer people for them to engage with.

EdgeRank impact on engagement brand pages Facebook

How worried should I be?

Let me put it this way: it isn’t going to get any better. Facebook’s business model is to push organizations into pages and to push those pages into advertising in order to be seen. Facebook has no malice for nonprofits but we are the most vulnerable to this change because we can afford to advertise the least.

The Nonprofit Social Network Survey estimated a Facebook like to be worth about $214 to a charity. So we are losing out on big money.

Why is this happening?

Facebook’s rationale for the EdgeRank change is that there are about 1500 page posts it could show users on any given day and users don’t want their feed cluttered with too many page posts. Ergo: competition is fierce.

That competition, unfortunately for nonprofits, is a paid-entry game.

Social media thinktank Ogilvy reckons Facebook might be trying to even out its ratio, which used to be 80 per cent unpaid to 20 per cent paid page posts; to make more profit without overburdening users’ news feeds with too many page posts.

What can I do about it?

Put simply, the experts’ advice on this is the same advice I would give page owners in any paradigm: post great content, interact with your community and engage key users to share on your behalf.

EdgeRank is a pretty complicated algorithm but it helps when you know how it works. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your posts.

It takes time and effort but creating and maintaining a Facebook group can help get your messages straight into people’s notification feeds (circumventing EdgeRank entirely).

And if you have the money, a little bit of post promotion goes a long way.

Facebook donate button

At the weekend, Facebook released a donate button for US charities, something many nonprofit workers say is adding insult to injury. The button will appear on the charity’s page … which no one sees anymore because of EdgeRank. Startup incubator PandoDaily likened the Facebook donate button to getting a pair of socks for Christmas because it falls well short of charity demands for a Google Grants-style advertising grants program.

Still, it is almost certainly worth signing up, for two reasons.

  1. It is an opportunity to turn interested folks into donors as soon as they find your page.
  2. Readers can see at a glance you are a charity.