How Associations Can Respond to Facebook’s Changes

The social-media giant is diminishing the role of brands, including associations, in its News Feed. One content marketing pro says organizations can adapt by getting personal.

Facebook’s announcement earlier this month that it would start de-emphasizing the pages for brands and businesses has understandably thrown nonprofits for a loop.

In the future, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on January 11, “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.” Pages still exist, and users can opt to make sure they appear in their personal news feeds. But the change will inevitably reduce the visibility of associations on the site, making it that much harder for them to promote membership, events, and news to their community.

“Lean too heavily on an external social network at your peril,”’s Ernie Smith wrote last week in response to the changes. “A couple of years ago, this point was underlined by the pivot to video. Now, it looks like it might be further underlined by the pivot away from news, fake or otherwise.”

Facebook’s changes will prompt associations to connect with true community members.

So, what’s an association content marketer or social media manager to do?

Luke Zimmer, manager, educator community, at the National Geographic Society and a member engagement expert, said that associations have options if they’re willing to make a few tweaks.

First off, associations should work more closely with the vocal supporters that they already have, connecting them with content and encouraging them to share it. “[The changes] will make it more difficult for associations to market on Facebook like they traditionally have,” he said. “And it will make associations depend more on their influencers—true community members, the association members who are willing to speak up for the association really advocate for it.”

There’s a personal aspect to the kind of content people want to share as well, Zimmer said, so look for opportunities to put a human face on the association’s work. A post about the benefits of the upcoming meeting has value, but a short profile of an attendee who’s reaped those benefits will likely generate more heat. “Think about spotlights of members, and focusing content on what members are doing,” he said. “When you put the member’s face forward, that’s really when you catch the attention of the community.”

Zimmer also says that associations should expect Facebook’s moves to trickle down to other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, so it may be time to start retooling your content strategy there as well. “Generally Facebook tends to be out ahead of other platforms,” he said. “So I would imagine that some of the social media spaces are going to shift to a similar community-relationship-focused kind of model. It might be a good idea to re-evaluate with your social media marketing teams and make sure that you’re ready for any changes that could be coming out of the pipeline.”

Organizations still have the option of paying to have posts given priority in Facebook’s News Feed. But the company’s changes are effectively creating a new norm for what an effective post is. So, paid or not, posts from organizations will need to reflect that shift to more community-focused content.

“It does take work and effort to build those relationships,” Zimmer said. “But in the end relationship-building is what associations are all about.”

(enisaksoy/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images Plus)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!