Keyboard with brackets

FaceBook vs Google traffic (again!)

A continual theme in my unsolicited advice is trying to figure out how best to get eyeballs on your content, and how Google and Facebook contribute traffic. It’s an ongoing back and forth between two giants.

graph of referrals from Facebook and Google in 2017

There are a few new bits of data to add to the ongoing discussion. Recode has 2017 traffic data, and it looks like Facebook’s new  policies of prioritizing families and friends in their feed led to a drop in referral traffic for news (and a corresponding increase by Google referrals).

An interesting, though not direct, confirmation of those changes in Facebook algorithm can be seen in this article from Neiman Labs; over 70% of articles in feeds are now from friends and families. News content: less than 10%.

There also has been an increase in traffic coming through the Google AMP service, or Accelerated Mobile Pages.  AMP is a competitor for Facebook Instant Articles, and they both try to do the same thing: serve up content from all over the web as fast as possible. With the caveat, of course, that you remain within the Facebook or Google Ecosystem when you consume those articles.

There is also an interesting new feature in Google’s Chrome browser. When you open Chrome, it will suggest news items for you (if you are an android user). This obviously leads to increased traffic for suggested web pages, but it’s too early to say much about how those pages are chosen or how much traffic it generates.

The ultimate take-home message for content creators is still the same: don’t ignore Facebook or Google. You have to optimize for both.

Facebook Page Traffic: Still a Problem

I wrote earlier here about how traffic on non-profit Facebook pages is radically reduced because of algorithm changes. Some new data has been added from the Chicago Tribune:

Facebook’s algorithm isn’t surfacing one-third of our posts. And it’s getting worse

To give you a sense of scale, the Trib has over 500,000 followers on Facebook, much larger than most non-profits or small businesses. And yet, here’s some of the traffic stats they shared:

From Chicago Trib

If you want a really thorough and wonky discussion of what this means, what Facebook recommends, and what to do next, check out this article. It’s not encouraging for those of us who manage pages with a much smaller audience.


coffee shop

Does your social media need an audit?

I was asked to do a workshop on social media for the IECC’s 2016 Conference, and thought I would write up what I did for everyone to use.

Running social media accounts takes a substantial investment of time and energy for staff. Before you get started: What do you want to accomplish?

Your followers and likes are increasing over time. Great!  But: Lots of followers isn’t meaningful if they don’t also connect to some real goal or metric for your organization.

What do you want to accomplish?  Do you want to improve fundraising, or make it easier to contact you with questions? What community do you want to engage with your social media?

“Everyone on the internet” is not a viable target audience! Have a clear goal in mind for what you want to accomplish with your activity on social media.

Audit Your Social Media

The first step in a website redesign is to take an inventory of what you have, and what exists already.  That’s a great way to start with evaluating your social media too.

  • Make a list of all the social media accounts you know about for your organization
  • Who’s in control of the account? If something happens to them, is there a backup?
  • How current is the information on the account?
  • Do all of your accounts have the same branding? Do the logo and name match on each account?

Here is a link to my personal social media audit. Feel free to download that spreadsheet as a template to use.

Once you list of all your existing accounts, then examine what information is out there about your organization that you don’t control.  (This is the second tab at the bottom of my spreadsheet. )

Facebook is notorious for creating pages for organizations –make sure you search for those. Here, for example, is a page Facebook made for Purdue’s College of Agriculture.

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The Unofficial Facebook Page for the College of Ag

These unofficial pages can be liked and commented upon — so you need to know if they exist.

Is there a Wikipedia page about you? Who shows up on Google search that might be confused for your organization? All of these are ways in which your brand might be diluted or, in some cases, harmed.

google rating screenshot
Google Ratings for the Purdue College of Ag.

If you are a destination organization, or provide services, check out any sites where users might be rating you.

Those comments are full of useful information — and if someone is leaving negative reviews, taking time to respond can be important.

The last tab on the spreadsheet is for DATA. What metrics are you collecting right now on your existing social media accounts and websites? How far back does the data go?

ROI: Return on your Social Media Investment

Now that you know what social channels exist and how they are measured, circle back around to your goals.  Is the image of your organization presented by social media, and what people say about you online, in line with your organization’s mission and goals?

Are your social media channels in the right place to reach the audiences you identified? Are you measuring what you need to know?

Is there anything you can STOP doing, so that you can focus your efforts on social media channels with the most benefits for your goals?

For small non-profits, you can’t be on all social media channels. But you can identity which ones are best aligned with your audience and goals.

Social Media Resources to help you plan:

Utilities for Your Website:
Make sure your web pages look good when they’re shared!

Should you be on Facebook?

Shape 12

This is a question I get a lot from scientists — there is a pretty widespread perception that Facebook isn’t serious, or that it’s a lot of work for little payoff.  The best way I know to answer is to point people at an amazing resource: The Pew Internet Study.

The Pew project releases 10-15 research reports each year. One of main reports is a yearly examination of how American adults and teens use social media.

Pew graph of social media use

As you can see from this graph, Facebook dominates the online world, and continues to grow. The overall trend is upward for all social networking platforms, so more people are adopting these platforms overall.

Other interesting bits of information you can glean from the Pew studies are demographics of different platforms. Here’s an example:

“While Facebook is popular across a diverse mix of demographic groups, other sites have developed their own unique demographic user profiles. For example, Pinterest holds particular appeal to female users (women are four times as likely as men to be Pinterest users), and LinkedIn is especially popular among college graduates and internet users in higher income households. Twitter and Instagram have particular appeal to younger adults, urban dwellers, and non-whites.”

Pew also collects information about where people get news, and how linked that is to social media platforms.  Again, depending on what group you want to target, this can be extremely useful in deciding which online media to adopt.

One of the main themes in my social media consulting is to make sure that the online effort you expend is aligned to your organizational goals and key audiences. “The entire Internet” is not a useful or achievable target audience for engagement!  You have a limited amount of time and energy to put into social media, so make sure that the channels you choose have a high ROI (return on investment).

social media pathways to news

Facebook has a large user base, and those users do tend to get news via that particular social channel. There are additional factors you might consider in deciding where you choose to engage online.

Google Plus doesn’t have a large reach at the moment, but having a Google Plus page can help your page ranking and authorship status with Google Search.  You can also use a Google Plus page as part of a campaign to verify your local business or nature center as a destination on Google Maps.

There’s an additional complication: Facebook has made a lot of changes to its display algorithms since its IPO.  Right now non-profit and small business pages are clearly at a major disadvantage… unless they pay for advertising or promotion. (By the way, a work-around for this is to attach an image to anything you post on Facebook. But they will probably figure out how to correct for that soon.)

If you’re evaluating where to invest time and energy online, or re-evaluating the effort you are expending now, I strongly recommend looking at the Pew Internet studies about where Americans get their news.

Be warned, though: it’s fascinating stuff, and you may discover that several hours have drifted by while you look at all the data!