Praktik week 7: two questions for non-profits on Facebook


This week, as I continue to prepare for my talk on social media for non-profits, I thought I’d use my blog post to share a couple of recent stories on that topic.

In my homeland, it made the headlines when a Facebook post by the Royal National Institute of Blind People was rejected as an advert by Facebook. The charity was launching a new video campaign drawing attention to a lack of support for people who are beginning to lose their sight. You can watch the video here.

The initial response from Facebook was that the advert contravened its guidelines on using language that is ”profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback”. In an email, a member of the Facebook ads team explained that information should be presented ”in a neutral or positive way” – which wasn’t deemed to fit with the emotive, hard-hitting tone of the RNIB video.

The decision was overturned the next day, with a spokesperson clarifying that ”the language used in the copy and video are compliant” with Facebook’s requirements. But the story raises big questions – and not just for non-profits. It’s about what fundamentally belongs on Facebook and how much control Facebook should have over the approach its paying customers choose to take. Quality control is one thing, but it’s disconcerting to know that an organisation could be prevented from sharing its message on the basis of the content not being ”positive” enough or because Facebook doesn’t think that users will respond well, before the advertiser has the chance to find out.

The story also highlights a disconnect between Facebook’s general approach and its rules for advertisers. It seems odd that an ad for a blindness charity would be rejected for not being positive enough just two weeks after the announcement that a new feature is being introduced to enable users to express more complex emotions than ”like”.

What do you think? Is Facebook entitled to try and keep the news feed sunny and positive – or do its advertising customers have the right to try a different way of engaging users?

Also on the topic of non-profits on Facebook, I wanted to share a little research I did recently into the gender breakdown of audiences for charities in Sweden, the UK and the US. A Salgado client had mentioned that their audience on Facebook skewed disproportionately female, with a female:male ratio of 88% to 12%. They wanted to know how unusual this was compared to other organisations, both those working in the same field and for other causes.

While a normal Facebook user can’t access demographic information like audience breakdowns for a page, anyone can use Facebook’s advertising tools – which enables you to select quite specific target groups based on people’s interests. Using these insights I looked into a wide range of non-profits, trying to find patterns across causes and markets.

You can see the results from 15 different searches below (in each case the male share of the audience is in blue and the female share in orange).

Salgado kommunikation

The tendency for non-profit audiences to be female-leaning holds sway across all sectors, to varying degrees. I’ve left out the names of the charities from the above, but you’ll notice one in particular where the ”male” slice looks tiny. In fact, it’s only 4%. Perhaps surprisingly, this data doesn’t refer to an organisation that on women’s issues per se – it’s from the US charity DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding platform to help teachers in public schools get resources for their classroom.

In all my searching, I only found one charity which skewed (slightly) male: the Firefighters Charity in the UK. Its beneficiaries are almost all men, but despite that, the gender split on Facebook was fairly even: 56% men to 44% women.

I don’t have any sweeping conclusions to draw from this exercise, and it would be wrong to try and do so based on such a small data sample. But it’s a useful reminder to think about those bigger demographic factors when you’re planning a social content strategy. What would you want your pie chart to look like – and why?

That’s all from me for now – so until next time…