Do you rely on Facebook for news about your friends? Engagement announcements? New jobs? Travel plans? Individuals have been relying on Facebook for this kind of news for years now, and it didn't take organizations long to follow suit. Both businesses and associations jumped on the Facebook bandwagon to share their news, and promote their products, educational courses, and benefits.
Facebook has become a trusted tool for associations trying to reach larger audiences and build engagement. When used effectively, it provides a bridge from where your members are to where you want them to be - your website. Your Facebook posts get people excited about your association and what's it's been doing, as well as what they're going to experience on your website or at your events.
If your association has been relying on Facebook to reach your audience, however, you may be in for a shock. Facebook has instituted changes with far-ranging implications for how you use the platform and how effective it will be for your association in the future.
The past few months have been big ones for Facebook. First came the rollout of Facebook Live, which we'll get to shortly. Second, Facebook changed its content strategy in a big way. Facebook is going back to its roots, and prioritizing content from individual users, not organizations.
In the past, Facebook rewarded interaction between people and organizations by giving organizational posts a more prominent spot in their streams. The company even allowed people to choose businesses they wanted to see first by selecting "never miss a post" for them. Now, Facebook is citing users' requests to see more content from their friends as the reason organizations will appear after personal connections.
Posts from friends and family members now trump all business and organizational posts, including those from your association. Hello kitten videos and kids hamming it up in front of the camera. Goodbye articles and news shared by credible sources.
This is huge, especially for members with a lot of connections. Your association's content has been relegated to "last shown," which may mean that far fewer people see it at all. You can read more about these changes here.
Associations everywhere are at Facebook's mercy because they don't own the platform. (Unless you go a different direction entirely.) There are ways to make Facebook's changes work for you, however.
One way to play by Facebook's rules is to embrace the company's other recent endeavor - Facebook Live.
Facebook Live allows you to broadcast live video and share an experience with your audience at the time it's happening. No edits, no retakes. Just live action. It's also not a one-way platform. You can interact with viewers immediately by reading and responding to their comments on your live stream.
Facebook is hitting this new tool hard, and has even adjusted its algorithm so that live broadcasts rank higher in your followers' activity streams (newsfeed) than other video content. They've also created a Facebook Live "channel" where you can gain new viewers. Followers receive notifications when you go live, giving you an extra outlet for reaching current and potential members.
Broadcasts can last up to 90 minutes, and after the live broadcast ends, the video can be posted to the association's page and removed at any time. These videos can be shared just as other videos would be.
The best news? You don't need expensive equipment. You can do it with your smartphone.
Facebook Live can relieve some of the issues caused by Facebook's new personal-posts-first policy. Their new algorithm will prioritize your live broadcasts over other posts, so your videos will be seen by more of your followers.
According to research from Buzzstream and Fractl, video is also a very popular type of content. After Facebook, YouTube's videos were the most popular type of content for Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Using Facebook Live to quickly create more video content that can be shared in multiple places, including on your website, will help you appeal to a wide range of members, prospective members, and other stakeholders.
For most of us, there's something slightly nerve-racking about broadcasting live and fielding questions as they happen. Yet, it is one of the strongest ways to build an active, interested audience and establish yourself and your association as an innovative thought leader in your industry.
Here are a few ideas for how your association can ease into creating video and begin using this exciting new feature.
Conferences are an ideal time to use Facebook Live. To decide on exactly what area of your conference you want your video to focus on, start by considering your goals.
Depending on your goals, you can use Facebook Live to broadcast from the exhibitor hall, showcase highlights from the keynote, interview attendees, or highlight upcoming events. For example, a short five-minute video where attendees share their favorite parts of your conference requires little work from you, and is an engaging way to get other members interested in your events.
Get creative in how you show people enough of the conference to get them interested, but not so much they feel like they've seen it all.
If you have an expert member who has just published a study, launched something innovative, or written an article or book, you can interview them live and field questions from your audience. Experts in your association's industry are also great for interviews.
If you have many notable members and a sizeable audience, you may even want to consider creating a standing live video event like a Brown Bag Lunch-and-Learn every Friday.
Expert Tip: When you first start using Facebook Live, don't do interviews alone. Talking with an expert, reading comments, and fielding questions from your audience can be overwhelming. Have a colleague help by reading and responding (in writing) to some of the easier comments. Your colleague can also send you the best questions to be answered in the live video. The extra help will relieve some of the pressure, and make your first broadcasts smoother.
Rolling out new software, a member portal, a new service, or moving to new headquarters? Facebook Live is an excellent way to show members the new and exciting things your association is up to.
If you're working with a new technology system, like new membership management software, you can use Facebook Live to take your members through a live demonstration. Adapt this idea for your new online member community, and create a video tour. Where can your members find the discussion forums? What about the blogs?
You can also show off your association's personality with more personal video. If you are moving to a new office, show your members around and tell them what you love about the new location, or the new furniture. Don't be afraid to show your personality in these kinds of videos. It will make it easier for members to connect with you.
Facebook Live is an exciting way to get your members involved and interested in your content. After the live broadcast is finished, you can use Facebook's privacy filters to determine who can view the video, and you can share it on other platforms, your website included.
However, it is important to mention that just like the rest of Facebook, you don't "own" the videos. It's not the same as recording a video and uploading it directly to your website. Keep this in mind when you're deciding what to use them for. Creating a promotional video that you plan to use for the next several years is not what this platform is made for.
Instead, use Facebook Live to show off your personality or for informative broadcasts where people will have an interest in interacting and asking questions. These videos are aimed at connecting and engaging, not direct marketing. If you keep this in mind, your audience and reach will likely grow with each one.